January 3, 2018

Life with autism in the workplace

Imagine yourself sitting in a room. People are around you, in a circle. Each person is talking at the same volume.

Your eyes close, trying to focus in on what’s in front of you, or at least one voice.

One person is assigned to give you a task. Half the people stop talking.

You try to zoom into what that person in front of you is saying. The task at hand seems simple, but then someone else approaches near you and starts talking.

They may not be talking to you, but to others around you, and now your focus has shifted, even if for a little bit.

“Why aren’t you progressing? What’s the problem?” seems to be the echoing shouts, but the person is whispering to you now, and confused as to why you can’t listen, hear, or why you misinterpret what is said.

People are still talking. All at the same volume. All at the same time.

Some days, you can focus and shut the world out around you. Some days, even the breathing or squeaking of a chair is a problem.

But you need the people, and the resources, to complete your task. And trying to explain this “invisible illness” to anyone seems almost impossible. However, you forge on.

Before marking off a person as unproductive, take the time to see if they need help. Giving demands, setting ultimatums, and telling individuals that they “have to” do something, without the full understanding of their needs can make things that much more difficult for a person trying to understand their world.

Sometimes, they might not know, right away, what the issue may be. Be patient, as you would want someone to be with yourself if you suffered a broken bone, severe flu/cold, or other serious illness that you can relate to.

It took years — many, many years — before I was diagnosed. And stigma still resides with those in the community. Autism exists on a spectrum. Trying to find out where you are, where anyone is, is a lifelong lesson.

Don’t mistake me. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, wrong with having autism. There is something wrong with the way we approach it. And the first step is educating: both yourself and others.

LaShana Lewis

Parent to One Awesome Bunny, Partner to One Awesome Lady, Tech Guru, LaunchCode Alum, Public Speaker, and LGBTQIA Advocate. Views are my own.

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