The Hidden Village of Aspergers

March 11, 2014

The Man

Who’s the man with the plan?
Who’s the man?
I am!

A comic has been doing the rounds on Tumblr recently, wherein the artist suggests that one should turn one’s hobby into a job. Like knitting? Start a yarn shop! Follow your dreams! Except it’s not that simple. Not all of us have business savvy or connections or facilities or what have you, not to mention the failure rate of start-up businesses. At the end of the day, most of us end up in jobs that are nothing more than a means to an end. My current job is, for instance. It’s not what I imagined myself doing, but it’s what I have to do in order to keep a roof over my head and the bills paid.

The workplace, for some of us, is high school all over again. You’re still being told what to do by an authority figure, you’re expected to conform to a dress code (in some jobs, mind), and on a personal level, there are the same cliques and politics. Backstabbing and bitchiness are not limited to the playground. Office politics is always something I try not to get too involved in. I just want to go to work and do my job and go home. I don’t want to listen to other people’s problems when I’m busy. I tend to go into some kind of weird trance when I’m typing, especially if it’s an interesting case and the fee earner’s voice isn’t too hard on the ears (I had a colleague whose voice made me physically ill. I’m not kidding. She sounded like a Dalek.)

As I’m pretty knackered, I’m going to do this post in list form. These are some things to consider if you’re working with a person with Aspergers Syndrome.

– Open plan offices are hell on earth and one of the worst types of working habitat for someone with Aspergers. I work in one. The combination of the phone, the fax machine-cum-printer, colleagues shouting across the office or talking loudly or dictating and my own work is enough to drive me batshit, and it sometimes does. When the fee earner next to me dictates, I down tools because I cannot concentrate while she’s talking. I find it hard to tune background noise out. It’s also why I listen to an iPod on the bus, because it blocks out the background noise.

– On that note, do not talk to us while we’re on the phone, as we cannot process two people talking at once. Asking who it is is one thing, but continually asking me to tell the person something while I am in the middle of a conversation is another and it makes me wonder if I should just put the phone through to you.

– Ah, the phone. Putting us on Reception, or any other kind of telephone job, is not always a good idea. Sensory overload aside, answering the telephone to strangers can be a major source of anxiety, especially when they’re angry and you can’t help them. I got banned from answering the phone at work after one panic attack too many.

– We don’t always get office banter. We do actually have a sense of humour – it just might not be the same as yours. We can take things a bit personally. I don’t mind banter when it’s with friends, my best friend and I take the piss out of each other all the time, but not so much when it’s people I don’t know. We can’t always tell when you’re joking or if you really are angry, and we can’t understand why you’re making such a big deal out of us asking for 50p out of petty cash. It’s really not that funny.

– Always, always, ALWAYS give us clear instructions. Do not be surprised if we ask a lot of questions on how to do something. It’s not because we’re stupid, we just want to do the job right. Also, be specific. Make sure we have job specifications – I didn’t for a long time, and found myself doing other people’s jobs. Let us know what our duties are.

– Do not shift the goalposts. I mean it. A lot of goalpost-shifting happens at my job and it throws me off completely when I’m told to do one thing, and then told not to do it. We like to know where we are and hate being confused. Constantly changing rules is a very bad idea if you’ve got someone with Aspergers working for you.

– We are not mind readers. Do not assume we know everything that is going on. We need to be kept in the loop. Some of my colleagues are very guilty of this, not telling admin staff about court dates and then getting angry because they don’t get put in the diary. We cannot put things in the office diary if you do not tell us. I also got blamed for not putting times on attendance notes, and was very angry about this as I make damn sure I put the times on, and if I don’t get them, I chase them. Luckily, in that instance, my boss took my side. My boss,  I have to say, has been great, although I think it helps that we work in different offices and the London staff don’t have to see my meltdowns.

– Do not patronise us. Just because I have Aspergers does not mean I am four years old, thank you very much.

– If you are angry with us, do not shout at us. It makes us panicky. Try and keep your temper.

As an aside: I’m going to recommend another book I was given recently, Asperger Syndrome and Employment” What People with Asperger Syndrome Really Really Want. It’s by Sarah Hendrickx, who runs a support service called ASpire, based in Brighton. My only beef with it is the lack of female representation, compared to the many men who were quoted, but other than that, it’s well worth a read.

1 Comment »

  1. […] A Miser: managing money and other household things 10. Avenging Angels: relationship with my father 11. The Man: coping at work 12. Disco Dolly: festival tips 13. Fran In Japan: role models outside the family 14. I Am Unlike A […]

    Pingback by An announcement | The Hidden Village of Aspergers — March 11, 2014 @ 11:02 pm | Reply

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