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Autism Acceptance Digest
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Autism Pride, Autism Acceptance, services for ALL Autistics regardless of diagnosis, etc.
Autism Pride, Autism Acceptance, services for ALL Autistics regardless of diagnosis, etc.

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'It's Exhausting': The Hidden Struggle of Working Women with Autism
May 9, 2017, by Sophia Wilkinson, Broadly.

Autistic women can go for years without diagnosis, and struggle at work as a result. One company is determined to do something about it.

Rachael Lucas's "long history of walking out of very good jobs" began in her 20s after she quit her postgraduate degree at the University of Ulster. Working in different fields as a horse trainer, a childcare specialist, teacher trainer, and an advertising salesperson respectively, she would quickly become overwhelmed by the social elements of her job.

"I was good at the job," she says, "but after six months walked out because I just couldn't cope with it." She eventually turned to temping: "I became very good at going into a situation and doing three or four months of very intense work and then being able to take a breather."

After two decades in work, Lucas was diagnosed with Autism at the age of 44. She now recognizes that her previous inability to keep a job was down to Autism burnout, a colloquial term that describes what happens when people on the Autism Spectrum become overwhelmed and exhausted by stress. Choosing to work so infrequently was, she says, "my own way of managing the Autism."

Auticon, a German-founded social enterprise, is looking to change this by going on a recruitment drive for Autistic women. The modus operandi of this IT consultancy start-up, which now has offices across Germany as well as in Paris and London, is to directly recruit Autistic tech workers and then place them within other companies while supporting them at work.

The company has over 100 employees, and according to Viola Sommer, director and head of operations at Auticon in the UK, four-fifths of them are Autistic. With investment from Richard Branson and UK charity the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, the five-year-old company is already turning profit as it tries to help more Autistic people get the most out of their skills. That goes for women, too.

Autism affects about one per cent of the world's population, and that figure includes women. But women with Autism have historically been under-diagnosed. Currently, various studies put the sex ratio of men to women diagnosed with Autism between 3–2:1. A lack of diagnosis can have a profound effect on Autistic women's mental health and stack the odds against them when it comes to employment; while those with diagnoses have better access to the support services that exist, there's little out there for the undiagnosed to gain and maintain long-term employment.

"A lot of Autistic women tell me they're trying to get a diagnosis, but the GP or psychiatrist says they can't be Autistic because they are female," explains Sommer. "If GPs and psychiatrists are thinking that, it could also happen in the workplace."

Autism researcher Simon Baron-Cohen's "extreme male brain" theory argues that male brains tend towards systemizing—recognizing and analyzing patterns and data—while female brains are better at empathizing. People with Autism are said to possess "extreme male brains," in that their systemizing skills are hyper-developed. But Baron-Cohen's theory has been criticized by other scientists, not least because it feeds into "neurosexist” stereotypes about male and female brains.

"All the diagnostic criteria for high functioning Autism is based on men," Sommer says. "How are you going to fit a woman into that criteria? There's a shocking amount of people out there who are struggling and they can't get a diagnosis and can't get support."

The result of a woman with Autism being told that they are neurotypical (a term used to denote those who are not on the Autism Spectrum) is troubling, because, as Sommer says, "Women tend to be better at what's called 'masking,' acting like a non-Autistic person." And years spent meticulously observing then mimicking behaviours in order to fit in with neurotypical coworkers can have devastating psychological effects.

"It's exhausting for people [when] a huge chunk of your cognitive capacity is put towards acting 'normal,'" Sommer explains. "But if everyone knows you're Autistic, you don't have to worry about it, you can be yourself and focus on the actual work."
Emily Swiatek, 30, spent ten years working with Autistic people before she realized she was one. Before that, she did her best to pass as a neurotypical person: "Women who mask often appear to be coping very well for a very long time. That's because they'll be putting all their energy and effort into succeeding at work. But what won't be seen is the mental health difficulties that it can lead to; an Autistic woman can reach a crisis point and it's a shock to her employers, because it's out of the pattern of her having been quite successful and high achieving."
Swiatek's mental health suffered as a result of constantly masking in the face of overwhelming social stimuli. Like Lucas, she had to take intermittent stints of "three to four months off work." Swiatek explains that masking perhaps comes easily to women because "there are gendered expectations placed on women from a young age, based on ideas around: be nice, be sociable, make people feel comfortable, make people feel at ease."

While these expectations offer women some tips on how to conform, they can also stop them from getting the most out of their passions, commonly known as "special interests" to those on the Autism Spectrum. "Autistic people can have extreme hobbies and interests that they enjoy spending their time doing and are very good at doing," Sommer explains. "Parents and educators should facilitate and promote that and funnel it towards a productive career path. But sadly, perhaps if it's not agreeing with the gender role of the person, parents tend to shut it down."

The Rain Man myth that all Autistic people have exceptional abilities is further damaging when held up against statistics showing how infrequently Autistic people's skills are utilized. In the UK, only 16 percent of those with Autism are in full-time employment. "The quality of applications from women is extremely high, and they have amazing technical skills, but perhaps little social skills," says Sommer. "They fail at the interview process because it's all about selling yourself, but there's a huge potential of actual talent that companies are missing out on."

If an Autistic person's work doesn't tie in with their special interests, the result can be that person being inappropriately employed. "Many Autistic people are unemployed, or employed much below their actual cognitive capacities," she adds. "One of our expert coders was previously stacking shelves at a supermarket because that's what he could cope with."

Swiatek found that being a PA in marketing didn't match with her interests, which include Arsenal Football Club players and their pet dogs. Neither did the office chatter expected of women: "Some of the conversations around TV and fashion and what other people are doing and wearing can be quite difficult to navigate. If you struggle to understand the conversational rules and boundaries, you won't engage in those conversations."

The isolation this causes might seem like a minor challenge, but it melds into a larger problem of how to deal with offices' expectations of female workers. Some Autistic women with a special interest in fashion or beauty may easily navigate office dress codes, but for others, "wearing something like tights or a tight blouse or high heels is going to be more challenging," says Swiatek.

This can be down to a simple inability to pick up on the unwritten rules maintaining what is work-appropriate, or a more complex difficulty to cope with the sensory stimuli of tight-fitting clothing. "Lots of Autistic women would not be able to keep up with extreme beauty standards because of sensory issues, such as extreme sensitivities to tactile stimuli," Sommer explains. "Some people only feel comfortable wearing loose clothing, which is a challenge if you work in a corporate environment."

It's just one of the many complexities that women with Autism must deal with in the workplace. For now, Auticon is focusing on getting more Autistic people into jobs, but the eventual hope is that such an initiative will not need to exist at all. "There's a lack of willingness to accept different minds and cognitive styles and our entire society is kind of built for extrovert people," Sommers says. "Most of the Autistic women I've met have incredible coping structures that they come up with them themselves, but we should work towards the point where that's not necessary."


To all the #ActuallyAutistic mothers who push against non-Autistic perceptions of what a mother should be like/do I salute you! You have your own style and march to the beat of your own drum. Rock on!

And not to leave out the non-Autistic mothers to we Autistics... Accepting us for who are and not trying to cure, fix, change, etc. us is key to a bright future.

Happy Mother's Day from the Autism Acceptance Digest! 

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During this Autism Acceptance Month let us not forget to welcome the formally diagnosed, the self-diagnosed, those who are questioning, or those that we might guess to also be on the Spectrum through our own observations. Autistic-radar is a thing! Let us extend the hand of friendship as it were: (please remember that there are those who do not wish to be touched unexpectedly so treat this as a figurative statement), to the out-casts, the lonely people, etc. There is a vibrant support community of like-minded souls, whether you be out or still in closet as it were, on social media that is available for you to find and suggest that others seek out too.

I have heard for years that online friends were not true friends, only those you know in the flesh are, but I beg to differ for many Autistics we are more at home online than our non-Autistic counterparts due to the fact that there is no need to attempt to decipher body language, tone of voice, etc. in order to communicate, there written word reigns supreme. I have been chatting with people online since 1998 and have never looked back, I feel more at home there than anywhere else.

I have never been one to talk about girlie things like fashion, hair, nails, celebrity crushes, etc. I cannot understand such interest/cannot relate, I on the other hand crave chats about nature, animals, politics, movies, tv shows, and books, the latter few tend to be of the sci-fi fantasy genres respectively. Have always been more myself and more accepted talking with guys; they always are interested in such cool things. Groups I tend to frequent are majority male, for me this is preferable. I too have been an outcast sometimes even in groups that I have created, it is hard for me to get to know people/read people; unless things are blatant I miss things entirely. I have trouble entering conversations even in a group of people I am familiar with if I come upon them already conversing, I do not know how to enter in their conversation, I tend to hang around the periphery and then just disappear.

Many on the Autistic Spectrum struggle to read people and situations, subtleties are lost on us. This month above all others please try to welcome someone into your social group or gathering and be blatant about your desire for them to join you - someone who moves and acts like you do it will be appreciated. Make a new friend, share a smile, include someone new, everyone appreciates being part of something bigger than themselves.

In closing, please remember that Autism Acceptance is more than just you accepting your own Autism or that of your child, but more so as society as a whole accepting Autistic people stims and all on our terms, together we can make a better a more inclusive world for all.

Happy Autism Acceptance to one and all.

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Autism Awareness Week: Stop telling me I don’t ‘look’ Autistic – it’s not something you can see
29 Mar 2017, by Autistic self-advocate Violet Fenn, Metro

It’s Autism Awareness Week in the UK from March 27 to April 2. Awareness really is improving massively, but there are still lingering preconceptions that those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) show visible traits.

I am an adult woman diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, and I can tell you that, no, you can’t always just LOOK at someone and tell that they’re Autistic – either from their appearance or their behaviour.

There is no one obvious ‘type’ of Autism – it’s a spectrum.

Every individual with the diagnosis is different.

Some people with severe Autism may display visible behaviours commonly associated with Autism – groaning, flapping of arms, jumping, for instance – while others, like me, show no visible outwards signs at all.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m lively and outgoing and, well, loud. Couple this with being a working, creative professional and people get confused.

I’ve been told more than once that ‘your Autism must be very mild, otherwise you wouldn’t have the imagination you need to work as a writer’. The common assumption that those with Autism always lack imagination is completely wrong – we can be as imaginative and creative as anyone else.

Another thing that people like to comment on is the fact that I spend a lot of my time bouncing around social media with photos of things I’ve done and places I’ve been – surely no one with Aspergers would be able to cope with a busy social life?

Finding it difficult to be sociable doesn’t mean that I don’t want to do it, even if I do have to take time out afterwards to recover.

I spoke to two women with Asperger’s who both work in creative fields and asked them how it affects their life. Lydia Niziblian is a jeweller who lives in Cardiff with her husband and two children.

‘I have a degree, worked in television production in London for many years and am now a self-employed jewellery designer/maker.

‘I’m loving, creative, curious, intelligent, empathic, and quite silly. I’m on the Autistic Spectrum, but you can’t tell by looking at me.

‘I’ve learned to play to my strengths and give myself a break on things I find hard.

‘I only do one big craft event a year – being ‘switched on’ to meet a constant stream of new people for three days in a row, as well as the general anxiety of preparing, setting up, and selling leaves me absolutely drained and I know it’ll take me a week of solitude to recover.

‘My Asperger’s can be useful though; sensory processing issues make me obsessive about texture and how tactile pieces are, and has led me to successful experiments with sensory pieces.

‘Asperger’s folk have a tendency to focus on detail, rather than the whole picture. We often ‘see the needle before the haystack’ and this attention to detail is an asset in making jewellery. My ability to hyper-focus means if I’m working on a piece, it has my absolute attention!

‘ASD simply means I process the information the world throws at me differently to those who aren’t on the Spectrum. It’s a bit like being Dr Who in a world full of humans. You wouldn’t know to look at him, but he’s not exactly neurotypical.’

Rachael Lucas is a successful writer whose YA novel The State of Grace – about a teenage girl with Asperger’s syndrome who is trying to work out how to fit in, and whether she even wants to – is published on April 6. She lives with her partner and children in Southport.

A GP once told me I couldn’t be Autistic because I was an author and Autistic people ‘have no empathy’. As an author, I spend my working days using my imagination and putting myself in other people’s shoes and so it’s difficult for people to get their head round it.

‘I think we’ve spent so long being presented with The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time version of Autism, that everyone thinks of socially awkward boys who are good at maths.

‘I’ve had ‘but not ACTUALLY Autistic, right?’ as if I’m winding them up. And that’s the other thing – we hear so much about Autistic people not having a sense of humour, but some of my funniest friends are also Autistic.

‘I appear outgoing and sociable and if you see me talking at a literary festival you’d think I fit in well. Because I’ve always had to work really hard in social situations – Autistic girls learn very young to ‘mask’ their behaviour – I’m very conscious of how other people are feeling, which means that I’m often the one making sure everyone else feels comfortable.

‘It’s that myth again that Autistic people don’t have empathy, when in fact we often have so much that it’s hard to deal with. That empathy is what helps me to write characters and imagine how they’re feeling.

‘I have to factor in recovery time and see trips to London for publishing meetings, or literary festivals where I talk about my books, as acting jobs. I am ‘on’ the whole time, focusing on listening and dealing with sensory overload, interpreting body language and behaviour. I liken it to speaking a second language where you’re always concentrating that bit harder.

‘Once I’ve done the social part, I head home on the train and spend several days recovering. In that time I really don’t speak much at all, can’t work, and I’m physically and mentally exhausted.

‘I really hope that with my book I’ll give an insight into Autism from the inside and break down some of the myths about Autism being something that only affects young boys. There are lots of us out here – living our lives, bringing up children, and working!’

In a nutshell, I – and many people like me – have learned to act neurotypical. We know how things ‘should’ be done, so we consciously act out that role.

In short, we are chameleons. Tired chameleons.

We are Autistic. And it would help if you believed us rather than telling us we don’t ‘look’ it.


In praise of disability activism.
by Autistic self-advocate and owner of the Autism Acceptance Digest blog -
Samantha Bodwell


Many of us in the disability community take part in some sort of activism whether it be solely online or in-person or a combination of the two. I applaud all of our efforts. It really comes down to our level of comfort dealing with people en masse, a.k.a. the number of spoons we have available to us on any given day. Many of us have comorbidities that impact our choices for activism, but that does not mean that the choice we make to take part and express ourselves should be deemed any less important than others are. I for one feel more at home online and have been known to take part in many different protests via twitter and blog posts over the years. Online activists/protesters do not have to hear verbal shouts of derision or face any form of physical violence in-person, that is not to say that one does not encounter violence of another sort where people feel more free to show disdain and spout vile hateful ableist rhetoric online, whatever comes into their minds all the while cowardly hiding behind the safety of their computer screens. Cyber-bullying is just as invasive and in many cases even more so than in-person bullying because when one is home and alone one can still be targeted and harassed no matter the distance away the “attacker” is in the physical world. Such attacks cause just as much PTSD as their in-person physical ones, but in many cases the pain and harm they cause is even deeper. I do not like to invite such attacks so do not engage with individuals one on one online as others in my community to do on a regular basis, I could not take the self-hate and internalized ableism that would be a result of such attacks from awful people trolling the net for the sole purpose of creating havoc and leaving harm in their wake. Face it people many of these perpetrators spew their vitriol for their sheer entertainment and when we take the bait we are playing right into their hands.


I in turn use general political, etc. hashtags and take part in #cripthevote or just speak my mind in my own personal twitter and also sign online petitions. Those who do not engage others in-person but find it makes it easier to express themselves online does not diminish the value of their activism; we too are fighting to make the world a better place for disabled people. I applaud Autistics who do engage one on one on a regular basis you are brave beyond any measure I can express because time and time you go to battle with these trolls, lick your virtual wounds and there you are again back in the fray fighting another day. Many of those who do go toe to toe with such hateful trolls find strength in the community and the fact that we do support their efforts knowing full well our own limitations and lack of spoons to do it ourselves, but as they say some one has too. I applaud the TRUE Autistic warriors taking on non-Autistic trolls online who only like to bait and taunt us for their own enjoyment and care nothing of learning the truth about what life is like for #ActuallyAutistic people. I thank you for your fighting. Stand strong against adversity, with every demon vanquished another arrives in your path, let them not get you down, keep fighting, but also remember to look out for number 1 as they say, safe-care and knowing ones limits is paramount. Also do not forget to ask for help and advice when you need it, others may be able to shoulder some of the burden when you are out of spoons. Don’t let anyone diminish your efforts with hate-speech. Fight the good fight.


In solidarity. 

President Trump, you need a lesson in Autism – here it is
February 16, 2017, by Luke Beardon, The Conversation

“So what’s going on with Autism?” wondered US President, Donald Trump, in a recent discussion with educators at the White House. “When you look at the tremendous increase, it’s really – it’s such an incredible – it’s really a horrible thing to watch, the tremendous amount of increase.” Is President Trump right? Is there a tremendous increase in the prevalence of Autism?

Knowing the true number of people with Autism is so fraught with difficulty that any bold statements about prevalence should be treated with caution. The fact that every time a diagnostic manual has a new edition the criteria for Autism change is evidence of just how difficult it is for diagnosticians to identify Autism when the very definition of the term is in constant flux.

There is a clear difference between the numbers of Autistic people in existence and the number who are diagnosed with Autism. Anyone in the Autism community will tell you that Autism is underdiagnosed. So how do we know how representative actual figures of identified (diagnosed) children and adults are? The answer is, until we have accurate epidemiological data, we don’t.

A further consideration – say we take the least conservative UK figures which claims a rate of more than one in 100. If the same criteria were applied with the same number of clinicians diagnosing, the same referral rates, and the same levels of Autism understanding back in the 1940s when Leo Kanner and Hans Asperger were first writing about Autism, how do we know what the rate would have been then? We don’t know, but I bet my mortgage it would be a lot higher than the figures those clinicians were talking about. So the actual rate of increase (or otherwise) is open to question.

We know that more children and adults are being diagnosed today, but we do not know why this might be the case. Is it as a result of a change in criteria? Is it a better understanding from doctors? Is it better recognition that adults have a right to a diagnosis? Is it the growing understanding that women can also be Autistic?

Take the latter. There has been an increase in the number of adult women referred for a diagnosis over recent years, and yet presumably few would suggest that this is because more women are being born Autistic. It is far more likely that people are beginning to be more aware of how Autism might present in women, and a debunking of the myth that Autism is a male-only (or exceedingly male-dominated) existence. So we simply don’t know whether or not there has been a “tremendous increase” despite what statistics tell us.

So what if there’s an increase?
And even if there has been a big increase, so what? I don’t mean that in a trite, condescending, dismissive way, more in a “why would anyone refer to increases in Autism in a global sense as horrible?” Both the US and the UK spend vast amounts of money trying to figure out what causes Autism, but with what goal if it’s discovered? There is a growing concern in the Autism community that if a cause is found it could be used to stop children with Autism being born. This is not only scary, it is wrong in so many ways. I am not for one second dismissing the extreme difficulties that some people have with Autism, but my experience tells me that most of the issues that Autistic people face are not because of their Autism, but as a direct result of the lack of understanding and support from the rest of the world.

We know for a fact that there are plenty of successful and productive members of society who are Autistic – some famous, others just happily living their lives. Again, we don’t know how many there are which causes its own problems, but we do know they exist.

Should we be seeking to put a stop to these people, some of whom are leaders in their own right in their chosen fields? Or should we be investing more research money into developing a better understanding of Autism to decrease the problems people face, to reduce the difficulties in accessing education, to get more successful students into university and employment, to better support families, to better understand that Autism is not “horrible” for all people? After all, that’s what Autistic people are asking for.

Mr President, if you want to understand Autism, try talking with the Autism community – you may well get a very different perspective.



Inclusion and Acceptance are the Most Effective Autism “Therapies”
December 29, 2016, by Nina Fiore, medium.com

The constant need to label and pathologize everything Autistics do is part of what makes people see them and treat them as less than human, and this is a dangerous precedent to set.

I remember when my son was first diagnosed, and a old friend came to visit. I had snacks laid out for my son as I usually did, and he took a cracker, pepper slice, or carrot stick here and there. She said “he eats really well”. I said “Yes, his therapists say he likes to ‘graze’”. She looked at me and said, “Graze? Wow, they really like to give a crazy word to everything he does, don’t they? My niece does the same and no one has ever thought to compare her to a cow!”

That comment really kicked me in the head — gratefully — and woke me up from the therapist spell I’d been under for a few months. In trying to do my best to care for my son, I’d listened to these so-called “experts” over my own intuition and intelligence. And let them define him and his actions in these gross, bizarre, animalistic terms. In psychology, it’s called “pathologizing” — when you make everything a person with a specific diagnosis does seem like a dysfunctional act that is a symptom of their diagnosis, even if it is something that many people of the same age are doing.

The majority of my experience with therapists and special education teachers regarding my son from age 2–6 was them saying, “See! He is Autistic. This is what Autistics do; They “insert pathologized word here (graze, stim, etc.)” Most children “eat”, my child “grazed”. Most children “act silly”, my child “stimmed”. Most children “get upset”, my child “had a meltdown”. Most children “misbehave”, my child “has behavioral disabilities”. It was a constant effort, on their part, to show me how “different” and “damaged” my child was; to make sure I was fully aware of his “otherness”. To make sure I bought into their version of his Autism enough to then buy into their (very expensive) services to treat it.

The Autism industry is making tons of money convincing parents their children are hopeless in order to warrant as much therapy as the parents or their insurance companies can afford. We lived in Montreal, Boston and then NYC with my son when he was first diagnosed. In all 3 places, speech and occupational therapists charge an average of $300/hour, won’t work with you if you don’t sign up for at least 2 hours per week, and still have 2 month to 2 year wait lists. Most “Autism Research” agencies take millions in donations to either pay their staff or research “cures” for what they’ve labeled a “nightmare” condition.

If even a quarter of the money collected for Autism Research and/or paid by parents into Autism “Therapies” were instead put into educating the public that Autistics are just humans with some differences, or into creating inclusion programs in schools, workplaces, and society as a whole, Autistics and their families would benefit a great deal more.

We were told (as are most parents of Autistics these days) when my son was 3 that at least 40 hours of ABA therapy a week (at $150/hour plus a $1000 oversight fee per month) was the only way to help him. So we looked into it, received a few references from a variety of sources, and interviewed 4 companies, none of whom were very impressive. However, one ABA therapist who was very highly recommended, was especially awful. I would later come to realize she was not unique in her awfulness — most therapists and teachers that came after her were quite similar.

The therapist’s sitter was sick, so she brought along her 3yr old son. Her son wasn’t very happy to go into a stranger’s apartment (understandable, but, had it been us, my son would have “had trouble with transitions”). Her son threw a bit of a tantrum at the door which lasted about 10 minutes. I tried to help with toys and pleasant words. When she finally wrangled him into the apartment, he was running around our living room, jumping on and off furniture. She turned her attention to my son, who was sitting quietly, playing with his toys, wondering why these people were in our home. Without even introducing herself or acknowledging him, she sat my son in a chair, facing her, and held an apple in front of his nose. “What is this?” she yelled at him. My son wasn’t speaking at all yet, so he didn’t answer but squirmed a bit in the chair and complained with a whine to the invasion of his privacy. She forcefully pushed his arms down and held them there, causing him to squirm and protest more, while repeating “What is this?” regarding the apple she had now put on the table.

She did this with a few more items, and I finally said “He’s having trouble with anxiety around speaking, so how is this supposed to be helping him?” She said something about how he had to learn how to behave if we expected to get him into a decent preschool, and how I needed to be stricter with him to get him there, etc. I said “Well, what about your son? He’s obviously having trouble with his behavior. Isn’t that just normal 3-year old behavior?” She shot back, “My son doesn’t have an Autism diagnosis, so he doesn’t need to behave himself.”

I thought of many things I should have said at that moment, but instead, I walked to the front door of my apartment, opened it up, and said “Thanks very much for coming. Goodbye now.” I had to repeat it several times as she was obviously not used to being asked to leave. She kept arguing as she gathered her things and her son about how I was going to destroy my son’s chances at a proper life.

I just kept repeating “Thanks very much for coming. Goodbye now” because I knew if I allowed myself to speak just one other word, it would unleash an uncontrollable torrent of obscenities. But this was not the first time that an agency which claimed to “help” Autistics had told me I was going to “cause irreparable harm” to my child by not paying them ridiculous amounts of money to work with him. So I gratefully started to recognize that behavior as a frequently-used sales technique.

We didn’t end up hiring any private ABA therapists, but when we started getting services at home from the Department of Education, they sent us either ABA therapists or special education teachers who had some experience with (but were not certified in) ABA, since this is what most agencies/schools/insurance policies think is the only “treatment” for Autism. The 2 people they sent were slightly kinder than the private therapist we’d interviewed, so we gave it a go. He liked them initially but would eventually cry uncontrollably during the sessions, where they insisted he sit up straight, be still, look them in the eye, etc. A few months later, we asked again for new therapists/teachers and were given yet another 2 ABA therapists. They would repeat each question 10 times per session, resulting in extreme frustration for my son, and even if he answered a question correctly but was not sitting still and making eye contact while he did it, he was marked “wrong”. Or, if they asked “What’s your favorite food?” and he said “sushi” instead of “pizza” (which was the answer they’d taught him months earlier), he was marked wrong for saying a legitimate answer that wasn’t their taught answers.

I kept asking how this was an effective method of instruction for a child whose main issues were anxiety and difficulty with regulation (which are the basis of most Autistic problems). Also, we had enrolled him in a lovely nearby Family Preschool that had a wonderful, flexible, kind director, and he was doing really well there. So I kept asking, “Why is this necessary? Is it helping?” In every instance, with all of the many teachers we went through, any questions of the method made them only try harder to point out to me how everything he did was “Autistic” and therefore “bad”. And of course they also emphasized how, as his mother, nothing I observed was valid.

They would write reports using adjectives the industry uses on Autistics (cold, indifferent, unfriendly), not because it was true, but because it’s how they described all Autistics. I would say “He’s very friendly; it’s just hard to make friends when you have trouble speaking and need to keep moving in order to regulate”. And they would correct me, “He’s not friendly if he can’t speak”. So I’d say “What about deaf people who can’t speak? Are they unfriendly? If I visit a foreign country where I don’t speak the language — does that make me unfriendly? He walks up to children. Smiles at them. Tries to get them to play with balls or to chase him. No, he’s not talking, but how is that unfriendly?” No answers, just more smug “delusional mother” comments. One actually said to me “You feed him so of course he is friendly towards you!”, as if my son was some type of wild animal that only responded to the carer who gave him food.

I would take videos of my son, interacting with children in the park/playgrounds/at preschool, and even then, teachers would barely believe the videos. “I haven’t seen it for myself” one teacher said after I complained yet again that she’d put on her report that he “wasn’t very social” when her schedule had prohibited her from accompanying him to preschool or swim class or the playground, where she would have observed his interactions for herself. She decided it was ok to judge him by his reaction to her sessions. If he didn’t like being told to sit still and make eye contact for two hours at a time, then he must be “anti-social”.

A year later, the teachers still had him identifying the same 50 objects they’d be working on a year earlier,with the majority of their time focused on keeping him quiet, still and making eye contact. With me, I let him jump on a trampoline as we worked, didn’t care if he hummed and looked away, as long as he answered me. In that setting, he was reading beginner books out loud and answering basic questions like “Who is the main character?”, putting sentences together with word magnets, spelling words with letter magnets, and doing basic math.

My son became more and more frustrated with the teachers’ repetition (a key component of ABA) and started to get upset in sessions more often. I would tell the teachers what I was working on with him and they either told me I was “seeing what I wanted to see” or they would tell me that I was “hurting” him by expecting too much of him.

I asked the agency to send me different teachers. I would ask many question in the interviews about whether they thought academics would “hurt him”. A small few would agree he shouldn’t be underestimated, but then they would go ahead and blow bubbles and/or identify colors with him endlessly for the next few weeks. We went through about 20 teachers that year, trying desperately to find some that believed he could do basic, age-appropriate academics.

Luckily, one of the teachers was honest enough to say to me “I’m happy to do whatever curriculum you want me to do but there’s no way I’m spending any extra time putting together lessons other than the ABA ones the agency has given us”. So, I began to put together a curriculum for the teachers to follow and finally found 2 teachers who agreed to follow my lesson plans and believed in his abilities (to be fair, one of these 2 teachers is an ABA therapist but is first and foremost a decent human being who wants to do what works best for our son, so we don’t do ABA therapy, and she is ok with that.)

I still lay out his lessons every week, and his progress has been wonderful. He still has anxiety and he still struggles to get words out. But he reads, he’s learning to type, and to speak using an AAC app, he swims, likes to run track, takes art and science classes with other homeschoolers, loves his teachers, and has 2 friends. He is currently learning how to play soccer and is a pro at shooting baskets. He is a happy, smart 8 year old boy who has some issues. Not a “nightmare”. Not a diagnosis. Not a pathology. Just an 8 year old boy.

People say “Maybe your child is different than most”. No. I have also worked to build inclusion classes in public schools, I have taught yoga in public schools with inclusion classrooms, and I have worked with other families with nonverbal Autistics. I have seen very similar trends there as well. The children have much more ability than they are credited with by therapists and teachers. Parents’s input is denied and often mocked, if they dare to speak up at all.

I have also spoken with formerly-nonverbal or still-nonverbal Autistic adults (online). They confirm a lot of what I have been observing, saying they also had their basic intelligence and their basic humanity denied for years before they finally learned to read, spell and type. And often people will even claim they are not typing, reading and writing — as they are doing it — because people often want to be right more than they want to be inclusive.

I’ve been on boards at museums and theaters where they are setting up separate programs for Autistics. I‘ve seen community groups and churches put together separate events and church services for Autistics and their families. The intentions are good in most of these ventures, but the end outcome is segregation and isolation of Autistics which usually leads to lowered expectations and exclusion from a future in the community.

For example — My son took swimming lessons at a very expensive community center in Manhattan for 2 years. Since they had an “extensive special needs program”, they wouldn’t even think of letting him take a typical class. In the “special needs swim” class, there was a different instructor every week, and they didn’t really push him to learn to swim. He never went underwater and didn’t swim on his own. We were told he “couldn’t”. He started to cry when we’d get his swim bag out of the closet. We were told we were “pushing him too hard”. We moved to Queens 4 months ago and enrolled him in a nearby swim class. The center is small and they have no “special needs swim”, so he is in a typical class. In less than 3 months, he was swimming underwater and swimming without floaties. He and his coach (the same coach each week) have a great relationship, and he loves to go swimming again.

I always push for inclusion. The main accommodation that needs to be made is an adjustment in people’s attitudes, and that won’t happen if they’re never exposed to anyone with differences. Let Autistics be a part of society. Otherwise their skills are denied and their existence diminished. If a church/community leader can’t say, “We need to accept these people, even if that means they aren’t sitting perfectly still all the time or always quiet”, they shouldn’t be church or community leaders. Segregation of Autistics is not a solution. It‘s very harmful. But I’m often told, “This is what the parents want because they’re sick of dealing with judgmental people”.

As parents of Autistics we need to stop people from pathologizing them. We need to insist they be included in the world. We need to insist their differences are different. And nothing else. Not harmful, not horrible. Just different. If we don’t do this, then no one will. And we will leave our children vulnerable to people looking to make money “converting” them to “normal” and we will say to society that it is ok to ostracize our kids for being themselves.

The de-humanization of Autistics is what leads to them being permanently segregated from the rest of society, leads them to having their educations ignored, leads to their low self-esteem, leads to them being bullied, mistreated, and abused for their differences, and even leads juries to think it is ok if a parent kills them because they are “such a burden”.

With so much focus on how they are NOT like other children, then “of course” you can argue that no teacher should be expected to be slightly flexible and compassionate enough to include them in classes. “Of course” you can then argue that their parents are so “very burdened” they needed to kill them.

Despite media portrayal, Autistics are NOT missing puzzle pieces; they are NOT “anti-social loners that lack empathy”. They’re just human beings who are left out of every aspect of society and then pathologized and labeled by society, in order to justify society’s horrible behavior towards them. This needs to end.



Autism Is Not a Shell Surrounding a “Normal” Child
January 12, 2017, by Autistic self-advocate Sparrow R. Jones blogging at unstrangemind.com

It’s the gleaming longshot hope that refuses to die: the idea that Autism is just a shell surrounding a “normal” child who can be coaxed out with therapy, or even simply outgrow the shell and step out of Autism on their own.


It gleams and glistens and tempts parents who still don’t really understand Autism yet.


And it damages your relationship with your children.


Yes, I know that’s a bold statement. And I know it may upset you that I said that.


But I also know that you love your children dearly, fiercely, desperately. I know that you would give anything for your children. I know that you are trying to secure the best for your children, and while your hoping beyond hope for a cure for your Autistic children is wrong and damaging, it comes from that deep, deep love for your children that pushes you forward into every uncertain day, hoping and praying that you will find that magical thing or mystically perfect combination of things that will make your child stop being Autistic.


It’s time to stop doing that now.


I’m going to take you on a little journey through Autism, to try to help you understand why hoping for your child to recover, or go into remission, or be cured is both a waste of the precious time you could spend learning how to better understand your Autistic child, and also harmful to your child-parent relationship -- not to mention damaging to your child’s self-esteem and mental health.


I’m not here to judge you. I know you love your child, and are striving to be the best parent you can be. I wouldn’t bother talking to you at all if I didn’t already know those things. But if you’re still beating the bushes for a cure for Autism, I hope you will listen to me, and think carefully about what you are doing and why you are doing it.

Research and articles regularly come out that stir up this hope and longing in parents. The figure changes from article to article -- sometimes it is seven percent, sometimes nine percent -- but there you are, reading your favorite magazine or online forum, and the article pops up like a fist to your gut: some children outgrow Autism, it says. Or maybe it says that 40 hours per week of a therapy cures some Autistic children. Maybe it’s a diet that helps some percentage of children start speaking and smiling, after everyone had given up hope. You don’t even have to go looking for these articles, right? These words of hope come to you like iron filings attracted to a magnet, or like heat-seeking missiles. It’s really hard to ignore, am I right?


Here’s the latest article going around: Compulsions, Anxiety Replace Autism in Some Children, at Spectrum News. The headline pulls you in, and right away you read that “an estimated nine percent of children with Autism achieve a so-called ‘optimal outcome.’” Before you even get to the next sentence that explains that almost every one of those children go on to develop mental health conditions later in life, you’re off, down the rabbit hole, eyes bright with hope, and eager for clues about how your child can be one of those lucky nine percent.


Remember, I’m not judging you. Actually, my heart goes out to you. You want your child to have the best chances in life and you still feel that your child will have a better, easier, happier, more successful life if your child is not Autistic. Snake oil salesmen who capitalize on your love and fears will take advantage of articles like this, to keep you distracted and chasing the cures they happen to sell, instead of fully embracing your Autistic child for exactly who they are, exactly how they are, right now in front of you, not broken, not needing to be fixed, but needing support and every ounce of love your heart can pour over their head in an anointing of acceptance.


Because there are a few things that are not immediately obvious about that rabbit hole.


Autism is, typically, a genetically-determined and life-long non-mainstream “wiring” of the nervous system.


Autism is in your child’s DNA, brain, sensory organs. It is characterized as pervasive, because it is in every cell of your child’s body. Autism is so much a part of who your child is that many of us Autistic adults who are able to communicate, and who choose to talk about being Autistic, will tell you that it hurts us to hear or read phrases like “fight Autism,” because it feels like people want to fight us.


Being Autistic makes me see things differently from how most people see them, and interpret what I have seen differently from them, too. I hear things differently from how non-Autistic people hear them, and interpret those sounds differently. Sensations against my skin that others may love are painful to me, while other skin sensations that I seek out are unpleasant for most people.


To “remove” Autism would require completely re-structuring and re-wiring our brains, nerves, sensory organs. Think about what it takes to change sensory organs: surgery for near-sightedness, surgery for cochlear implants. How would you change someone’s taste buds? There is no surgery for changing how things feel against the skin. And these are just sensory organs -- what of the nerves that connect those organs to the brain? What of the brain itself? This is a rabbit hole you want to avoid stepping into.


“Removing” anything interconnected with a person's entire nervous system is a challenging and risky proposition. You cannot cut Autism out, and I shudder at the thought that anyone might even try.


Trying to remove it with behaviorism treatments is not the answer, either. Besides, if behaviorism were powerful enough to “cure” Autism, why haven’t you been able to use it to quit smoking, jog five miles every day, and stop getting into pointless little arguments that chip away at your relationships with people you care about? Okay, maybe those aren’t your habits. Maybe you want to stop drinking three bottles of wine every week, or get up twenty minutes earlier every day. Whatever changes you’d like to make in your life, think about how much you have struggled with them, and now try to imagine using willpower and behaviorism to change pretty much every single thing about who you are and what you do. Everything, from how you communicate to how you eat, walk, interact with others, jog your memory, spend your leisure time ... everything.


Just the thought is exhausting, right?


So why would you want to do that to your child? Do you think your child is going to succeed where you have failed because they are younger and more malleable? Do you think they will succeed because ABA is so powerful? If that’s the case, why not sign up for some ABA yourself, to help you get those reports in to your boss on time, or improve your parallel parking?


You don’t need to actually answer that question; it was rhetorical. But I want you to think about it, because many of the therapies promoted as “curing” Autism are dehumanizing, and damaging. If you would not let someone do it to you to help you drop your bad habits, or pick up new good habits, don’t let someone do it to your child. If you wouldn’t let someone do it to your child who is not Autistic, don’t let them do it to your child who is Autistic. I have actually seen professionals debating among themselves about whether children with Autism are capable of feeling pain or not. These are not the sorts of people you want meddling with your child’s brain, or body, or emotions.


Not all therapies are bad. I have seen some great music therapy, drumming therapy, surfing therapy, horseback riding therapy, swimming therapy. I also marvel at the terms used: When your child who is not Autistic takes horseback riding lessons, they are taking horseback riding lessons. When your Autistic child takes horseback riding lessons, it’s animal-assisted therapy. (That said, if your insurance will pay for your child to have surfing lessons that your child is really enjoying, but only so long as you call it therapy? Call it therapy and let your kid go surfing.)


But traumatizing therapies are only part of why the Spectrum article found that of the twenty-six children in the cited study who lost their Autism diagnosis, twenty-four of them had been treated for a psychiatric condition, and twenty-one of them were diagnosed or diagnosable with a mental health condition. The article also speculated that the study results indicate “children who lose their Autism diagnosis would benefit from continued care.” There doesn’t seem to be a connection made between the way the diagnosis was lost, and the emotional condition of the children afterwards.


If you spend hours every day engaged in frustrating therapies that lower your sense of self, your self-esteem, and your autonomy, and you will end up with mental health problems as a result. In some of those cases, I can guarantee you that the same behaviorist training that taught those children how to mimic non-Autistic people also taught those children that they are wrong and flawed and damaged, and will never be fully accepted or get the basic things they need, until they learn how to pretend to be someone they are not.


And the strain of that pretense is damaging, too. Years of pretending to be not-Autistic leads to Autistic burnout -- a mental health breakdown that can even include a loss of daily living skills that had previously been mastered.


I have experienced Autistic burnout myself, and I have watched it in others. It can be mild, or it can be devastating and crushing. The harder an Autistic child, teen, or young adult tries to crush themselves into a fake non-Autistic person, the harder they crash and burn when they hit later adulthood or middle age.


Parents, any wish for an Autism cure is incompatible with the hard crash of Autistic burnout. Do not trade your child’s future life for an apparent cure in the present. You cannot “un-Autistic” a brain and nervous system, and attempts to squeeze your child into someone else’s mold are going to have to be paid for eventually -- and that price will be wrought in tears and blood and lost jobs and broken marriages and worse.


Those “optimal outcomes” the Spectrum article mentioned? You might want to read what Steven Kapp and Ari Ne’eman had to say about how optimal they actually weren’t. And those outcomes are just the beginning: I want these researchers to do the ethical thing, and check back in with their “optimal outcome” patients in another 10, 20, or 30 years. In the meantime, take my word for it. I’ve watched a lot of “outcomes” in my friends of all ages, and Autistic burnout is not something you want to set your child up for.


Chavisory, writing about this same article on trading Autism for anxiety, puts it so well:
“There’s something incredibly ironic and cruel about considering an “optimal outcome” for Autistic children a future in which we suffer from anxiety, depression, and a host of other psychiatric illnesses “instead” of being allowed to grow up to be healthy, happy Autistic people.”

And happinesss, dear parents, is what is really at the core of your hope for a cure, right? You want your children to grow up to be healthy, happy people, but you cannot see how that could possibly be compatible with being Autistic.


Take a leap of faith, and believe me when I tell you that it is possible to be healthy, happy, and Autistic. Make this the goal for your child. Not a cure for Autism, but a healthy, happy child. If your child has seizures, work on getting them under control. If your child has digestive difficulties, work on finding a diet that doesn’t upset their stomach, and find a reputable gastroenterologist (not someone who tells you that “healing the gut cures Autism” because it doesn’t and you’re risking your child’s health when you patronize those sorts of doctors) to help you figure out if there are other medical issues going on. If your child has trouble with sleep issues, find a doctor who can work with your child’s sensory needs to conduct a sleep study, and devise a treatment program that your child can adhere to without pain.


Stop trying to remove your child’s Autism, and focus instead on helping your child be healthy and happy in the ways that make the most sense to your child while honoring your child’s life. Trying to mold your child into a child they are not, as if they were wet clay, is a sure path away from a healthy and happy child. Accepting Autism, and loving and helping the child you have, as they are, for who they are, without shame or regret, is the first step on the path to helping your child blossom into a healthy, happy Autistic adult.


Now, go and show your beautiful Autistic children all your love! They do not need to be cured. But they do need to be loved and accepted and supported and mentored. Help them overcome life’s obstacles as themselves. Keep the children you love. Do not damage them, or risk your relationship with them, by trying to turn them into anxious strangers.


Wine shop leaves up holiday train garden for boy with Autism
January 5, 2017, by Jennifer Franciotti, NBC affiliate WBAL
  
BALTIMORE —
Chances are most people have either already taken down their holiday decorations or are about to.
 
But there's one holiday favorite that is staying up all year at a local liquor store, all to make a young boy happy.
 
The decorations are about to come down outside the Pinehurst Wine Shoppe in Baltimore, but inside a holiday favorite will stay on display up all year.
 
“A lot of work, but it's here to stay,” Gordon McNamara, with the Pinehurst Wine Shoppe, said.
 
The G-scale train is called the Burke Express in honor of 11-year-old store regular, Burke Manual.
 
Burke, who has Autism, has been coming to the store for years with his family, and would get sad when it came time to take down the annual train garden.
 
Burke would get so upset that the wine shop would sometimes keep it up until spring.
 
“It was a hard day for all of us because we knew that not only was the fun season over, but also the excitement of Burke coming in and doing what he does,” McNamara said.
 
Lisa Manuel, Burke’s mother, said it was always tough when the train garden was taken down each year.
 
“Our anxiety would kick in waiting for the day it would come down because we knew it would be hard for Burke,” Manuel said.
 
But the shop owners did not want it to be hard, so in October they installed the suspended track and a switch where Burke could turn it on and off. Now they are also selling train cars, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to Pathfinders for Autism.
 
“Take them home, paint them, put pictures and messages of kindness on them,” McNamara said. “Do whatever you want. Put them on the track and it will get pulled around all year long.”
 
Jason Manuel, Burke’s father, said his son could not be happier.
 
“He just loves these guys," Jason Manuel said. “He loves the trains. He's just so excited before and after.”
 
Chloe Manuel, Burke’s sister, agrees.
 
“I think that he might look hypnotized, because that's all he really looks at, “Chloe said. “I think it makes him feel like excited.”
 

7 things the Autistic person in your workplace needs from you
2 January 2017, by Autistic self-advocate Ashlea McKay, Medium.com
 
As we start to head back to work after what was hopefully a wonderful and restful break, there are a few things I would like you to consider in regards to the Autistic person/s in your workplace.
 
I was diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder in April last year at the age of 29. While I am still the exact same person I was before my diagnosis, finding out why I think the way I do has opened up a whole world of possibilities for me. Finding that missing piece of my identity has allowed me to maximise my strengths and deal with my challenges more effectively.
 
My workplace is aware of my neurodiversity and they have been fantastic! The UX (User Experience) community as a whole has also been wonderfully accepting and supportive. I feel incredibly grateful to belong to such an inclusive workplace and be part of a professional industry that simply sees me a human being with just as much to give as everyone else. But it’s important to recognise not everyone has this and that has to change. The Autistic person in your workplace has a lot to offer and with some very small adjustments, you will gain enormous value. This is for everyone- managers, directors, juniors and middle of the road people such as myself. We are all responsible for inclusion. Here are 7 things the Autistic person in your workplace needs you to do:
 
1. Accept and understand that no two Autistic people are the same
It’s called a Spectrum for a reason. The Autism Spectrum isn’t a straight line of severity of symptoms. Instead, think of it as a highly detailed colour wheel as shown in my very high level diagram below.
 
Every small curved rectangular segment of each colour slice of the wheel represents an Autistic trait. The black dots show how an individual’s personal configuration of Autistic traits might look. There’s a whole Spectrum of building blocks that make us who we are. No two Autistic people have the exact same set of blocks, but we have our similarities because all of our blocks came from the same place. Always remember, if you’ve met one Autistic person- you’ve met ONE Autistic person.
 
2. Ditch the assumptions and the stereotypes
Don’t think because I’m a successful adult female that communicates verbally that my existence is ‘mild’ or that I ‘don’t seem that Autistic’ to you. That is insulting to both me and every other Autistic person on the planet. I know you’re just trying to understand and have probably heard a number of things about Autism over the years, but instead of assuming what it means to be Autistic, just ask. If in doubt- see dot point number 1.
 
3. Ask how we would like to be referred to
I’ve deliberately been using the term ‘Autistic’ in this piece because I prefer to use identity first language. This means I say “I am Autistic” instead of “I have Autism”. Being Autistic means my brain is different and I was born with that brain. Autism is an integral piece of who I am — it’s not something I carry around in my purse with me and it’s certainly not something I’m afflicted with. For me, it is a state of being rather than a state of having. I also identify with the terms ‘Asperger’s’ and the more informal ‘Aspie’ because that is what they used to call Autism Spectrum Disorder Level 1 up until March 2013 and I don’t agree with the change (story for another day). That’s how I would like to be referred to, but everyone is different so it’s important to ask.
 
4. Be open to having a conversation to discuss our needs
Many people ask me for advice on how to best support and help an Autistic person in their workplace. My answer is always the same- just be open to having the conversation. Our needs are a very individual thing. It depends on a number of factors including but not limited to our work environment and our personal history and circumstances. Be prepared for the possibility that we don’t need anything but also be open to revisiting the conversation in the future should our needs change. The key is to be open and willing to listen.
 
5. Give us the flexibility to customise our working environment
Sensory overload is an ugly thing that messes with our overall wellbeing, breaks our focus and kills our ability to be even remotely productive. Part of being Autistic means that we have sensory differences — we feel things either significantly more intensely or significantly less intensely. Sensory overload occurs when one (or more!) of those sensory differences is overwhelmed and it becomes impossible to think or focus. It actually hurts us. In my case, I am very sensitive to heat, light, sound and some textures (raw meat, cotton wool buds and dishwater). On the flip side, I have a very high threshold for physical pain and abstract art, bright clashing prints and most textures have a calming effect on me.
 
In the workplace this means the noise from an open plan office can be overwhelming but I can’t exactly hide away in an office somewhere because I need to interact with my colleagues to do my job. I wear noise cancelling over ear headphones that block out the sound when I need to concentrate and they also communicate to my colleagues that I am deeply focussed on something and they give me the space I need. Activity Based Working (ABW) environments are also quite challenging for Autistic people due to the constant change, so I have a fixed desk. I still pack it up every day like every other person in the office but I get to return to the same spot each day when I’m working from the office. That desk is in a very carefully chosen location: no morning sun, purple walls, no direct overhead light and it’s next to a window. I am currently working in the consulting space but working from a client site is actually ok for me. Even though it’s a new location, it’s like travelling- transient by nature. Home base is what needs to be stable and getting that fixed desk made a drastic improvement to my productivity. It used to take me about an hour to settle each morning which meant staying back an hour later to get my work done. Now I am settled in under 5 minutes which is better for everyone. Talk to the Autistic person in your workplace to find out if small changes to their working environment will help them.
 
6. Help us to maximise our strengths and don’t place limitations on us
I have two major skills: the ability build other skills and a sharp analytical mind that pieces together seemingly random scraps of information to quickly form accurate conclusions. I also have an IQ of 143 which is awesome but I: need detailed instructions, take things literally, work best with routine, occasionally melt down and cause offence through my directness. This can be perceived as me being someone who: cannot work independently, cannot handle change, lacks the dreaded R word (resilience) and has poor interpersonal skills. None of that is true but I can see how it might look that way. The solution? Talk to us and be open to listening to what it actually means and what we need. It’s really just a matter of simple ROI. Our needs are quite insignificant when you look at what you will get back if you give us the support we need to be the best we can be. There are many Autistic people out there who are a hell of a lot smarter than me and they are going to change the world. Think about it.
 
7. Provide us with opportunities to progress in our careers
When it comes to career growth and progression we are just like our neurotypical counterparts- some of us are happy where we are and some of us would like to progress. It’s not enough to simply hire us and then tick you’re done. There needs to be a career pathway in place that we can develop into. We value routine and stability and many of us just want to find a company that we can stay and grow in. It’s also important to recognise that something as simple as a single misinterpreted conversation with a colleague or manager can see us unfairly labelled as ‘difficult’ which can be quite damaging to our career prospects. Consider all aspects of our story and give us a decent chance to progress and you will reap the benefits of our value for years to come.
 
Key themes of the story: ask, listen and be open. It’s easy — just be a human being. Before I leave you I want to be clear that the advice I’ve given you is entirely from my perspective. I do not speak for the Autistic community. We are a diverse group with many voices and mine is just one.
 
Thank you and let’s make 2017 AMAZING!
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