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.

Why Adult Autism Awareness is Important

I’m writing this article to promote autism awareness because I recently learned that according to a study, only 15% of autistic adults are working. This applies throughout the autism spectrum.

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Employment rates for autistics compared to those of other types of disabilities. Source: http://www.slideshare.net/marjoriemadfis/autism-employment-and-yes-she-can-inc

Autism is pretty common. About two percent (1 in 68) of the population is autistic. Relatives, friends, friends of friends, classmates, or college grads may have autism spectrum disorder. I am autistic, too, and I’m learning how to have an excellent good first impression.

Autistic workers can have skills that benefit employers which include:

  • Deep interest and focus on particular subjects
  • Tolerating and even preferring routines
  • Being able to concentrate on tasks that appear boring
  • Attention to details

To pass a job interview, an excellent first impression is required. Interviewers look for social cues to predict how confident, friendly, interested, and honest the person is. Autistics often have a hard time with eye contact, facial expressions, and other social cues.

A job that doesn’t require very much talking or social interaction is most suitable for those with autism. The workplace will be improved if we are hired because there would be a wider variety of skills.

If you know someone who has difficulty finding a job or a company looking for those skills, you can help by sharing this.