The Art of a Job Interview When You Have Asperger’s

I left school in 1994 and had my first job interviews in the same year. I was, like most Aspies both then and now, full of nerves fueled by a strong desire to make the right impression. What I hope to do here is outline what I did to overcome them and what helpful advice I was given, which will hopefully also be of use to you. My very first interview was in a hotel in my hometown. My mother had a wee word with me the night before. Mum’s advice was very well-intentioned — keep your answers short, don’t mention any of your difficulties and make yourself come across as the best person for the job (some kind of receptionist-cum-general-dogsbody). So, off I went, smartly dressed, quite nervous and determined to make a good impression.

 

This article originally appeared on the Aspergers Test Site
I was greeted at the door of this place by someone whom I can only describe as a vamp, who swept me in and then proceeded to tell me all the reasons why I should not want to work there! I left what seemed like hours later, still not quite sure what had happened. I did, however, learn a very valuable lesson that day.

Always keep a little bit of your brain aside to expect the unexpected (I know that’s a big ask for an Aspie and may even provoke more anxiety but it’s a fact of life and we can all handle the unexpected with the right coping strategies).

Experience Number Two —a café in Edinburgh, where I went for a job as a cleaner.

I will, no doubt, in the fullness of time, devote a full and frank article to my many and varied experiences in this job. Suffice it to say that it was not a happy experience, but I learned a lot from the interview. Closed question followed closed question. Have you done this kind of work before? Are you able to work the hours as advertised? When can you start? Danger signs should have been flashing, but, as usual, they were not.

I was not picking up on the signs being given to me by my interviewer. This is most definitely not a good thing. I got the job. What I also got was one very valuable lesson — pick up on the bits in-between the words of your interviewer. How desperate are they to get someone — anyone — into the job? Why are they so keen to have it filled quickly? How interested are they in you and what you can bring to the job?

The best interviews, as I have discovered subsequently, are conversations, subtly steered by the interviewer, to test you and get the responses they want. You need to be prepared.

You also need to be prepared for the unexpected. What should happen? What should be asked? Why didn’t certain things happen? These are all questions you need to keep in mind before, during and after an interview.

Now we are going to move forward 14 years. I am now 30.

Asperger Syndrome, Employment, & Social Security Benefits

Asperger Syndrome (AS) is such a recent diagnostic category in the U.S. that most of the individuals who carry it are children or adolescents. We are only now developing a fund of experience that can anticipate and meet schoolchildren’s needs; we know even less about the typical vocational functioning and other needs of adults with AS.

Employment, Social Security

Since most children with AS appear to require some interventions, supports, or modifications to enable them to succeed in school, it seems reasonable to assume that many adults with AS will require at least some supports or special conditions in the workplace.

One of the most common concerns adults report to AANE is work failure.

Although many men and women with AS are succeeding in the workplace, many others have a history of being unable to get and hold on to jobs.

This article is intended to help adults with AS (and the parents, spouses, and mental health professionals who support them) to analyze employability, plan for any reasonable remediation of weaknesses, and identify the characteristics of jobs where adults with AS are most likely to feel comfortable and succeed.

For those adults for whom competitive employment is not an option, we will outline how to seek disability benefits.

In part, we will use what we have learned about how to help children with AS succeed in school, and adapt those insights and techniques to meet the needs of adults in the workplace.

Overview

AS is characterized by three clusters of symptoms or general kinds of difficulties that can directly impact employment:

  • Difficulty processing sensory input (sensory integration).
  • Difficulties understanding social intercourse (theory of mind).
  • Differences in “executive function” (organizational skills) and cognition/information-processing skills, such as difficulty appreciating the “big picture” (“central coherence”).

Just as each cluster of symptoms often necessitates accommodations for a student with AS in school, similar accommodations may determine the difference between comfort and catastrophe on the job for an adult employee with AS. Let’s look at these three areas individually.

Sensory Issues

In the classroom, many children with AS become over-aroused when their senses are flooded by noise, flickering lights, or other triggers. They may feel anxiety or even panic, and react with tantrums. Often they require some accommodations to reduce sensory stimulation, such as sitting at a desk placed against a wall or at some distance from other students. They may wear headphones, or have special permission to leave the classroom to compose themselves in a “safe place,” such as a resource room or the school library.

Workplaces differ greatly in their general sensory load and in their flexibility about worker movement. Obviously, success for AS individuals is more likely in workplaces that are quiet, predictable, and allow frequent brief retreats from social demands, noise, etc.

The :30 “WOW”

Aspergers101 presents: Dr. Temple Grandin Tips for Interviewing Success

Statistically, 75% of persons diagnosed with High Functioning Autism / Asperger Syndrome are either under or unemployed. This is a travesty for them, their families, society and businesses. These staggering numbers cannot be ignored! There are various reasons for unemployment mainly the challenges that come with autism such as sensory sensitivities and workplace social expectations.

However, alongside challenges, there are many positive traits such as:

  • Ability to focus intensely for long periods
  • Enhanced learning ability
  • Deep knowledge of an obscure or difficult subject resulting in success scholastically and professionally when channeled.
  • Honest & hard workers who make for excellent employees when painstaking & methodical analysis are required.

Aspergers101 is proud to offer our readers suggested ways to overcome employment challenges, specifically the interview process. Dr. Temple Grandin is known worldwide for her successes with invention but in order to get to that plateau, she had to self test ways to get her foot in the employment door. As a person diagnosed with Autism, Temple share those personal techniques and interview skills below.

Interview

Temple’s Suggestions:

Don’t go into an interview cold  turkey…prepare a well thought out presentation!

Neatly show your work, presentations, articles, etc.

Wow them with your work examples in :30!

Challenged with Social Skills? Preparing Youth for Employment.

by Raeme Bosquez-Greer

In my 20 plus years of experience I have found that every student is different and every employer is different. This question cannot be answered in one broad answer, we are all very different. In this blog entry, I will give an example of what has worked in my position as an Autism Specialist, Job Developer and Advocate.

Billy is 16 years old and has been in a secluded classroom for 12 years. In this self-contained classroom, he is very quiet and does not feel he is like anyone else.  In the cafeteria or during breaks he is made fun of and bullied due to his awkward gait, thick glasses and because he tends to keep his head down. He has very little self-esteem or self – confidence. He does not share this with anyone because he does not want to bring any undue attention to himself. Both of his parents work 40 hours a week and allow their son to come home and play video games in his room every evening. He is also allowed to eat his meals in his room each night.

Now Billy is 18. His parents would like for him to move out, get his own apartment and get a JOB.

Parents must understand that no matter how intelligent your son or daughter is if he or she does not get exposure and experience at an early age the barriers to the real world of work will take longer to overcome.

Now that Billy is 18 they are searching for resources, making phone calls and calling everyone in the Special Education department for assistance in meeting these goals.

The parents never really attended Billy’s ARD meetings together and only listened on the phone due to their work schedules.  Billy was assigned a placement specialist to assist with and solve with what we call barriers to employment. The student is lost, confused and scared. He has been enabled in the contained classroom for many years and was able to isolate in his room and play video games with no chores or expectations.

Placement Specialist must first:

  1. Establish a trusting rapport with student.
  2. Engage with the student and go out in the community to see what volunteer or work sites are near his home.
  3. Obtain transferrable skills that would assist with accountability and self-confidence.  Learn what is socially appropriate and inappropriate.

Note that the time frame to overcome all barriers is different for each of your children.

Your ideal timeline and the reality of how long this process will take depends on the severity of barriers we must overcome to obtain gainful employment.  It is our job as parents to not enable our child and to be involved in this process. To be successful in the real world of work these skills must be taught and reiterated at home before they become barriers. Parents must understand that no matter how intelligent your son or daughter is if he or she does not get exposure and experience at an early age the barriers to the real world of work will take longer to overcome.

by Raeme Bosquez-Greer/Job Adventures

——–

Glossary:

Transferable Skills:  Skills developed in one situation which can be transferred to another situation. They are sometimes called generic, soft or key skills

Accountability: The fact or condition of being accountable; responsibility.

How Do People Diagnosed With Autism Get Hired?

What kind of agencies are out there to connect me, and my child’s skills, to a potential employer?

My name is Raeme Bosquez-Greer. I have been an Employment Specialist for the most challenging students for over 20 years. Challenging in my vocabulary means that they are harder to place in a competitive employment setting.

All states and cities have agencies similar to the Texas Workforce Commision, a department of rehabilitation and Alamo Area Council of Governments, which I’ll refer to as “The Agencies” for the remainder of this blog. These are the main agencies the parents of a 15+ year old student can go to for their first steps in seeking training, job developing and employment. This umbrella of agencies contracts third party providers to complete services.  These providers, like myself, specialize in a variety of disabilities including Autism and Neurodevelopmental challenges. We are paid commission for the services that we provide.

The Agencies mentioned above will educate you regarding all the services they offer either themselves or through the 3rd party providers. They will give you a list of providers to select from. You call the providers on the list and interview them with questions specific to your son or daughters needs and you select the provider that you want to work with.

The agency will give you example questions but you can also ask your own based on what best fits your child.

Example questions you might want to focus on are:

  1. How long have you worked in the field of vocational rehabilitation?
  2. What is your success rate with students with Autism or related challenges?
  3. What are your credentials?
  4. Describe your most challenging case and did you have a positive outcome?
  5. What are the most common barriers to overcome for my son or daughter to become successfully employed?

For the state agencies, a student can begin the paperwork process as early as 15 years old. A vocational representative is required to be at the high school a minimum of once a week.  I recommend you contact your child’s case manager frequently and ask to make an appointment with their appointed vocational representative.  Start services early so that your child has time to learn the skills that they need and overcome any barriers by the time they graduate.

An example of my own daughter receiving services:

Communicating to an Interviewer About Your Diagnosis

Ask Maggie

Q: How should one go about communicating to an interviewer a brief summary of the world of Asperger’s Syndrome?

This is a really great question. There is a saying that goes: if you’ve met one person with Aspergers . . . you’ve met one person with Aspergers. I believe this statement is also true of how we communicate Asperger’s syndrome in the workplace.

As I have referenced in previous posts, it is important to do an inventory assessment of what skills and abilities you can bring to the workplace. The reason this is done is so that you can tell an employer exactly what you have to offer them.

Interview

It is also best to tell the employer what you need to be successful, and oftentimes I have found that the employer appreciates when expectations are set. When I have gone to interviews with my young adults with Asperger’s, I usually (if they are comfortable with it) go to talk to the interviewer beforehand, and give a brief explanation of that person’s communication style and needs so that expectations are set for the interview.

The following PDF from Antioch University contains a list that may be helpful when you are thinking of the strengths and weaknesses you bring to the workplace.

The Employer’s Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome

You really want to emphasize your amazing strengths and how that will benefit them. Employers always want to know how they will benefit.

Possible strengths include:

  • Attention to detail
  • Good concentration on routines and procedures
  • Memory for facts and figures
  • Logical approach to tasks
  • Honesty
  • Loyalty

Possible challenges include:

Rejection with ASD and Best Practices for How to Handle it

Being a person on the Autism Spectrum and dealing with abuse from many places, I understand that being rejected is tough. Having Autism, I never felt that I fit in with the ‘normal’ children. I had to sit away from everyone in class and was seen as being weird or stupid. My family members did not seem to understand what I was going through because they didn’t have Autism.

I have been rejected many times and in many ways. I was rejected for jobs through email saying, “Dear Maverick, we regret to inform you that your application will not move forward, we encourage you to reapply.” For a long time I never got past the interview process and if I did, no feedback was given on the interview. Sometimes I had to log into my portal and find out my application was rejected three days ago and was never notified by anyone.

In the past there were employers where I would walk in with my resume and I was dressed sharp but I was automatically turned down. The reason why I was turned down was because of my facial expression, not being able to look someone in the eye, or I appeared to be stupid, slow, scared. All of these negative perceptions were because they did not understand me or what I was going through. Employers are not supposed to discriminate against you because of your disability but I had potential employers that did so with me, whether knowingly or unknowingly.

When I applied to graduate school, I applied to about three schools, and was denied by all three of them. In a previous blog I told you how many times I was denied admission from universities and the same for scholarships. Life is a competition and everyone is competing with each other trying to reach one goal whether it’s a job opportunity, scholarship, school, promotion or others. We are living in a society where ideally everyone can win a prize and we all should be winners. It’s good for children to believe that they are winners so that they can then have the confidence in themselves that they can do anything they put their mind to.

But when children become adults, they are in a reality where there exists only a few winners. In order to be the winner, you have to work hard and compete the best way you can against everyone else.

Sometimes it’s unfair, biased, and wrong but unfortunately this is how life is. It’s important that we give a child the fish early on in their life, so when they get old enough we teach them how to fish so they are able to do things for themselves.

Choosing Not to Disclose Your Disability in the Workplace

In previous blogs we have discussed full disclosure of your disability, partial disclosure of your disability and different ways to go about deciding whether or not you should disclose. In the last blog we talked about the SODAS method for disclosing. One of the options was to not disclose it all.

disclose in the workplace

Some individuals that I work with feel like like this is the best route to go when they start a new job. If you choose not to disclose, as I have said before, it is a personal decision and should be carefully considered . . .

If you choose not to disclose, ensure that you have a strong support system that is made up of family, friends or other individuals that can help you if you start struggling. This way you will have an outlet to work through your struggles.

Some choose not to disclose immediately, but realize within the first few weeks that they have some concerns, and choose to disclose their disability before it becomes a problem.

Sometimes we have disabilities that don’t affect us at the workplace. This can be a good reason we choose not to disclose.

Just remember no matter when you choose to disclose make sure that you are telling the appropriate people. An example of an appropriate person to tell would be human resources. If there were no human resources at your company, which is common in small companies, you would tell the manager or person that is in charge. This should be kept confidential on their part and you should feel comfortable getting the support that you will need. Sometimes you may need to have documentation of your disability and what accommodations you might need so that they can help you.

by Maggie Cromeens

Aspergers Individuals Can Become Great Leaders, Despite Their Challenges. Part 2: Overcoming Challenges

How to overcome personal challenges

This is Part 2 of a two-part article by Reese Eskridge on the topic of building leadership skills. You can read Part 1 here. Reese compiled the following list of personal challenges that often plague those with Autism or Aspergers. Each piece of common self-doubt listed below is accompanied with Reese’s own personal encouragement and guidance for how to overcome!

Team leader

  • I am not competent enough about role(s)/inexperienced in creating and running events or activities: Be yourself and start with what you know you can do, create something to promote it and to enable others to use it; identify an issue or interesting concept and think about a purpose that will serve the greater good; Take opportunities and think about how you can excel in each role you play.
  • I do not understand what message(s) to convey… Ask yourself many questions and try to answer as many potential questions as possible (i.e. what would they like to know about…? How would they react if…?).
  • I have a problem with perfectionism and fear of failure… If you have challenges, thoroughly examine the challenge and work around it to achieve your purpose as the leader; what are the lessons to learn from each challenge (use keywords).
  • I am too fixated on minor or irrelevant details or do not know most important details; Digresses into restricted interests, rather than piques follower’s interest and serves followers’ best interests… Establish structure in a manner that ensures that you do not miss any important details; then, you can take control of a given situation by speaking with all forms of credibility.
  • I am too shy to speak up when needed; there is too much pressure… Recruit help where and when you need it the most, even if it means developing just yourself, and plan out and organize those resources to maximize their effectiveness; in other words, get those resources to do exactly what you want them to do. Develop passion in what you do or plan to do and the rest will come naturally.
  • I do not feel like I can do this independently… Don’t sweat it! Try to develop abilities to do assortments of tasks that you must accomplish and get guidance as necessary; do not get guidance if you can easily figure out tasks at hand; get help when you absolutely cannot do something yourself; learn team building strategies for this.
  • I am not confident in having a positive influence… Just remember that during an organized event, people are there to listen to you and do what you say, although it is better to give recommendations and to delegate responsibilities fairly, rather than simply take over. Keep it positive every step of the way and devise strategies when the going gets tough for anything. Ask yourself the potential solution to a problem when it arises and keep calm; be a role model by acting like the person you want them to act like.
  • I have poor organizational skills… Do not hesitate to consult with other people and resources that specifically address this. Also ask yourself, how can I best keep track of materials in general. Obtain folders, files, etc. for documents and a calendar or calendar book in which you can write down the dates and times of upcoming events, meetings, etc. Planning is the single best strategy when you or your followers are disorganized or disoriented. Make sure that everybody involved has at least one role and delegate by each person’s strengths and willingness to participate in that role. Ask who wants what and go from there.

by Reese Eskridge

Temple Grandin Explains: Choosing the Right Job for People with ASD

Jobs need to be chosen that make use of the strengths of people with autism or Asperger’s syndrome. Both high and low functioning people have very poor short-term working memory, but they often have a better long-term memory than most neurotypicals. I have great difficulty with tasks that put high demands on short-term working memory. I cannot handle multiple tasks at the same time.

employment, jobs

 

Table 1 is a list of BAD jobs that I would have great difficulty doing.

Table 2 is a list of easy jobs for a visual thinker like me.

I have difficulty doing abstract math such as algebra and most of the jobs on Table 2 do not require complex math. Many of the visual thinking jobs would also be good for people with dyslexia.