Media portrayals had led me to view Aspies (that's what they like to be called) as little different than the typical computer geek. My experience yesterday changed that. I found most of the 50 people to have anomalies severe enough to make it unlikely they could find stable employment in today's job market except perhaps doing structured low-level work in isolation. One person couldn't remember his name. Another said he was so exhausted at a job interview trying to appear normal, that he "was useless for three days." I was exhausted after interacting with them. And it wasn't their lack of eye contact or that sometimes, their bodies or arms were contorted. I quickly got used to that. While some Aspies were quite logical and easy to follow, many were not. One slipped into some mystical foreign language mid-sentence. While some were polite, others were demanding of "my rights to more services," blaming their beleaguered parents, the schools, and society. I was warned that I better call non-aspies, not "normal" but "neurotypical." And their behavior was in a non-threatening, non-demanding, distraction-free context: a support group meeting. I can only imagine what they'd be like in the workplace.
|Note: All these photos have been previously published|
I spoke at length with two of their advocates who have been working with Aspies for two decades. They said that despite massive effort, 90+% are unemployed. "It's pulling teeth just to get them a job pushing shopping carts out to the car. And even if you finally get them a job, they're often quickly fired. I mean, it's sometimes hard just to keep them from flapping their arms like a bird." (That's a self-soothing behavior common among Aspies.)
But I digress. If I had an adult child with Asperger's/high-level autism, I'd try to employ him myself. I'd be able to accommodate to his needs to a far greater extent than would most employers.
If I couldn't, I'd probably try to find him sheltered employment rather than try to help him land a job in the competitive job market. For the reasons I mentioned above, I'd feel unfair to employers teaching an Aspie the job-search strategies that make him look better than he is. After an employer would hire him, s/he'd soon find out what he's really like but he'd then have additional rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act so the employer would have a hard time firing him.
At the end of my presentation, a number of parents asked me to help their Aspie/Autistic adult child find a job. I felt guilty but ethical in turning them down.