I felt that when I needed support, my symptoms were too subtle that the need was easily overlooked.
I have the impression that people thought that my struggles were only minor after high school.
Underestimating autism doesn’t seem uncommon. Autism advocacy articles have been mentioning about people who are diagnosed late in life, how autism is missed in females, and the possibility that children who “outgrew” their autism may need support.
I’ve been hired before and I felt that shortly after that, people seem to think that I’m out of the woods. What we should be aware of is that after passing job interviews, autistic people often need support in keeping their jobs too. They often need different approaches than non-autistic people do.
Here are the possible subtle signs that autistic people need support:
- Lack of productivity
- Lack of progress
- Decreasing performance
- Lack of connections
- Struggling with job interviews
- Trouble keeping jobs
- Apparent loss of previously learned skills
- Difficulties multi-tasking
- Changes in symptoms or abilities in overly stimulating environments
- Below average performance
- Appearing uninterested
- Other autism symptoms getting worse
I had to do my own research to find out some of the support that I need. It took me so long to discover that sensory overload was significant. Compared to a few years ago, I’ve been getting more support this year and promoting autism awareness. Thankfully, I was recommended employment services earlier this year.
Other support that I need may include: written and clear instructions, specific questions to confirm understanding, less relying on hinting, quiet work areas, less switch tasking, no need to act as perfectly non-autistic as possible, paying more attention to internal indicators such as freshness levels, and less distractions.
It’s important to address our weakest links. For example, no matter how talented you are, it’s harder to learn something in a language that you don’t understand.
I have finished Sweet Spots Base I and my second 8 minute FTP test on TrainerRoad. Here’s the data from Strava and TrainerRoad.
According to the tests, my FTP increased from 182W to 203W or 11% in six weeks. It’s possible that some of the improvement was caused by using a fan which decreased my HR significantly.
For the second interval, I increased the gearing and noticed that my wattage was higher even though my HR stayed the same. Notice that the cadence was lower. I may have to improve my pacing . If the workouts are still too easy, I might raise the intensity by 3 or 4 percent.
I’m now on Sweet Spot Base II. Compared to the first part, it has more threshold, VO2 max, and anaerobic intervals.
Here’s a list of the some reasons why it may be difficult for autistic people to describe their challenges especially during conversations.
- Not knowing when interrupting is allowed in conversations.
- Sensory overload.
- The person’s autism wasn’t very obvious.
- Lack of awareness of the performance of others which can let us know whether we’re doing reasonably well. If not, we’ll know when to speak up.
- Difficulties reading social cues which can provide performance feedback so that we know when to ask for support.
- Language or other communication difficulties.
- Lack of awareness of difficulties. How do we clearly know our difficulties if autistic people can’t experience what it’s like not to have autism and vice versa? Which difficulties are considered normal?
- Difficulties describing or expressing emotions which may cause the difficulties to be overlooked.
- Pressure to answer without enough time. Is more processing time is needed for them to also realize that there’s major challenges?
- Difficulties understanding what the person was asking for? When the question how’s your day is asked at work or school, sometimes it means an opportunity ask for support.
- Uncertainty about how much and what information should be given when sharing challenges.
- Difficulties multi-tasking. Conversations can have multiple topics and our challenges that we know of might be in the back of our minds when we’re concentrating on other areas or we’re busy.
- Concerns that getting support may require too much resources although the long term cost of getting support may be lower.
- Pressure to look non-autistic or avoid disclosing their autism.
I felt that I may have sounded vague because some people may have thought that my challenges sounded minor or were normal. I think it can be important to be clear when describing our challenges in order to get the right support. Writing an article about the issue may be preferable than describing them in conversations.
Is it difficult for autistic people to describe their challenges? What do you think?
Here’s the Strava data for the 10k races. It includes pace, grade adjusted pace, and heart rate.
2015 shows pace, GAP, and HR.
2016 shows pace, GAP, and HR.
2017 shows pace and GAP.
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
Here are some possible reasons why autism can be invisible:
- Difficulties recognizing faces were overcame by using other information.
- What to say when socializing was memorized.
- Social cues were memorized.
- Stimming was suppressed. It may cause a perception that the person became less autistic.
- Facial expression, even positive ones, were suppressed because they tend to look abnormal or exaggerated. Non-autistic people can show blank faces too.
- Sensory overload was reduced by avoiding triggers such as noisy environments.
- Short term memory problems were overcame by keeping things in the same place. A lesson learned was to keep your cellphone with you in public places.
- Accommodations or other forms of support weren’t taken. Certain forms of support can make the disability more obvious.
- The autistic person didn’t speak up about the challenges. Finding a balance of how much questions is too much can be challenging. It’s also possible not be be aware of the difficulties.
- Being spent socializing may be mistaken for a lack of interest in socializing. This makes sense because non-autistics commonly find socializing energizing. For example, socializing and long conversations after work or even in the wee hours.
- Autistic traits may be mistaken for personality traits such as shyness, quietness, late bloomer, intellectual, or introversion which may not be considered disabilities or have serious performance concerns. Abnormal speech or slower processing times can be mistaken for a lack of confidence.
- The person may be perceived as acting or looking younger than his or her real age. This may not look like a disability.
- Some symptoms may be experienced by non-autistics as well. For example, it’s true that both autistic and non-autistic people have been rejected before. What’s important to note is that around 80% of autistic adults are unemployed. As of September 8th, 2017, Canada’s unemployment rate was only 6.2%!
- Other areas of difficulties besides socializing can be overlooked. Even if they pass job interviews, they may still need support.
- They may perform normally or above average if the task isn’t complex. There’s research saying that autism affects the entire brain which means there may be difficulties when complex tasks are performed. A possible sign is that multi-tasking is difficult. It’s common for them to have executive dysfunction.