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.

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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.

The Three Different Learning Types: How Your Learning Type can Affect Employment

During inventory and work assessments, one thing that we as employment specialists learn, and sometimes the individual with Asperger’s/HFA learns as well, is what learning type they are. During the initial stages of assessing our individuals’ best possible work environment, we also discover their learning types: visual, auditory, or kinesthetic. I will now break down these types of learners and how they can affect employment.

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Visual learners

Visual learners prefer using images, pictures, colors, and maps to organize information and communicate with others. They can easily visualize objects, plans and outcomes in their mind’s eye.

Auditory Learners

Auditory Learners learn through listening. An auditory learner depends on hearing and speaking as a main way of learning.  Auditory learners must be able to hear what is being said in order to understand, and may have difficulty with instructions that are drawn. However, if the writing is in a logical order it can be easier to understand. They also use their listening and repeating skills to sort through the information that is sent to them

Kinesthetic/Tactile Learners

Kinesthetic/Tactile Learners are more likely to use their body and sense of touch to learn about the world around them. It’s more likely they like sports, exercise and other physical activities such as gardening, or woodworking. They also like to think out issues, ideas and problems while they exercise. They would rather go for a run or walk if something is bothering them, than sit at home.

A lot of the young adults I work with are visual learners. When I talk to an employer I can set up supports within management, and the coworkers that would enable the client to be trained using visual supports. If they were only receiving auditory or kinesthetic supports, they would struggle and could ultimately not be successful.

However, this can be avoided by knowing your learning type. The same goes for my auditory and kinesthetic learners: if they are only receiving visual supports and not what they need, they could also be at risk of being unsuccessful. Learning types are important to know.

by Maggie Cromeens

Finding an Inclusive Work Environment as an Employee with a Disability

As an employment specialist it is my duty to assist individuals with finding an inclusive environment, where mutual respect and understanding will enable them to be successful. Locating such an environment is the first step we take on the road to employment. However, this environment often times does not just exist on its own. I have to help employers and potential employees to develop, create and maintain it.

People at Work

Inventory Assessment

One of my most successful strategies in developing a work environment with mutual respect and understanding among my clients, their coworkers, and supervisors is to have each person create an “inventory assessment”. This inventory assessment includes each person’s interests, past work experience, and hard skills, which are discussed in more detail here.

After reviewing this assessment, I identify potential places of employment and encourage the individuals to visit with either a family member or a member of our staff. This visit gives everyone the opportunity to observe the culture of the specific setting, and the nature of tasks they will be required to perform on any given day at any given time.

Making an Appointment with the Manager

Practice Advertising Yourself for a Job Interview with ASD: The Commercial

A one-minute commercial can set the tone for any networking opportunity, cold calling, or interview. It is important to have something that sets you apart because, as I discussed in a previous blog, a majority of the job market is hidden. Although it can be daunting to develop a commercial, a polished one-minute speech can give you the opportunity to tell someone about your skills, and what type of opportunity you are looking for. This is an important step to take before beginning cold calling, sending out resumes, and interviewing, because it allows the individual time to assess their skills and pick out what is important to highlight. So how do you go about completing an elevator speech? I will outline a few simple steps that we have found effective that will help you work on yours.

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(Information from: Purchase College Career Development Center)

STEP 1:

  1. Think about at least 2-3 things you have accomplished
  2. Select two of your skills that relate to your career goal
  3. List 3 personal qualities you possess

STEP 2:

  1. Write down some details about your accomplishments, skills, and personal qualities
  2. Write out a story/script that wraps up STEP 1 and first part of STEP 2

STEP 3:

  1. Practice reading the script
  2. Get it down to 60 seconds or less
  3. Try out your commercial on family and friends – Ask for suggestions
  4. The more you practice the more confidant you will feel!

The one-minute commercial will shift over time as you gain more experience and change jobs. You may have more than one commercial or speech as your job hunt continues. This is a powerful tool that individuals with Asperger’s/HFA can use to set the tone for their interview, and present the reasons they should be hired!

by Maggie Cromeens

Aspergers Individuals Can Become Great Leaders, Part 1: How to Begin

6 Practices to Build Leadership Skills

Like almost anyone else, breaking into the subject or field of leadership presents itself as a significant challenge. With many responsibilities to consider and to fulfill, an exemplary leader must have confident power in communication, creativity, competence, ethics, organization, and decisions, just to name a few. Unfortunately, most youth and adults with Aspergers Syndrome often have difficulty in any one of these things. Typically, they desire to be able to learn from others, rather than lead by example themselves for the same reasons that most people fail to become leaders. Often times, they fear failure, rejection, or unfamiliar tasks and responsibilities, or all of these things.

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However, the myth that leaders are born, rather than made, is untrue and many prominent leaders throughout history dispelled it time and time again.

Primarily because most of them faced significant (sometimes extreme) odds to get to their current positions and to form the amazing personal images that they have. Many Aspergers youth and adults can take it upon themselves to work hard to achieve such standout images for themselves.

Initially, entering the leadership arena sounds difficult. Here are a few suggestions to get started:

1. Establish a conceptual foundation in your own mind:

To understand the keywords of quality leadership; understand how you can embrace them; realize the mistakes you make and learn from them as you progress.

2. Study communication tactics and picture yourself using them:

How do you look (appearance to others) and sound when you communicate? The best communicators prepare and deliver their messages well. If a message provides aid, insight in a necessary, moral, and honest manner, it will serve its purpose. Also, use your own feelings to acknowledge if a message has complete clarity and usefulness or if it requires modification. The next step helps with this process.

3. Develop power and structure statements:

Deciding if a Job is Right For You: The Work Assessment

If you were given the chance to work at a job you were interested in for a few hours to assess your skills and abilities, and to decide if you are comfortable and really enjoy it before starting the application process would you do it?

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This is called a work assessment, and it is imperative to future success. Vocational rehabilitation offices offer these kinds of important services for individuals with Asperger’s. A work assessment also work in tandem with the inventory assessments.

Work assessments are very beneficial. They allow an individual to work in a simulated or actual work environment for a few hours to decide if it fits the negotiable and non-negotiable parts of their inventory assessment. It allows an opportunity to observe the individual’s interaction with others, hard and soft skills, physical capabilities.

Using Informational Interviewing in Your Job Search

Employment with Aspergers

Now that we have worked on our one minute commercial, a script for networking, and learned about cold calling, let’s go over informational interviewing.

Informational Interview

Informational interviewing is an important tool to use with all three practices we have discussed. Informational interviewing is the act of gathering information about the career field, and specific companies you may want to work for. These are usually informal interviews that take place inside a company that you have an interest in.

Often times when we are doing a work assessment with our clients we are also conducting an informational interview to learn more about the culture, the work, and the environment that our client will be joining. This way we can make a better-informed decision if it’s a good fit.

You can also use informational interviewing by calling employers using your script we previously discussed. You could ask them questions such as:

Creating a Network for Those with Aspergers in the Workforce

Aspergers: Getting a Job

Once you have written your “one-minute commercial” and are confident telling others about yourself, it is time to start building your network. What is a network? A network is any friend, family member, mentor, teacher, or professional that can help you in your quest for employment. Building a network takes time, but can be extremely beneficial.

People at Work

Most people get jobs, because of someone they know. New employers usually feel more confident when they hire a person recommended by someone they know. Hiring a new employee is expensive so they want to go with someone, who others can personally attest to their skills.

So, who should be in your network? What is the best way to go about creating a network?

I would start with any friends from school, work, or different organizations that you believe would keep an eye out for jobs for you. Then think about family members that could help, think about former employers, teachers and supervisors…this is a great place to start. Sometimes your direct contact may not know anybody, but someone in their network may know of a good referral, or opportunity.

In the classes I teach I use Dr. Jed Baker’s “Preparing for Life” series. He offers different types of scripts that have proven beneficial for my clients. These can be used in conjunction with the one minute commercial to start building your personal network!  Two examples of scripts are below.

Scripts for Networking:

Script for calling a friend, relative, current or former employer, teacher or supervisor:

  1. Hi this is, ________________. I am looking for a job as a _________________and I was hoping you could help. Is this an okay time to talk?
  2. Do you know anyone who may need someone who can______________________?
  3. Do you know anyone else who might know of any job opening?
  4. Would you be willing to be a reference for me? Would you be comfortable telling others my skills in____________ and some of my personality traits such as________________?
  5. If so can I get your contact information for an employer?
  6. Thank you for your time.

Script for calling someone who has been referred to you by others.

  1. Hello this is__________________. I am a friend (or relative or acquaintance) of____________________. I’m looking for a job as a______________________ and he or she said that you might be able to help. Is this an okay time to talk?
  2. Do you know anyone who might need someone who can_______________________?
  3. Do you know anyone else you might know of any job openings?
  4. Thank you very much for your time.

by Maggie Cromeens