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.

Lamp Wired to the 78.125 kHz ATtiny 85 Boost LED Driver

The custom LED driver was wired to a string of 6 – 365 nm UV LEDs with a total of around 15 watts.

Here’s a video of the lamp being used. It’s not very bright because it emitted only a small amount of visible light.

Here are the pictures for the lamp construction. A fan wasn’t installed so the second switch wasn’t used.

This lamp was used to test for the UV protection of the goggles. If the highlighter ink doesn’t fluoresce, it means that UV is blocked. You can try sunscreens too.

When using a UV lamp, it’s important to wear UV protection goggles even though our eyes are insensitive to its wavelengths.

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.

Injury from a Broken Drill Bit

While drilling a steel bar, a drill bit broke and and cut my finger.

The drill bit was 1/16″ and the broken piece attached to the drill fell onto my index finger. There wasn’t much pain even though there was clearly bleeding. It must have been very sharp.

I shouldn’t have used my hand to secure the workpiece.

What I did next was rinse the wound, apply rubbing alcohol, and cover it with a band-aid.

It may need to be examined. Since it’s more than 10 years since my last tetanus shot, a booster shot may be needed.

This incident was likely preventable if a clamp was used to secure the bar. The drill bit should have also been sharpened also to reduce the risk of breakage.

This is a reminder not to have your hands near a drill bit being used because it can break at any time.

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

 

Developing My Interest in Electronics

It took at least 10 years for electronics to become my hobby.

During childhood, I had some experience with electronics. The components that I used include LEDs, light bulbs, batteries, and wires. I also built other projects on electronics project lab kits.

My difficulties include burning out LEDs, not getting a DIY thermocouple to work, and not understanding the circuits in the labs. I didn’t have much other experience for a while.

More than 10 years later, I got back into electronics by using LEDs. I’m interested in LEDs because they’re energy efficient, have high colour purities, mercury free, long lasting, and have lots of other applications such as road safety. I think they’re also attractive visually. I learned about their circuits, their drivers, and their applications from Google search. I shopped for components both online and locally.

I like designing circuits because you get to include the features you want, and learn about them. The projects I made include LED circuits, dimmers, bike lights, sunrise simulators, flashlights, and lamps. Some of them were documented on www.instructables.com.

From designing circuits, I learned about other components such as transistors, voltage regulators, and 555 timers.

Since I’m into electronics, I studied electronics courses at BCIT. The courses covered troubleshooting, AC, DC, electronics components, microcontrollers, IC’s, and electronic circuits. The circuits we’ve built include amplifiers, LED displays, and timers.

I think working with circuits and developing my interest was very important for my success in the courses. If I took them a few years earlier, I doubt that I would have done as well.

Over time, from doing more research, I’ve upgraded my circuits. The bike lights were upgraded from a single pattern to more features including different patterns, and buttons from using microcontrollers instead of 555 timers or an on/off switch. The LED circuits were more efficient. The products became more compact from using custom made circuit boards and SMT components instead of prototyping boards. The products became lighter and more powerful from using Li-ion batteries instead of NiMH batteries.

In the future, I might try the Raspberry Pi, making multi-layer circuit boards, e-bikes, drones, wireless connectivity for the Arduino, 3D printers, other battery chemistries, other tools, and other components.