Many aspies, including myself, find touch difficult at best, painful in many instances. We rebuff physical contact and affection, seemingly an indication that we do not wish to be bothered, when our reality is an inherent need of space. We default to this innate mode of self-preservation in our attempt to avoid sensory overload.
Or lack thereof. Aspies lack the natural ability to display emotion. This absence is often reflected in our face, making it appear lackluster. This does not mean feelings are not percolating inside, but our emotional response is often delayed, and while it can be taught, we struggle to understand how to express ourselves, both verbally and nonverbally.
This includes people on the autism spectrum. Quirks, need for space, clumsy social graces notwithstanding, we long to be loved, needed, included, and appreciated by others. Our ideas and constraints of friendship might vary from the norm, but to have an aspie friend is to have a loyal, honest, dependable, caring person in life.
While the intensity and vast knowledge of girls’ interests are no less than boys, they typically are more practical. Combined with the desire to please and fit in, red flags are less likely to be raised until girls fail to outgrow or elevate these interests to a more mature level.
Signs of a child’s ability to properly communicate with her environment can begin with a smile or lack thereof. As an infant, I rarely smiled. This natural reflex for most has eluded me throughout my life. A smile for me takes much work, and though I strive to achieve a joyful persona, near constant anxiety is my reality.
Like many people with autism, our son Trevor was always very aware of time, and wanted to stick to a schedule. He owned and used a watch from preschool on, and that attention to timeliness helped him when he had a job. Because autistic individuals thrive on routine, schedules, and predictability, they will rarely, if ever, be late to work or meetings, which is a dream for employers.
It can be helpful for those with autism to work behind a closed door, even for part of the day. Sara Gardner has an accommodation for her office mate to work elsewhere for part of each day; a conference room could also meet this need. Because this can come across as rude or standoffish, managers should educate all employees to show tolerance and understanding.
People with autism need clear, step-by-step instructions so they know exactly what is expected of them, along with very detailed job descriptions they can refer to often. They are not less intelligent; they just process differently and are often visual learners, so the more clearly directions are spelled out, the better they will be at following those directions.
While watching for strengths, be aware of subject areas or tasks that are challenging or difficult for your child. Keep them in mind when envisioning the future, but consider how a challenge at home could be a strength in the workplace. Trevor was hypersensitive about being on time, which caused conflicts with the family occasionally, but it became a strength when he had his first job.
Human beings were made to work, and adults with autism are no different. Employment leads to a better mood, higher self-esteem, and improved physical health; and allows autistic adults to further develop in their skills and understanding. Our son Trevor liked being around people and the enjoyed the feeling of accomplishment at his jobs.