Are you really brave enough to put the word Aspergers down on your job application?

9 Jul

The power of the internet is truly amazing, for me it’s brought information, peace, opportunities, comfort, experiences, support, education, understanding and friends. (Those and so many more!) 

 Yesterday, I got to meet one those friends in the flesh, over a fabulously delicious skinny latte, with lashings of cinnamon generously sprinkled over a layer of froth. (No, that wasn’t a snip-it from the Marks & Sparks commercial, but me really appreciating a good mug of coffee!) Thanks Neil 🙂

 Star bucks was the ideal setting to chat to a new friend, one I had been wanting to meet for sometime but life being life just made it an impossible task… Well till now! 

 I suppose to classify Neil as a “New friend” isn’t quite right! You see, I’ve known Neil for sometime now, though conversations are only ever exchanged in the land of cyber-space. Neil, an adult on the autism spectrum who was given a late diagnosis of Aspergers syndrome, is a regular contributor in discussions and a massive supporter of the support page, ‘A boy with Asperger’s’ the Facebook page in which I created some few years back as an added addition to this very blog (hence the name of course). His opinions are always given in a frank and honest manner, his certainly given some great advice to many of our members, including that of myself. To be honest Neil has provided me with a sort of insight, highlighting how things could possibly be for my own child in adult life (an important issue to which I will elaborate on soon enough)! 

 Here I was, finally about to meet Neil who yes as mentioned has Aspergers. Just, after 1.30 lunch time I arrived to found Neil awaiting my arrival at the entrance. I knew it was Neil and his profile pic on Facebook had sod all to do with it! So… What gave him away? Only the fact he checked out my footwear as I entered through the door ensuring I had no sandals upon my feet (Yes, Neil hates sandals) There was no awkwardness having only previously met in cyberspace, well… this was the case for me and Neil seemed just fine too! Having got passed the shock that was caused by the similarities of my common London girl accent to that of someone you would likely find staring in the soap ‘Eastenders’ We chatted about life in general. Honestly, Neil is a genuine guy who is extremely interesting and speaks from his heart. He says exactly how it is (Which is an aspie trait you cannot fail to appreciate). 

 Everything Neil said was of interest, I found it a privilege to have him tell me about his life on the spectrum. He put the myths to bed and although I myself  always knew it possible, it was just so good to hear that the best part of his life has been a great success! How else can you describe a good education, (through it wasn’t always easy) a happy marriage and a beautiful son. However, there was something that had never been quite right! At no fault of his own Neil has never been able to hold down a job! Why because society wont allow him that right, the basic human right to make an honest living, to be the loving husband and father who provides and I should add ‘Wants’ to provide for his family… WHY? Its simple! Neil is not seen as a) a “Team-Player, b)  a big communicator  and c) one of them (you know part of the click) Yes, that’s right, those that will a least give him a chance assume his some kind of character from the film ‘Rain man’ sitting him in the corner alone, far away from his colleagues, drawing the conclusion that it’s for the best as this is what those with aspergers want and need to be social isolated from the ‘world… Well, isn’t It! 

This alone screams out loud how little those in the work place, especially that of senior staff really know about AS!

 Neil isn’t under-qualified in-fact he proves that yes, people with AS have great minds and given they put everything into it just as one would who isn’t on the spectrum, they can go on to obtain good qualifications, even having excelled in many areas of  their learning. Is it right that many people on the autism specturm or those with learning disabilities, mental health problems, especially those who’s condition is characterised but that of a difficulty with social communication, are taught by society at large that it is at there utter best interest to go to collage and then university, for god knows how many years, to obtain a degree only to face to total disappointment on the discovery that they are completely unemployable? Even when they do get their foot in the door ready for the challenge of the world of work, a large number of employees with a disability are treated just like my friend Neil (Though you haven’t yet heard the half of it)! Note: I’m not stating those with autism or any other form of disability shouldn’t go to university, obtain a degree! Maybe one day that of my own son will, through that’s his choice and his alone! Nor am I stating that all employers treat employees who have autism/aspergers or other, in this same manner… That would mean I was writing this in a discriminating way! I acknowledge that there are many that do not discriminate and actually do take the time to get autism aware and inflict that awareness on all of its employers! But sadly the number that do not are still far to high, just ask Neil or better still,  just go back a few months when MP Philip Davis outrageously called for all disabled to work for less then the minimum wage… Something he must have unquestionably considered fair in his discriminating little brain! 

 Neil’s last job ( in IT) saw him and around approximately fifteen other employees, employed on a fixed term contract! Neil once again was sat in a corner, left to his own devices. Where was the structure? Of course there wasn’t any. As a woman who isn’t on the spectrum, though I often like to be left to my own devices, I like to know exactly what it is I’m supposed to be doing, how, when and how long for in order for me to do it and do it well, who don’t? For someone like Neil this is imperative! This didn’t happen, like many people with a social communication difficulty he didn’t feel to ask, he didn’t want to, this wasn’t the comfortable thing to do. Failing to see that In-fact Neil was human and would kind of appreciate come social interaction… No one took notice! The results… Neil’s work wasn’t at its finest (but still good I must add). 

 The very end result…

You guessed it, (If, u didn’t after such a long rant then you’re clearly not following.)  Neil’s contract came to an end as planned and just as it did for those fifteen others! Well, fair game then, a contract ending is just that, a contract ending! Where is the problem? Here’s the problem… The other fifteen, all except Neil that is, found themselves happily celebrating the fact they immediately had their contracts renewed for a much longer period of time by their once more praising boss. What a sack of crap!!! Seriously can you imagine how that must have felt? Maybe It felt something like how my own son felt when he was taught in isolation, away from others, left to his own devices, maybe it kinda resembled that same feeling like when my son was told he wouldn’t be allowed to attend educational trips or participate in activities alongside that of his peers! My point… From class room, to office, child to adult discrimination due to others inability to except the person you are, that of disability discriminate still delivers that same devastating blow! Was it Ok, after all the contract had come to a timely end? Crap! This was wrong and Neil for one knows it. Lets not forget its not his first job and likely wont be that of his last! He was told, Sorry you are not much of a team player and yes your work wasn’t always up to scratch. The fact is, having they had made the work place that bit more accessible, made adaptions allowing for his Aspergers from the word go, with the added courtesy of  some instructions, which would have been much appreciated, Neil would have produced the work expected and would likely have been a great deal happier in his working environment!

 My very last point… Promise!

 Not only did I learn from Neil that my son could possible get married, have children, ride a motorbike and hate sandals as much as him! I also learnt he could possible found himself unemployable and yet again the target of discrimination. Yes, my child may have got in to our desired school but like Neil showed me… To get into his desired job is something his yet to face! 

 Neil is looking to make a stand! His words to me, “I want to change things so children like your son don’t have to grow up and be treated in the same way!” My opinion… That was spoken with passion! Please help. I don’t often plea for your help (Ok, Ok excluding that of the Mad blog awards) but this is so very important and its life changing for him and so many others. Neil is searching for other adults both young and old who have autism or other related conditions to get in touch. He wants to collect your stories and get them heard… I guarantee that this will be a campaign he will fight to the bitter end but to do it alone just makes it harder! Neil is looking for people who feel they were discriminated against at work due to their disability, who wants change and wants it with a passion. 

Contact me here by leaving a comment here on the blog

To visit Neil’s Blog: Click HERE

Contact me on twitter: @Clairelouise82


6 Responses to “Are you really brave enough to put the word Aspergers down on your job application?”

  1. ChocOrangeCityMum July 26, 2011 at 7:39 pm #

    This is a really interesting post. I have never known anyone with Aspergers or Autism which makes it very difficult to understand the impact it has on your life.

    Thank you for writing this, I think you are doing a great service educating people about this.

  2. Bill Peters July 10, 2011 at 4:24 am #

    I am 29 and Have Aspeger’s and I would love to exchange Info with Neil or anyone Else I do live in the States but I am Interested.

  3. Neil July 10, 2011 at 2:23 am #

    Thank you, Claire, this is the loveliest blog I have ever read and I really appreciate it. It’s even better than the “official” report I have with my diagnosis, that I had to pay a lot of money for. I had more good news waiting for me when I got home as the agency from the interview I went to on Wednesday called to say I had been successful enough to get to the HR stage, which I just hope is a formality, as he said nobody he has known in the last 6 years has fallen at that stage.

    I have a 10K run to do in just over 6 hours so must go to bed and get a bit of sleep (less than 4 hours but I did sleep the whole afternoon). I hope to write my own blog post about all this when I get back.

  4. Keith Dunnett July 9, 2011 at 1:18 pm #

    This is a timely and a familiar discussion; my own particular grievance at the moment is with the Department for Work & Pensions, who seem incapable of understanding or accepting that I am actively seeking work compatible with my disability. Their system recognises two categories: “out of work” and “can’t work, won’t work”; it cannot accept the idea that someone is perfectly capable of a relatively small percentage of the jobs out there.

    Like Neil, I am at the end of my tether with the lack of comprehension and in the last few days I’ve been researching qualifications with a view to moving into advocacy work. If my own situation is frustrating, I have friends on the spectrum with equal or greater difficulties who can barely put them into words, and who suffer far more dire consequences.

    A female friend (who has an autism spectrum disorder and is in the process of being diagnosed) was recently ordered to produce a CV within one week – no regard to the fact that she does not have a computer, struggles with reading and writing and would be unable to get herself to a library to prepare a CV without substantial support. She tried to explain these difficulties and the response was to sanction her Jobseekers’ Allowance for a week and direct her again to do the CV and apply for a vacancy at WH Smith. Which of course she was unable to do without support – so they stopped her Jobseekers’ Allowance for a month! Unsurprisingly, this has caused enough distress that she has been written off (uhm, signed off, sorry) as unfit for work.

    So, here’s another pissed off Aspie with an interest in raising genuine awareness and acceptance of autism. I do have my concerns about “mass-market” autism awareness; for example, the so-called “partnership” between the NAS and Remploy does not fill me with any confidence at all. All it means is that one of the DWP’s contractors can tick the “autism-friendly” box after a half day of training, and so we can all be required to suffer the same “training provisions” as the “can’t work, won’t work” brigade.

    Which leads me full circle to the reason that I began to comment. Like my friend above, I have just been ordered by the Jobcentre to produce an updated CV, though I have been given the courtesy of a month to do so. I am toying with the idea not just of putting the diagnosis on my CV but of actually writing the whole CV around Asperger Syndrome and really highlighting strengths and weaknesses; that will put some employers off, and inspire others.

    For instance: “I have a lifelong special interest in languages and an attention to detail that makes me a skilled reviewer and proofreader. This same ability can prove frustrating when working to tight deadlines or co-authoring documents with others.”

    What do we think about this as an approach? It requires being far more open and explicit about autism than is presently considered normal or desirable. At the same time, it feels a damn sight more honest than any CV I’ve ever written and it confronts the reader with the blunt truth.

    I’m thinking that yes, in principle, wouldn’t it be nice if more than 15% of people on the autism spectrum were in employment. Problem is the government is thinking the same way, so the next step at a political level will be to dumb down autism awareness accreditations until everybody has one. I’m just about sick of being told how my needs are being met, by people who seem to assume that a label of AS means I must be capable of hacking the Pentagon. A balance needs to be struck between raising *true* awareness among employers and creating more autism-friendly vacancies where possible and, at the same time, recognising that the premise that “any job is better than no job” does not apply to all people in the same way.

    If we manage to get from 15% of autistic people employed to 20% of autistic people employed, well that’s a worthy target – increasing by one third the number of autistic people in work – but that still leaves 8 out of 10 without work. If we can double it, to 30%, that leaves 7 out of 10 without work.

    So, in conclusion, I share Neil’s concerns and support his struggle, but with fears that the collective approach to “token” autism awareness is not working in our favour, be that in schools or on the quest for employment. The only response that I can see is to assert our individual strengths, weaknesses and needs, whether or not they are currently being met. Thoughts?


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