For thousands of autistic adults everyday is an opportunity to prove themselves. The testing fields are business organizations all across the nation with employees on the autism spectrum. For adults on the spectrum fortunate enough to be gainfully employed, the path is fraught with obstacles. Consider the fact that so many autistic employees live with secondary medical conditions which require management and sometimes therapy. Further, those conditions may cause side effects such as pain and difficulty focusing as a result of medications. Living with the constant challenge of managing a permanent medical condition is difficult, by anyone’s definition, but life under these conditions with autism is hard. Yet, there are courageous women and men who stand gallantly each day in the face of tremendous odds, as they are determined to live independent lives expressing their abilities to the fullest. These are the people that bring their “A” game every day, even when it is apparent they are experiencing extraordinary distress. Rather, they move forward with the determination and heart of a warrior in environments that can be hostile at times – even unforgiving and callous.
There is an even greater enemy, however, that autistic adults must combat daily. That foe is invisible, lurking, insidious, and unrelenting. Challenges are not limited to health or physical conditions, but constantly fighting an environment of low expectations and underachievement can take a mental toll. Despite the fact that thousands autistics are now enrolled, in and graduating from, colleges and universities around the world – there remains a perception of low achievement for those diagnosed with autism, in some circles. Working in such an environment is a tremendous source of stress for many on the spectrum. After years of meeting deadlines and serving as a model employee, there is an underlying doubt related to autistic workers performing at a level that conforms to company standards. While this may not hold true for all industries, the prevalence of these attitudes seem unusually high in the technology and computer fields. The argument could be made that certain occupational areas attract larger numbers of autistic employees. Perhaps – but the pressure to dispel myths is real and prove the doubters wrong is a powerful motivating force.
Ultimately the battle comes down to overcoming self doubt and negative perceptions we all struggle with from time to time. The key here is to not allow labels or the expectations of others define who we are. There is still so much we don’t know about autism, but the process is evolving with new discoveries and possibilities. For anyone diagnosed with autism, it is vital to get the support needed to maximize the talents and gifts within. That is a fundamental right as a human being and without each individual making her unique contribution to society, the world simply isn’t as good as it could be. Some practical steps for autistic employees to consider would include seeking help from a support group or a professional skilled in the area of workplace conflict resolution. In addition, most group situations, including work settings, are comprised of caring people who are in touch of their surroundings. Gravitate to them and they will reach out in return, thus cancelling out the minority who are entrenched in antiquated thinking and negativity. Regardless of what others may say or think, we are all responsible for our feelings of worthiness and how we interact with others around us. Autism is not a barrier to achievement and being a good citizen of the world – unless we allow it to become a personal detriment. Stay strong and keep it moving in the direction of your goals. Eventually the walls will come down and all resistance is gone.