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.

“Driving with Autism and other Communication Impediments”

:30 Public Service Announcement

We at Aspergers101 would like to thank all who’ve taken part in getting the “Driving with Autism and other Communication Impediments” initiative state-wide in Texas! Through your comments we’ve edited the final Public Service Announcement, added closed captioning and it is now airing across Texas on both TV and radio stations…thank you! The framed posters and informative tri-fold brochures are now in all DPS Driver License Offices informing citizens of their option to utilize the restriction code informing law enforcement of the diagnosis of: Autism, Asperger Syndrome, Deafness, Parkinson’s Disease, Mild Intellectual Disability, Down Syndrome, Mutism and other communication challenges. You will begin to see other diagnosis highlighted, we will have someone whose been deaf since birth sign in a PSA similar to Sams. What a blessed journey this has been for our family…to God be the Glory, great things he has done.  – Jennifer Allen/Founder & CEO Aspergers101

 

So what is a communication impediment with a Peace Officer? 
Most common diagnosis include: Autism, Asperger Syndrome, Mild intellectual disability, Deafness, Speech & languages disorders, Expressive Language Disorder, Down Syndrome, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Deafness, Brain Injury or Parkinson’s Disease.

How can you get Communication Impediment with a Peace Officer on your Texas driver license or state ID?

Only two actions required:
1. Have your doctor complete and sign a Physician’s Statement, Form DL101, affirming the Autism, Asperger, speech disability or other appropriate diagnosis.
2. On driver license application KL14A/S be sure and complete line 7 on the form.

For more information contact Jennifer Allen at: jallen100@att.net or go to: https://aspergers101.com/drivingwithautism/  

Ready to Graduate? Tips for Asperger’s Students and Those Supporting Them

Hillary Adams and Jackie Clark presented “Bridging the Gap: Supporting Students with ASD as they Transition from College to the Workforce” at the 2014 Autism Society conference held in Indianapolis, Indiana. Representing the West Virginia Autism Training Center, Adams and Clark provided several tips and considerations for those who are about to graduate and those who support them.

Tips included:

  • Utilize campus resources related to employment, especially those services provided traditionally on college campuses through a Career Service office. Begin a relationship with that office early; don’t wait until the final year
  • Participate in mock interviews, especially if those interviews can be videotaped for critique and coaching
  • Search for employment opportunities that fit interest as well as skill
  • Become aware of accommodation needs, and learn the self-advocacy skills necessary to request them. Learn to be more interdependent, understanding who in a potential workplace could best help you when help is needed
  • Plan the transition early, and plan it with others who are invested in your future

One of the coolest tips provided by Adams and Clark was the use of a Telephone Interview Checklist. This script supports college graduates as they undergo a telephone interview with a potential employer.

The checklist does the following:

Sibling Friendship and Aspergers: When Childhood Friends Outgrow Each Other

I don’t know if telling this story will date me, but I guess it doesn’t matter that I grew up in the sixties. I remember as a child, that song and story about Puff the Magic Dragon. The special friendship he and Christopher Robbins had together, but then the boy grows up and Puff hangs his head and cries. (Or was that Tom Dooley and Winnie the Pooh? LOL) Anyway, my kids have been best of friends since the beginning of time and long before that. My daughter, Carmen, and son, Jesse, have a sort of love for each other that I pray every day never ends. They even have a secret language and I often hear them babbling away together and cracking each other up with their private jokes. My son looks at his sister and her funny little ways and I can see it in his eyes that she brightens his day, and he her’s.

childhood, siblings, friends

In just the last couple of years, this has been a growing concern for me. They are getting to an age where most siblings just can’t tolerate the sight of each other. Luckily this hasn’t been the case in my home, but I see something else occurring. My daughter has been developing in a more sophisticated way than my son. Her speech has greatly improved, her social skills are growing in leaps and bounds, and she is succeeding in general ed classes.

I am sad to say that in some ways, she is leaving her brother behind.

Self-Care and Parenting Aspergers: Pencil in YOU

The day you become a parent changes everything and there will always have to be a give and take to find the balance that our souls so desperately crave. The problem lies in the fact that for many of us, while we know parenthood is an amazing blessing, it often turns into an all take experience.

As parents, we are desperate to understand and help our children succeed and prevail over any challenges that may come their way. Far too often I see parents who, out of the most genuine love, lose themselves while helping their children.

I believe that cases of this increase when your child may need extra interventions and have daily struggles that require more to get through the basics.

Pencil In You

Having a child diagnosed on the spectrum can bring a variety of different emotions and responsibilities depending on the day. Your priorities often change because they have to, and the scale of give and take seems to tip even more off balance.

While you are in love with your child and grateful for them you are also tired, stressed, and often worried. The stress of processing your reality and navigating it year after year can add a lot of stress to the other members in the household as well.

Now to get to the good stuff! It’s time to put all that aside and think about YOU!

It’s time to get some balance in your life and that means that as parents we need to take some time to be selfish. Just go with me here and I promise you that in the end the other members of your household will be grateful, and so will you.

I get it, you may not have the time, money, or energy for anything extra. However, those are all excuses, so get out your calendar because it’s about time you penciled yourself and your priorities in.

Here are a few steps you need to take in order to keep yourself happy, healthy, and functioning:

Transitioning to Middle School

Q&A with Lisa Rogers

 

Q: Dear Lisa,

My son has High functioning Autism and is in general education classes in public school. He will be going to Middle School next year and I was wondering how should I prepare the teachers for him, and him for the teachers? This will be different as he no longer has just one teacher but will have many. We have had our ARD and I know the school does so much but I’m nervous and wanted to know what I can do as his parent.

-Sharon Kaiser/Plano, TX

Middle School

A: Dear Sharon,

I’m so glad to have this question. Too often, April or May rolls around and then we begin to have a conversation about transitioning to a new school in the following Fall Semester. By planning ahead, parents and teachers can alleviate the anxiety associated with such a big change and increase success from Day 1 of school. Of course, each person on the spectrum responds to and deals with change in their own way. By including your son in the process, you can make decisions that are tailored to his needs.

Possible activities to consider include the following:

  • Determine the point of contact[s] at the new school
  • Plan a visit to the new campus; coordinate with a small group of friends if possible
  • Set up a Circle of Friends or buddy/social coach
  • Provide a map of the new campus
  • Build a schedule that includes student interests
  • Build a schedule that will meet sensory needs
  • Write a social story about the new campus and new staff. You can find a sample social story in video format at the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qk0Nag4zvJk
  • Consider beginning to switch several classrooms at the elementary campus to practice this new aspect of Middle School life in a safe environment
  • Ensure the new staff have training in autism to build common understanding
  • Ensure that visual supports are in place to prevent stress. Signs on the first week of school can help navigate a new environment [e.g. schedule, scripts, narratives, etc.]
  • Discuss whether or not the student will benefit from a “Home Base”. A “Home Base” is a predetermined location for the student to regain composure or work through a problem.
  • Develop a plan for communication between home and school

In addition, I strongly recommend creating a portfolio of your child’s strengths, needs and interests.

Handling Social Anxiety for Self-Fulfillment

I’m emailing with Kris Jones, an eloquent writer on Linkedin about his Asperger’s Syndrome. We’re talking about the stressors he experiences that can create extremely self-limiting anxiety. We’re going to use several blogs to talk about different stressors. Kris’s first stressor was his lack of self–fulfillment. One of the causes of this lack of self-fulfillment was Kris’ social anxiety.

Tony Attwood, expert on Asperger’s Syndrome, suggests that around 65% of adolescents with Asperger Syndrome have a secondary mood or affective disorder (such as depression or anxiety); most have anxiety.

anxiety/stress

Kris describes his thoughts and feelings which I’m calling social anxiety like so: “No one likes you. No one wants to know you. You are not interesting. Stay where you feel most comfortable – inside your house and away from others. You are not fit to be out there amongst the human race.” He says that this is representative of how he feels and it is what keeps him from going out and mingling with others his age. Even though he knows these thoughts about himself aren’t true, he can’t get past the anxiety.

Let’s break this down into parts. What causes this social anxiety?

What are the Main Causes of Depression for Those with Asperger’s Syndrome?

Aspergers and Depression: Part 2

Why are there higher rates of depression in those with AS? There may be some genetic predisposition to depression for some, but this doesn’t explain most cases of depression. One reason for depression is isolation and loneliness. Despite the misconception that people with AS prefer being alone, research shows that many with AS want friends. Children and teens with AS are often lonely and feel their friendships aren’t “quality.” They’re looking for company, safety and acceptance to give them a sense of confidence. Those who have friends may have a lower tendency towards depression. However, many with AS who experience social anxiety or lack social skills in joining, starting, and maintaining friendships don’t have the tools to have the friends they want.

Another reason for depression is the experience of being bullied.

Studies have suggested that a majority of those with AS experience bullying. This isn’t surprising given the drive towards conformity and the emphasis on social status among middle school children in particular, but also among high school students and even older individuals.

There isn’t a cultural norm of tolerance of neurodiversity, or even of most kinds of diversity.

Qualities of those with AS that engender bullying are

  • lack of awareness of social cues;
  • cognitive rigidity;
  • interests or behavior labeled ‘odd’;
  • and hypersensitivity.

AS individuals have difficulty flexibily and astutely responding to bullies. Some with AS tend to be submissive and anxious in response, which empowers bullies to continue. Still others lash back, which gets them in trouble.

In my own practice, my Asperger’s teenagers and young adults have often been bullied and carry the wounds of bullying deeply ingrained in their sense of self-esteem.

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.