, 34 tweets, 9 min read Read on Twitter
#autism in the workplace - a thread. Please share widely. Thank you. /1
Not all #autistic people will be able to work. The comorbities of the condition (depression, anxiety, learning difficulties) can make it impossible to have a career, especially in a world not set up for autism. But many autistic people do work. /2
Some can be very successful indeed. Others may carve out a niche. More still will work away, often in considerable discomfort, trying to manage their job. #autism can make any kind of employment difficult - and here are some reasons why. /3
Communication is an intrinsic part of any job. Any neurotypical will admit that. What they may not be aware of is how much of this workplace communication is packed with implication, connotation, unspoken rules and conventions. Places of work are terrible for this. /4
Think about your job. Now think about how often your boss uses hints, implication, body language etc to get a point across. It happens all the time. What in linguistics we would call paralinguistic features (body language - the physicality of communication) are everywhere. /5
Or prosody - the sound of speech. That slight inflection that tells you your colleague is pissed off; that rising tone that indicates sarcasm. Workplaces, like everywhere else, rely heavily on all of this. And it is awful for #autistic people. /6
There are a combination of reasons why #autistic adults struggle with this 'layer' of pragmatic, implied communication. Firstly, it simply doesn't come naturally to us at all. Every time we come across it, we have to deal with it 'manually', each time. This is tiring. /7
We are therefore prone to messing up. God knows how neurotypical people do it, but we will have spent our whole lives learning how all this works, but only at a surface level, so it's really easy for us to get it wrong or to misread the situation. /8
This is bad enough when having a pint with a friend, but potentially calamitous when in a high pressure workplace. Hence, we are anxious. We've had enough experiences of messing up to be traumatised by it, in the worst cases. /9
Due to the stress, #autistic people are prone to taking utterances literally. I never thought I did this as I have a highly honed radar for banter and sarcasm, but I realise that when stakes are high, or the banter is too much, I do this all the time. /10
So relationships between an #autistic person and their boss is liable to collapse if this boss typically uses this implicit language or spends their time joking and using sarcasm. This can cause utter misery. /11
Is that really the deadline? Does this person really want to scream? Are they really depressed? They said they were? Am I really in trouble? Do I actually have to do this thing? Did they mean it? Over and over and over... /12
How often have #autistic people walked away from a conversation with a superior oblivious to the fact they'd been told off? Come on - tell us your stories! How often have you walked off not realising you've committed to a massive extra task? /13
If you employ an #autistic person, you have to say what you blooming mean. No implicated info. Just say what you want, in sufficient detail. Keep it straightforward. Not because we're daft - because we just don't know. /14
But that's not all! Meetings. We all have them, but by crikey they don't tend to be #autism friendly at all. Firstly there's the hierarchy problem I've mentioned before - who "deserves" to speak and who doesn't (this is a thing and you know it). /15
Secondly, trying to get word in edgeways. This is hard for #autistic men and is bloody awful for #autistic women, as generally speaking neurotypical women in the workplace are liable to be spoken over by overtestosteroned men. When is the right moment to speak? God knows. /16
Another subtle problem is that one trait or sign of #autism can be a 'non-standard voice'. Maybe rather high pitched, or very quiet, or slow and ponderous, or the stereotyped monotone - it is a real issue and people can be bloody horrible about things like this. /17
I'm extremely loud, for example. I used to get told I spoke too loudly in meetings and it bewildered me. This was pre-diagnosis. Now I understand but it still sucks, as I can't help it. /18
Meetings with a lot of staff can be hot, noisy and smelly too, so our sensory issues can start firing off pell mell, meaning we start to lose track of what's happening. When people start talking over each other, we may as well just give up. /19
And remember, meltdowns are a thing. Now imagine the terror of knowing you could, nay *will* meltdown any moment in front of your peers, your boss, maybe the Big Boss. It is Awful. So you sit in the meeting doodling to keep calm, hoping no-one calls you out. /20
But we can be bloody good at our jobs. Our focus, skills, understanding can be perfectly suited to lots of situations and we can thrive in the right environments. It's just often, these environments don't get created. /21
Then there's our executive [dis] function. #autistic people can struggle terribly with organisation and decision making. This doesn't mean we're incapable, we just need patience and understanding, but in the world of work this can be in short supply. /22
And actually, many #autistic adults compensate for this really well, being list monsters with reams of notebooks for all their to-do lists. I wish I was good at this; I forget to look at the lists. /23
#autistic people probably spend longer fearing for their job than most. The rates of homeless autistic people are terrifyingly high - over 12% of homeless people show significant autistic traits, compared with the believed 1% of general population. Losing a job can cause this 24
Then there's the working environment. The biggest problems are open plan office, hot desking (surely an invention if Beelzebub) and air conditioning... /25
(sorry, just cooked some eggs and broccoli - surprisingly pleasant combo.)
Open plan offices are disastrous as there is no defence against the endless noise of the chatter, phones, fans, computer hum - it's a cascade of sensory over stimulation.
Add in hot desking, so there is no familiarity or sense of routine, and its pretty much an actively anti-autistic workspace. This shouldn't, in my opinion, be allowed. /26
I'm lucky - I have my own classroom where I can hide and recharge when the students go. The thought of never having a set abode, a space that was mine, makes me feel desperately uncomfortable. /27
I'm going to stop for the night. I'll do more tomorrow - promotions, managing, work socials... Still loads to talk about...
Anyone has a spare few quid to shout me a coffee for tomorrow morning that'd be nice!

buymeacoffee.com/UfTVnRY
Cripes, thanks everyone, I'm not sure it'd be wise to drink all these tomorrow morning but it means I'm set up for the new school year next week! Thank you
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