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 starting early adulthood. I’ve been told that I don’t look autistic when I mentioned about the issue.
Underestimating autism doesn’t seem uncommon. Autism advocacy articles mentioned about people who were diagnosed late in life, how autism is commonly 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. We’ve heard sayings such as “get your foot in the door”. What we should be aware of is that autistic people often need support to be successful in their jobs.
I felt the same when getting together with somebody. Family members might conclude that a friend was made. From the outside, I’m socializing but what you can’t see is whether we really have a mutual connection because autistic people express emotions differently. With faked social cues, it can give a false sense of emotional connection. There’s pressure to fake it to avoid acting obsessive and to look non-autistic.
They often need different approaches than non-autistic people do. Statistically speaking, being employed is the norm rather than exception for non-autistic people. It shouldn’t be too surprising that two of my classmates in college didn’t find job interviews difficult. For autistic people and many people with other disabilities, it’s often the reverse.
Here are the subtle signs that autistic people may need support:
- Lack of productivity
- Lack of progress
- Decreasing performance
- Lack of connections
- Zoning out
- Not engaged at school or work
- Difficulties focusing
- 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. I learned that my condition may actually be too subtle to even trained people or maybe I don’t know how to ask for help.
I mentioned that stress was my concern at work before and according to a feedback more than a year later, I was very calm and confused while my autistic co-workers showed clear signs of stress and performed better than I did. A co-worker even told me that I didn’t look tired when sleeping around 5 or 6 hours likely due to the lack of eyelid droopiness. This shows that autistic people’s body language should be interpreted with caution.
It took me so long to discover that sensory overload was significant and not something that you can really get used to. Recently, I’ve been getting more support. Before that, I tend to avoid discussing about autism. 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 need to relying on hinting, quiet work areas, less switch tasking, no need to act perfectly non-autistic, paying more attention to internal indicators such as freshness levels, and less distractions.
Not every autistic person experiences autism the same way that they don’t always have the same symptoms. If their symptoms are milder, is it likely that it’s partly attributed to the support that they’re already getting? People suspected that Temple Grandin’s support may have helped her to succeed in her career.
It’s important to address our weakest links and root causes rather than treating only the symptoms. For example, no matter how talented you are, it’s harder to learn your favorite subject in a language that you don’t understand. Instead of changing the field thinking that it’s not the person’s gift, why not have it learned differently?