Learning Social Skills from the CEO of the Sluis Academy as an Autistic Adult

Many of you may know that as someone on the autism spectrum, I needed to improve my social and communication skills, so my parents decided that I should try out some sessions with the CEO of the Sluis Academy.

The program was supposed to help special needs children with their social skills. A friend introduced the CEO to my parents.

I was studying at BCIT during that time.

For the first session, he came to my home. He taught me what to do when socializing. I learned that when socializing, we should gradually introduce something we want to talk about rather than be too abrupt. I was reminded to keep my back straight and have eye contact. One technique of eye contact involves looking near the person’s eyes but not in the eyes.

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Eye contact.

I also had at least one Skype session with him.

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Using Skype on a tablet.

For one of the next sessions with him, we went to a restaurant nearby. That meant I could practise my social skills with the restaurant staff while they were serving by doing small talk with them. I was also reminded to keep my back straight and have eye contact while I was talking. He did it in a way that was clear enough, but without interrupting.

 

If I remembered correctly, the restaurant session was the last session with him. For the next meetings, one of his employees visited me to train me for job interview skills. I practiced with some common job interview questions. I had a few sessions with her.

Updates on my Employment

After almost a year of getting support for employment, I was hired to work at a company that installs taxi equipment.

If you know me on social media, you’re probably aware that I’ve been sharing autism posts, which is an easy way of supporting those on the spectrum.

I was getting support from Jobs West and other sources. I was in their employment discovery program and received assistance with writing resumes and cover letters and other job search activities.

Some of the jobs that I applied include bike shops and electronics companies.

I showed my job coach some of my LED projects. One good reason for sharing your hobbies is that it can sell and communicate your strengths.

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Custom made sunrise simulator without its diffuser.

During spring, while I was waiting at a bike shop, I was hired on the spot. My bike had electric horns, so the mechanic chatted with me. I think he wanted to install the horns on his bicycle. I worked there for the summer.

During the fall,  I volunteered at Bike Kitchen for a while overhauling hubs and truing wheels.

Around December, I applied for an equipment installer position and was hired, installing taxi equipment. I also used noise cancellation as I was sensitive to noise there. Once in a while, my job coach kept in touch with me.

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My toolbox at work.

It’s now almost a year of working there.

Update on my Helmet Light (Reduced Weight Design)

This is my newest helmet light for safety while commuting. It’s similar to my previous one but was designed to be lighter.

It was powered by 3 rechargeable AA batteries. The unused battery slot was used for the circuitry. It used AMC7135 LED drivers so that 3 AA batteries could be used instead of 4 for stability.

The front light was warm white for preserving night vision and had a narrow beam pattern.

The rear light was wide-angle and installed on a self-levelling mount to make it consistently visible.

It weighed around 175g. With less weight on the helmet, it should be easier on the neck and back. It’s possible to go even lighter by using 3 AAA batteries instead, but you’ll need to recharge them more often.

The light was programmed to have four settings in total. It has two settings for being seen during the day, and two for seeing at night. On its lowest setting, it lasts around 40 hours, and on its highest setting, it lasts approximately 6 hours which I think is reasonable.

Here are some pictures of the older helmet light. It used 2 18650 cells and had more LEDs. It weighed about 350g, about twice as heavy as the newest version!

Do you have any suggestions for improvements? If so, please share by commenting below!

Updates on Using Noise Cancellation for Sensory Overload at Work

I’ve been using noise cancellation to concentrate better at work and would like to give an update about it.

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I used them frequently so that two pairs of earmuffs broke!

Even on the first day of my most recent job, I used dual hearing protection. My goal was to block out music playing and other noise sources, which tend to affect my concentration.

Around this August, the reconfirmed my need for hearing protection. My supervisor noticed that I was easily distracted when the music was playing. That day during lunch, I even took the time to handwrite a letter, pointing out that I thought I needed excellent hearing protection.

After lunch, I was repeating the tasks and time them. For a long time, I was taking 45 to 60 minutes to complete it even when using only ear muffs. When I did the simulation with dual protection, I was able to complete it in less than 25 minutes! My supervisor was even surprised that I was faster doing the simulation compared to doing the real work.

One issue with regular earplugs is that you can only wear them for so long. I decided to try custom-fitted non-vented earplugs from Nextgen Hearing. I reasoned that being able to work was well worth the cost even though they were quite expensive.

The non-vented ones offer the most attenuation. What they did was put silicone in my ear canals to get an impression. They took around a month to arrive.

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dB Blocker non-vented custom-fitted earplugs.

Once they arrived, tried them out, and the good news was that I could use them all day.  However, there were a lot of vibrations, so I went back to disposable earplugs. They’re probably better for protecting hearing or jobs that require little movements.

So far, I have other options, including turning down the music and not wearing regular earplugs all the time. At work, I’m now using dual protection to concentrate during more time-sensitive tasks and using just earmuffs when it’s less busy.

VO2 Max Spreadsheet Calculator

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You may not need a lab test to estimate your VO2 max. You can use a calculator to do it. You’ll need to know your age, resting heart rate, waist circumference, exercise frequency, intensity, and duration.

Once you have the information you can use this VO2 max calculator.

The formulas were based on the HUNT Study in Norway.

Here’s an article about it: https://www.runnersworld.com/sweat-science/should-your-doctor-check-your-vo2-max

Here’s the link for the study: http://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/fulltext/2011/11000/Estimating_V_O2peak_from_a_Nonexercise_Prediction.2.aspx

Minoura M80 Trainer’s Power Curve at its Maximum Resistance Setting

This chart was made using LibreOffice Calc. The power was measured at different speeds. There was a big gap between the last two points because a high power output was required even though I used the minimum resistance to do the test.

Since it’s linear, you can use a speedometer to estimate your power. You should set the wheel size so that the numbers are close to those in the chart. This is useful if you don’t have a power meter.

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Comparing Different Trainer Selections in TrainerRoad

In TrainerRoad, it’s possible to use virtual power even though if your trainer isn’t supported.

I tested the wattage readings from the selections of Minoura’s trainers at different resistance settings. The speed was around 25 kph and the cadence around 53 RPM. The Minoura M80 trainer was used at the lowest resistance.

Minoura M50/M80/MAG850L

  • Level 1: 53W at 25.0 kph and 53 RPM
  • Level 2: 105W at 25.1 kph and 53 RPM
  • Level 3: 128W at 24.9 kph and 53 RPM
  • Level 4: 146W at 24.9 kph and 53 RPM
  • Level 5: 199W at 25.1 kph and 53 RPM

Minoura 850

  • Level 5: 206W at 25.4 kph and 53 RPM
  • Level 6: 218W at 24.9 kph and 53 RPM

Minoura M80-R/M70-R/B60

Level 0: 121W at 24.9 kph and 53 RPM
Level 1: 143W at 25.0 kph and 53 RPM
Level 2: 161W at 25.2 kph and 53 RPM
Level 3: 185W at 25.1 kph and 53 RPM
Level 4: 194W at 25.0 kph and 53 RPM
Level 5: 206W at 25.1 kph and 53 RPM
Level 6: 218W at 25.0 kph and 53 RPM

The highest settings seemed to match.

I also tested virtual power for my trainer at 46.6 kph and 83 RPM. The power reading was 466W.

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Job Hunting Challenges of an Autistic Person

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In my last article, I mentioned that for people with autism, getting a job isn’t very easy. I want to share my challenges with job hunting, and what I learned from it because I hope that soon, it’s easier for us to get a job.

Interviews were never easy for me. I remember that in my first few interviews, I was too quiet and took a long time to answer their questions. I feel that my job interview skills have improved somewhat from practicing, but there is still a long way to go.

Interview questions can be vague, and autistic people can misinterpret the questions. Some sample answers don’t seem to make sense. One example is, “What is your weakness?” It’s easy to give an answer that disqualifies you. When someone says he likes to finish his work ahead of time, it sounds more like a person’s strength.

An autistic person can be too honest in answering questions. One example is “how fast are you at working?” How do we know the answer when we don’t have enough experience? If they find out that I don’t work very fast, wouldn’t I be disqualified?

At an interview, I was asked about my education before. I wasn’t sure how to sell myself because my studies seem unrelated to the job. At BCIT, I completed a program called Food Technology. When you first hear the name, it sounds like a cooking class. Much of the program was about producing safe food products, testing food for safety, and testing food for quality. In a few of the courses, we did have some cooking experience.

One thing I learned was that you can frame your answers and still be honest at the same time. I think it would be helpful during job interviews.

I went to employment agencies for support. They help people write resumes and cover letters and answer interview questions. Some agencies even have you answer questionnaires to discover your interests.

Unfortunately, not enough interviewers are trained to detect the skills of autistic people. I think interviewers should test how well autistic people will perform on the job.

Friends and family friends can help autistic people with employment. Sometimes, they introduce me to summer jobs.

Some companies hire autistic people who can be talented in working with computers. Last summer, I was hired as a technical assistant and gained lots of experience with MS Excel.

I have yet to discover how to have a positive first impression. One article says that in an interview, a hiring decision is made in the first five minutes. Some studies suggest that first impressions are formed within a fraction of a second. That means we should be aware of how we present ourselves even before the interview.

Since autism has affected my ability to get a job, I’ve been getting help online and paying more attention to how I act, whether in public or during interviews.

I’ve even attempted to learn to smile in public places the whole time and get feedback from a pocket mirror. In my recent job hunts, I’ve been practicing smiling while handing out resumes to businesses such as retail stores and restaurants. It seemed to make the staff friendlier and happier.

My goal is to be perceived as approachable enough that the interviewer becomes interested and accepting. This should make it easier to get the job, and the autistic applicant less nervous.

In conclusion, I think people should be hired based on what they can offer the company rather than first impressions. After all, how accurate are first impressions alone?