Importance of High Functioning Autism Awareness for Employment

The term “high functioning” autism may make the condition sound like it’s not so hard to for the person to get a job. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case and their skills are wasted.

It’s very easy to overlook the fact that they need help in finding a job when they’re good at acting non-autistic, they have the skills for the job, or they have good grades.

Even though I only have HFA, I still have areas that I struggle with. That’s why I think we need autism awareness whether we’re “high” or “low” functioning.

My struggles include:

  • Job interviews
  • Socializing
  • Sensory overload
  • Describing emotions
  • Expressing emotions
  • Using incorrect facial expressions
  • Processing social cues
  • Volume control and tone of voice
  • Not knowing what the written rules for socializing are
  • Taking things literally
  • Difficulty understanding sarcasm
  • Misunderstanding instructions especially if they’re spoken instead of written
  • Restricted interests
  • Recognizing faces

The national unemployment rate in Canada is only 6.6% as of February 2017. Here’s a chart of the unemployment rates in Canada by province and territory.

unemployment rate.png

Source: Wikipedia

Depending on which studies you read, for autistic people, their unemployment rates can be 85%! That’s not a typo. It’s 85% not 8.5%. Unfortunately, those with HFA are similarly affected. That’s why I think they need as much help. This article also lists other struggles besides employment, and has myths and facts about HFA.

From the symptoms mentioned above, you may have a better idea why it’s so hard for them to do well in job interviews or keep a job.

When a person partially shuts down from sensory overload, it can be mistaken for lacking interest if they become quiet or refuses to participate, or lacking the skills if they have difficulty performing. You can learn more about sensory overload from videos, forums, and other articles.

I think shutting down from sensory overload can also make us unaware of our condition and make it more difficult to avoid the situation. I tend to overestimate my ability to tolerate sensory overload. That’s why I think we should be aware of it and be prepared. I’m now bringing ear plugs more often when I go out.

Sources of excessive noise that can cause sensory overload at work include music, dining areas, crowds, appliances, vehicles, and phone calls.

Since autistic people may have a hard time sensing the volume of their voice, they might not notice the need to raise their volume when it gets louder. They might speak too loud in a quiet place or too quiet in a loud place.

Difficulties with the unwritten rules and expressing emotions can affect our first impressions. For example, if we want to share our interests, how do we know when it’s too much information. I feel the need to experiment.

Since it’s hard for autistic people to pass job interviews, I think we should share our skills and hobbies online, have networks, share autism awareness articles, and try to get support. It may benefit us if we pursue a diagnosis.

Thankfully, there’s employment services for people with disabilities. Some companies actually hire autistic people because of their strengths. I’m hoping that their employment rates would significantly increase in the future.

This article only focuses on employment. There’s other areas of concern as well.

Possible Need for Ear Plugs for an Autistic Person

Ear plugs may benefit autistic people because they may prevent sensory overload.

After watching a video saying that addressing sensory issues may benefit socializing, I’m considering giving ear plugs a try when there’s too much noise even if it isn’t over 85 decibels.

Noisy environments include:

  • Cafeterias
  • Restaurants
  • Roads
  • Vehicles
  • Homes

I might be sensitive to noise because at high levels because it seems to cause me to zone out and look like day dreaming. With sensory overload, other sounds and sensory information can become faint enough that I won’t notice that I dropped some coins even though other people heard it.

It’s probably not a coincidence that preparing a shopping list at a store, deciding what to order at a restaurant, and studying in a cafeteria are much more difficult than when done at home. There’s probably too much information from other senses as well.

I hope that resolving sensory issues can improve socializing, mental capacity and endurance, and productivity.

If they’re effective, I might look for other features such as invisibility, noise cancellation, musician grade, high fidelity, volume control, reusability, and custom fit for long term use.

Importance of Clear Instructions for an Autistic Person (Car Wash Example)

Here’s an example of why clear instructions can be important for an autistic person. I’m using car wash as an example because I’ve hand washed them before.

If I’m told to do a good job washing a car, I might spend too much time removing tough stains and cleaning hard to see or reach areas, spending unrealistic amounts of work and time to get the job done.

Instead of making sure that the wheels of the car look clean, I might make sure that the water from wringing out the used towel can’t look any cleaner.

Instead of just spraying the top of a tall vehicle, or a vehicle’s bottom edge or crevices with water and removing only the obvious stains, I might go as far as carefully wiping it with a towel, and wiping it dry until it’s hard to see the stains close up.

If there’s areas difficult to reach with a vacuum cleaner’s hose such as under car seats, I might adjust them for vacuuming rather than just remove objects underneath by hand even though I’ve already done it recently.

If I feel that I missed some areas, I might go back and carefully look for hard to find stains rather than see the whole car as a clean car.

You can see problems with this.

One of the reasons I feel the need to tell others that I’m autistic is that clear instructions are necessary, it’s easy to be distracted by irrelevant details, I take things literally, and have difficulties reading non-verbal social cues which may be used as feedback.

The earlier clear instructions are given, the better.

It’s a little clearer to say “make sure that the car looks clean” or say “you don’t need to clean where it’s hard to see” rather than saying “make sure that you do a very good job” because I have a better idea of where to focus. I’m more likely to see the car like their friends see it.

I can misinterpret “do a better job”, as pay even more attention to details rather than do what’s relevant.

If told to work faster, I might scrub even harder or faster.

Questions to ask might be “does the car look clean?” while standing at a distance from the car.

Things that I might try include: watch people do the work, read articles about it, watch videos about it, ask for feedback, and ask questions about what’s needed to be done.

To avoid repeating the same mistakes, I’ll have to remember not to thoroughly clean difficult to see areas for my next car wash.

It’s possible that other autistic people have more or less difficulty in this area. They can be affected in different ways.

Other areas that benefit from clear instructions may include:

  • Jobs
  • Homework
  • Lab work
  • Chores
  • Socializing
  • Social cues
  • How much is too much or too little when expressing emotions?
  • Gift giving
  • How much time to spend with friends
  • Conversations
  • How much details to give when telling others about yourself or your interests
  • How to have eye contact without staring because eye contact is considered important
  • Other rules for socializing

 

Social Cues List

As someone with autism, I understand that socializing can be difficult for those on the spectrum which is why I created a list of social cues.

most-communication
Only 7% of communication is spoken words.
  • Eye blinking
  • Eye contact
  • Movement of eyes
  • Pupil size
  • Tear production
  • Saliva production
  • Facial expression
  • Gesture
  • Fidgeting
  • Posture
  • Walking style
  • Travelling speed
  • Content of conversations
  • Framing in conversations
  • Volume of voice
  • Tone of voice
  • Rate of speech
  • Perspiration
  • Skin temperature
  • Changes in skin tone
  • Appetite
  • Thirst
  • Interests
  • Alertness
  • Respiratory rate
  • Respiratory depth
  • Swallowing
  • Distance
  • Personal space
  • Pace of work
  • Energy levels
  • Jewelries
  • Sunglasses
  • Headphones
  • Hair
  • Clothing

I tend to rely more on spoken words and overlook the social cues especially if they’re subtle.

It’s possible to learn the cues by studying them. Even then, socializing can still be challenging.

What do you think?

 

13 Interesting Facts about Autism

Here are 13 interesting facts about autism. Some of them may be contrary to what we thought.