Work

Aspies often make good workers as many of us are punctual, trustworthy, conscientious, take the job very seriously, have above average work ethics and often enjoy working. No matter what level of work, most Aspies are at work to work; not to gossip, slack, flirt or socialise.

“My best skills are the ability to focus on the work rather than relationships. Because of this I hit the office working and don’t stop working until I have to leave.”

Rachele, Aspie from USA

“I’m good at research and putting things together in a motion or paper of some sort.  I’m good at building up a pattern to support a theory for our case.  I can read extremely fast and can read a file right before walking into court and yet remember everything I read and then win the case.”

Anne-Marie, adult ADHD/Aspie attorney from USA

“I’ve been tempted – sometimes I used to get angry that I seemed to be the only one working while everyone else chatted or planned vacations or parties, etc.  I’ve even made up my mind to fool around on the job instead of working.  I tried playing some games on my computer at work (like one woman did just about all day!).  But I couldn’t do it… even if I didn’t have anything to do I would always go looking for work to do instead of doing something for myself. ‘Oh good, I can reorganize my files!’ or whatever.”

Wendi, Aspie from USA

“I can work wonders with excel spreadsheets and access databases, and can collect and sort data in lots of different ways, and with efficiency that most of my co-workers have never seen.  I believe that a person should give their employer maximum value for what they are paying you for, regardless of how much you get paid. And so I tend to push myself.”

Tom, Aspie receptionist & assistant from USA

“I am good at, and enjoy, things such as organizing, cataloguing, filing, etc. I’m also a very good speller – I don’t need to use spell check. I can become very engrossed in paperwork. I would do nothing but my work, I would not slack off to socialize. (This would likely endear me to a boss but make me target among co-workers.) I would never, ever gossip. I’m determined and, of course, a TOTAL perfectionist. Unlike many aspies, I have no aptitude whatsoever for technical things or numbers. However, my writing and reading comprehension skills are very high. Unfortunately, I could only put these skills to work if I was alone. Just the *presence* of other people, even if they are busy and not talking, would make me too nervous to function. The threat of small talk would always be there, even if it never came to fruition.”

Kitty, Aspie (from USA?)

“I have so far in my 29 year-old life worked as a regular employee full time. First 5 years in the manufacturing industry. It was a monotonous assembly line job, My co-workers hated it but I liked it. […] The problem with this job was that I was so incredibly stressed all the time. I put extremely high demands on myself to be best at everything. If it was possible to be the tiniest bit faster, I made sure to be fastest of all. I would take time and constantly tried to pressure myself to become faster and more efficient. This led to me becoming very appreciated by my boss. When production was slacking at one station, I would sometimes be put there in order to bring it back up to speed again.”

‘Aspiegirl’, Aspie from Sweden

Some prefer monotonous jobs with predictable routines.

“My ability to hyperfocus helps me with my job which involves a lot of mundane filing which most NT’s would find mindblowingly boring but which I find quite good therapy.”

Kate, adult Aspie

“If I could choose, I would prefer to sit 8 hours a day on the same spot doing exactly the same things all the time.”

‘Aspiegirl’, Aspie from Sweden

Others are highly creative and individual and want to be able to make use of their creativity and special skills in their job. They are the starters who are best at initiating things, but not at the day-to-day maintenance of their creation, and work best when given as much freedom as possible within a safe setting.

I’m a typical ‘projects’ person. I love sorting things, solving problems and thinking out new & improved ways of doing things. I prefer getting (or giving myself) a specific assignment that will be over and done with once I finish it. I then need to rest for about as long as I’ve worked and switch to some completely different activity. This is because I hyperfocus so intensely that my mind or body really needs a break when I’m done!

I also need to work on my own terms. When I get to choose where, when and how to do things, that’s when they get done best. It also needs to be something that I believe will be of use to others. I could never feel inspired to participate in production or sales of something that went against my personal values.

Ing, site-author

Solitude. Introverts, Aspies, ADDers and Highly Sensitive People often work best alone.

“I haven’t been ’employed’ for close to forty years, but chose way back when to work for/by myself, alone, in a remote location. Fifteen years before I had a telephone. Over thirty before this computer. Pretty Aspie, eh? Like Tom’s niche, I found mine to be perfect for what I chose to become. Isolation allowed me to perfect my craft in an uninterrupted, people free environment. To some people it would seem like hell on earth but I enjoyed most every minute. Valuing efficient, effective, focused, productive, advances in knowledge, service, and production are our greatest gifts. Best of all I got back just what I was worth!”

‘Rainbow’, adult Aspie wood-craftsman from USA

“I have a great enjoyment of organizing, cataloguing, alphabetizing, filing, etc. If I could find a job where I could do these things without having to go through the exhausting ‘Hi how are you fine how are you’ routines every day I would probably be a workaholic!”

Kitty, Aspie

“Got a temp job at dad’s work, got my own room to file paper and place files on shelves. Felt as comfortable as a fish in water. Unfortunately it didn’t last more than a month, got praise for work well done.” 🙂

‘Annorlunda’, female Aspie from Sweden

Sensory overload can be a huge problem for some:

“I’d prefer that it be darker in my office, but I can’t control that. Hearing: BIG PROBLEM.  I need to be in a very quiet environment or I can’t concentrate.  This is impossible in a work environment.  My two office mates listen to music and it hurts my ears even when they turn it down a lot.  One guy was listening with his headphones today, and I had my back to him and I asked him to turn it down.  I didn’t realize he had his headphones on.  I was a bit embarrassed, but it was too loud and hurting my ears!  Even when they don’t have music on, they can’t stop tapping their desks or talking with one another or just making noise in general.  I hate noise.  In my office I can feel it in my ears, like someone is hitting my eardrums.”

‘Jae’, female with SID from USA

“For me to function in a work environment, I need to be relatively free from distractions, and for me to focus on a project, I need the total and complete absence of all noise. This includes using ear protectors to screen out the hum from fluorescent lights and the sound of air coming in through the ducts.”

– Tom, Aspie from USA

“I just started working on (one of Sweden’s biggest) warehouses last Monday. I suspected it would be difficult but nothing nearly like how it in reality IS! My spontaneous feeling when I entered this GIGANTIC building was close to PANIC. Stacks everywhere, ENORMOUSLY high sound volume, people running here and there, bright lights (of which some were flashing in colour), assembly lines with goods (imagine the sound!), trucks driving (which you have to jump out of the way of all the time) etc..

“+ (!!) that one is supposed to WORK, i.e. one’s consciousness should (as far as possible) be focused on tasks (sorting etc.) AT THE SAME TIME.

“My body looks as if I’ve been tortured (bruises everywhere) and my brain feels like it’s been run through a high-pressure wash and then mangled.” 😦 😦

‘missbutterfly’, Aspie from Sweden

Some are too easily fatigued to be able to work full-time and some are so sensitive, dyspraxic or easily stressed out that they can’t work at all. Or if they can work; having a family, hobbies, household chores or social life on top of it may be too taxing. (Not every Aspie has this problem, though.)

“For me it started when I had children. I wanted to work but just never had the time. To work 75% didn’t work, there was always something really urgent that I tried to do all day but didn’t have time for due to all the phone calls. So it was more like a full-time job with 75% pay. My solution was to work 80%, which is more than full-time 4 days a week but at least one day off.

“Then demands increased during the 90’s. For those who have AS there are so many added stress factors, which are not a problem for NT. I had already stretched myself to the limit, when I was required to work even harder I burned out.”

‘Alien’, female Aspie from Sweden

“If you have AS, life can get too complex, you don’t have time to interpret all the impressions and then you get mentally fatigued and the more you try the worse you feel. Then it can be an advantage to get a diagnosis, as you can put more reasonable demands on what you’re supposed to be able to handle and can avoid the worst energy-drainers etc.”

‘VaiSing’, female Aspie from Sweden

Some put much more into their job than is required.

“Got a job at a dog’s daycare center where had my dog. Liked it very much there but couldn’t let go of my job when I got home. Was on the go from 4:30 AM to midnight. Wrote personal notes for dog owners at Christmas and tried to find the right pictures for all dog races. My body protested after six months by very high fever for a week and a half after which it sank somewhat. Started to get anxiety by being at work.

‘Annorlunda’, female Aspie from Sweden

Many Aspies find themselves unappreciated or badly treated at work, sometimes because they are overly conscientious and make others employees look bad by comparison, or take too long to finish a task. Sometimes just because they’re a bit odd, or uninterested in socialising.

“Got a job temp job as a computer registrator at mom’s work. Was supposed to fill in information from questionnaires, was very happy with it. Didn’t get to continue as I was to perfectionist and it took too long for me…”

Annorlunda’, female Aspie from Sweden

“Hard to get a job, I didn‘t do well at the interview. Finally got a temp job. Worked in an open-plan office, wasn‘t overly comfortable there but did my best. Didn‘t get it prolonged because I wasn‘t extrovert enough. So? I wasn‘t working as a sales person!”

‘Alien’, female Aspie from Sweden

Many are very good at what they do, but not good at marketing their skills.

“I do writing and biotech consulting, and I hate to go out and meet people to market my services. When I go to a conference and everyone is networking in the exhibit hall, I just usually walk around and avoid talking to anyone unless there’s someone I know handy.”

Ken, person with Aspie traits from USA

Knowing one’s strengths and weaknesses and finding the right type of job is the key to success, for people in general and for Aspies and atypical people in particular.

“Traffic restaurants. Packed food, tobacco and alcohol an the trains. Full time shift. Little difficult with work mates. enervating jargon. I was considered a snob, especially from the females. Was supposed to stand at an assembly line and call out what had come back from the incoming trains. (All packets of butter, sandwiches etc.) Tiresome to use my voice. Everyone complained that I talked too quietly.

“Had to work alone in the basement preparing the trolleys with perfume, chocolate and cigarettes. Loved it and got praise. They said I could advance because I was so conscientious.”

SuRiKaT’, female with AS and ADHD traits from Sweden

“I have found a perfect job for myself – I wish it paid better, but other than that – I’m a police dispatcher – think of it – I sit in a room with 9 other people (but I have my own little space that is mine) and help people over the phone – I never have to look at them or even contemplate the possibility of a long-term relationship…

“I rarely have to spend more than a few minutes on the phone with each of them unless they ask me to stay online, and then I find that just saying ‘really?’ a few times when they pause allows them to vent their family (usually) problems to me while we are waiting for the police to get there… The rest of the time I can crochet or read or quilt or just sit and stare into space for all anyone cares…

“I mean, really, who would you prefer to have on the phone with you when your exhusband is at the door with a gun? An NT who is going to freak out with you, or me who is going to say, ‘Yeah, ok, I got that your ex husband is at the door with a gun, but if you don’t tell me where the door is, I can’t send the police, now can I?!’ in the same voice I always have…

“Anyway, people always tell me how hard that sort of job is and how stressful it is, but the only part I find stressful is that I have a different supervisor every night and he/she interprets the rules differently so sometimes I get talked to for that sort of thing – but if they would just lock me in my little space and leave me alone I don’t think it would be stressful at all…”

Fleur, Aspie

“Found a job at a warehouse here in town and now have my first employment. A great job where I can study a bit at work (study math now) and everything is based on sorting packages after good and well defined routines. After much mishap I’ve found the job for me and hope to be able to continue like this all my life, work in the warehouse and study at college at the same time. I actually like my job, even if it initially stressed the crap out of me.

‘sssssm’, young adult male Aspie from Sweden

“At numerous meetings around the country I have talked with many adults with autism who have advanced university degrees but no jobs. They thrive in the structured world of school, but they are unable to find work. Problems often occur at the outset. Often during interviews, people are turned off by our direct manner, odd speech pattern, and funny mannerisms.”

“People with autism can develop skills in fields that they can really excel in, such as computer programming, drafting, advertising art, cartooning, mechanics, and small engine repair. Where they really need help is in selling themselves. In many cases, they have a better chance of getting hired if they are interviewed by other computer programmers or draftsmen instead of the personnel department. Likewise, showing a portfolio of work will help convince sceptical employers who are nervous about giving a job to and autistic person.

“I’ve known people who are engaged in satisfying jobs as varied as elevator repair, bike repair, computer programming, graphics arts, architectural drafting, and laboratory pathology. Most of these jobs use the visualization talents that many people with autism have. For instance, a good mechanic runs the engine in his mind to figure out what is wrong with it. People with autism who have savantlike memorization skills are good at cataloguing and reshelving books at the library. Piano tuning is another job they are good at, because many people with autism have perfect pitch.”

Temple Grandin, HFA engineer from USA, in her book Thinking in Pictures

So… in return for just a little protection from sensory overload, bullying and enforced socialising, Aspies and other atypical people might be a real asset to their employer; an overlooked resource just sitting there waiting to have their many and diverse skills be put to use. A few companies have figured this out and some even specialised in using only AS consultants. Hopefully, there will be more.

LINKS

Choosing the Right Job Temple Grandin article with more tips on suitable professions for people with ASD.

On the Spectrum in the Workplace Stan P’s great page with lots of useful tips on how to negotiate office politics if you have to work at a regular place.

Social Bullying by Stan P.

BullyOnline Resource site for bullying targets.

Auties.org Listings of autistic skills for hire, autie-friendly employers and more.

Specialisterne The Danish company that was the inspiration for Swedish Left Is Right. (Unfortunately Left Is Right management turned out only to be using Aspies for their own profit.)

BOOKS

How to Find Work That Works for People with Asperger Syndrome: The Ultimate Guide for Getting People With Asperger Syndrome into the Workplace (and Keeping Them There!)

Developing Talents: Careers For Individuals With Asperger Syndrome And High-functioning Autism- Updated, Expanded Edition

Asperger Syndrome Employment Workbook: An Employment Workbook for Adults with Asperger Syndrome

Asperger Syndrome and Employment: What People With Asperger Syndrome Really Really Want

Employment for Individuals With Asperger Syndrome or Non-Verbal Learning Disability: Stories and Strategies

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