Just found out about this and it seems to fit why some things are different about my aspiness than other aspies. It’s exactly the things listed on this site (http://www.autism.org.uk/about-autism/autism-an-introduction/what-is-pathological-demand-avoidance.aspx) that fit where a straight ASD diagnosis with SPD doesn’t. Go ahead, click the link. Subscribe to her blog. It’s all interesting.
As I scroll through Facebook, I see many articles in my feed. For the most part they fit a trend–especially when I follow so many pages and groups on autism, aspergers and self-advocating. One of the recent trends has been about Microsoft and other companies like it hiring autistics specifically. I have to say, I’ve avoided reading anything regarding this trend until today.
In November of 2014, I was hired on as an intern Grant Writer. When my project management and research skills shone brighter than my writing skills, I was diverted to Grant Coordinator/Project Manager Intern. I gathered info about our current projects, current grant makers and our budgetary needs and assessed which grant maker to match the project with. There was one thing that got in the way: the directors complete inability to stay on task and finish projects in a timely manner. Now, this wasn’t my first conclusion. I made excuses for how busy she was and how soft some of the deadlines seemed. But, when the internship ended and I got my review, I realized that she assumed she was making accommodations for me. Because I’m autistic. Wow! I wanted to tell her, “you mean to tell me that all that waiting around I did was because you didn’t think I could handle the job?” I didn’t. I left, gladly to be ridden of a place so ablist. (side note: I will not be disclosing my SPD, autism or PTSD to future employers from now on)
This is why I didn’t read the articles until today. This is why I scrolled past without a concern or care for what was being said about this issue. I was afraid for the people who would fall prey to this targeted hiring practice, but couldn’t bring myself to get involved in the discussion. Today, I felt an urge to say something. To add my peace to the mix. To tell my side, my perspective. If someone finds it here on my lonely little blog, then great. If not, I will not say another word about it.
If autistic people are hired for their gifts, they will only be seen for their gifts. What happens when the rude truth happens and a meltdown makes everyone “uncomfortable”? What happens when they decide that one meltdown a quarter isn’t worth all the skills they are gaining from employing an autistic? What happens when they say, “oh, we cut back on your work because we didn’t think you could handle it” because of that one bad day you had last quarter? Can we scream discrimination after receiving special treatment in the first place? Can we say, “I don’t like being treated like a special case anymore” when we’re tired of the ablism? Will we only be seen only for our gifts which would make some autistics less hirable? (hint: not all of us are good at math, spatial reasoning and logic)
I learned a long time ago not to present an issue with also presenting a solution (this doesn’t count when just venting about bad shit). So, here’s my solution… stop the interview process. Hire people based on their resume and application. Change the resume format to ensure that strengths are highlighted. Train HR to pick out the best applicants. If there is a hiring interview, then have it be a hiring party/luncheon and have all the candidates and employees mix for an 30 mins to see who they “feel” they can get along with the best (everyone is expected to act natural, NOT on their best behavior). If the best candidate has the worst resume, throw it out. If the worst candidate has the best resume, throw that one out too.
See, the issue is people not giving their instincts enough credit. You know before you even talk to someone that you don’t like them. Even when you try hard to like the person and things go well, something ALWAYS happens to prove that first instinct. Why not go with it? Why not change the hiring process to fit that natural born ability? The best jobs I’ve ever had were given to me by people who followed their gut. The worst jobs I was never offered were also denied by people that followed their gut.
I shit you not, a potential employer said to me during a second interview, “I just don’t think it’ll work out. It’s not that I don’t think you could do the job. I feel you’d be an amazing asset to our purchasing department. I just don’t feel like your strong personality would fit well with Phyllis.” “Who’s Phyllis?” “Oh, she’s our company secretary. I just think she’d have a real problem with you.” A look of “boy did I make a bad decision hiring that woman” crosses his face and he says, “It will be a couple months before we find the right candidate. If something opens up before then, I’ll give you a call.” We parted and I was thinking, “jeez, if this woman is so much trouble, why is she still around? And I get fired for having an attitude?” Then I wondered if he was thinking she was going to die or quit soon. Maybe he was hoping. O_o Go with your gut.
Is that the best solution for this problem? Nope. The best solution will be the one that works. Will my solution inspire someone else’s solution? Well, there’s no point in sharing if you don’t think someone might be inspired by it.
So, my conclusion is that this hiring of autistics is a slippery slope. One that I hope all the kinks are worked out of by the time I graduate university. You’ve got two years America. Two years (maybe 4 if I push through to my Masters before looking for work in my field) to get this ironed out. I won’t expect special treatment and will be wary of accepting any.
Last year, when I found out I had autism–more specifically aspergers–I read and read and read every list of symptoms, traits and attributes of the disorder. Well, I’m an aspie after all, so why wouldn’t I obsessively research the hell out of something? Anyhow, one of those traits is Theory of Mind. It’s a relatively easy way for psychologists to diagnose children as young as 3-4 years old with autism spectrum disorder. I have my own thoughts about it.
Theory of Mind Defined
First, what’s theory of mind? As it’s defined by Google
Theory of mind (often abbreviated ToM) is the ability to attribute mental states — beliefs, intents, desires, pretending, knowledge, etc. — to oneself and others and to understand that others have beliefs, desires, and intentions that are different from one’s own.
When dealing with autistic kids, this tends to be true. They don’t understand that you don’t know what they know. But, in hind sight, normal kids struggle with theory of mind, but have to actively remember that not everyone knows the same things. It’s the number one reason mom and dad cease being cool in your teens. Your theory of mind has developed and your experience has removed itself from your parents, so they’re no longer impressively knowledgeable. /tangent
I have been an active participant in quite a few groups on Facebook that facilitate interaction with other autists. I have noticed over the past 8 months that it’s not adult autistics that struggle with theory of mind. It’s adult NT’s (NT stands for NeuroTypical, which accounts for the other 67 people). I have interacted with a lot of NT’s in the world and the common underlying factor is they expect you to read their mind, experience what they experience, do what they do, see things the way they see them, etc ad naseum. It’s quite frustrating really. Especially when I go to my autism groups and chat with my lady friends and there’s very little misunderstanding, lots of asking questions and not much arguing (if any at all). We come from all walks of life with very different interests and beliefs and we tend to take people at face value.
How do NT’s have 0 theory of mind?
All I can give are examples. Ranging from the very rich commentary during Katrina “Why didn’t they just go to their summer homes?” to the idiot on facebook that says “everyone knows who Jim Parsons is, he’s on Big Bang Theory, played in [some obscure Broadway shows] and [some other really really obscure random fact about Jim Parsons].” As if that’s a reason for me to know him at all let alone recognize his face. I’ve only seen one episode of BBT and thought it was droll. I have no desire to watch it and probably never will.
Honestly, though, I don’t recognize faces very well and if I haven’t developed a way of recognizing you, I won’t. I still have to map my mother-in-laws face every time I see her because I only remember her by her short pudgy build. You should have seen me when I used her hair as a mnemonic… haha, I would look at her completely confused whenever she dyed her hair or changed the style. She’d ask me if there was something wrong with her hair and I’d have to tell her no, but really I wanted to say “you look like a completely different person.” I had to find another feature to recognize her by. She loses weight or starts walking more elegantly and I’ll be lost.
So, another example would be a lawyer I’ve dealt with recently. When you live in the city, as a woman, it’s kind of a running joke to carry a weapon with you when you’re out alone at night. Women are 10x more likely to be raped than a man. Especially at night, especially in the city. A weapon is a necessary thing. It doesn’t make the neighborhood unsafe for children to grow up in. Children aren’t going to the store by themselves at 10pm and they’re not playing outside by themselves. So the point is moot. But he says, “why did you have to carry a knife to the store with you at 11pm if the neighborhood is so safe?” Mind you, the neighborhood my ex lives in has survived 3 murders during the day within the past 4 years. The guy was never caught. So… How does this question even get asked? For one, your white male privilege is showing and two, you’re completely oblivious to the real world and how it works. Honestly, he got the idea from a tweet I posted. If you take a tweet seriously, I got some tweets to show you that my ex posted to a 17 year old girl. I’d love to bring those up in court and use his complete lack of theory of mind against him. But I’m not petty.
Plus, there’s just about every republican or rich person who doesn’t understand poverty. Michelle Bachman, this chick… “It’s so bad being homeless in winter. They should go somewhere warm like the Caribbean where they can eat fresh fish all day.” —model/socialite Lady Victoria Hervey. It’s really a matter of theory of mind here. They assume the whole world is like them and lives like them.
When reflecting on this, I start to think theory of mind isn’t an autism issue. Over the past 8 months, I’ve definitely figured out that I don’t have theory of mind issues. What I thought was a struggle with theory of mind was just being a considerate person. I assumed that consciously thinking about other people and their needs and emotions was struggling with theory of mind. After a few talks with both Aspies and NT’s I realized that this is the exact opposite of lack of theory of mind. I realized that people who expect you to read their mind, live the way they live, understand things the way they understand them lack the theory of mind. Only a few of the autistic women I know and none of the autistic men have this issue (I know way less men than women, so this is not a representative comparison). The idea that theory of mind is a way to determine autism is a joke. I think it’s a way to determine nuerotypicalism. And the more I interact with people who assume I know what they’re trying to say when they call a DVD player a tape deck and Facebook messaging texting, the more I am aware that, as adults, autistics don’t suffer from theory of mind issues, NTs do.
So, maybe it’s flipped. Maybe young Autists struggle with theory of mind and young NTs don’t, but because autistic children have to develop or be taught theory of mind, they don’t lose it like NTs do. It’s actually pretty rare for an NT to have theory of mind. When I find them, I am so refreshed and the interaction is so easy and smooth. I would love for everyone to have theory of mind. I wish they taught it in school so the kids don’t lose it as they get older.
I started to type this out on my facebook feed, but I felt others with Aspergers would probably like to read this. I know that not having light or sound sensory issues makes me feel like a freak in the autism community, but I have other sensory issues that should be addressed and recognized on the high functioning part of the spectrum. So, here’s the post I started on facebook and elaborated for you…
Cleaning out my feed. Simplifying my life. I may just have to specialize to survive. Math and science it is. I’m done trying to get along with everyone and trying to be normal. If you don’t like what I wear, how I do my hair or what I’m interested in, then fuck it. Walk off. I spend way too much energy trying to seem normal that I can’t focus on anything else properly. And that means you.
Notice how I don’t ask questions or how I turn the conversation back on me a lot? It’s because I’m concentrating so hard on seeming normal, trying not to say the wrong thing that I can’t think about you, only what you might be thinking of me. SO, I sound clever, spout facts, recite pop culture references. Mostly I’m afraid of looking stupid and saying the wrong thing. I’m so tired of that. I want to have friends and interact with people.
Now that I know WHY I have so much trouble meshing with people, I don’t want to struggle with it anymore. I thought everyone struggled with it but I was just especially retarded. That’s not true. I can’t process conversation (non-verbal as well as verbal) the same way you can. But it doesn’t make me less than. Being Aspie will help me learn how to mesh better, believe it or not.
I notice when I’m with my son or other people that know me really well–that I can relax around–I’m a charismatic, considerate person and I can turn the conversation on to the other person like I’m supposed to. I can stop myself from being overly chatty about myself and my interests and talk about the other persons. If I stop caring what y’all think of me, then I can be that amazing, awesome person I try so hard to be (and fail at because it’s not really me).
Aspergers is a blessing. I love being an aspie and finding people that experience life the way I do. I am high functioning even for aspergers. But where others have sensory issues related to sound and light, I have sensory issues related to emotions. I can feel your emotions. I can feel everyone’s emotions. It’s really hard to turn that off and when I’m already not doing well from my own depression, I isolate myself. I turn away from everyone and regular routines involving people because I can’t deal with your emotions as well as my own.
I’m trying to learn how to deal with them–the emotions. I’m trying to learn how to shield myself. I’m just taking it day by day. So far it’s been difficult to figure out how to fit it all together. But I might be at the edge of a break through. The more I write the easier it seems.
I hope it just becomes easier as I get older. I’m looking forward to that.