This week’s interview was very interesting and covered various topics. The interviewee who would like to remain anonymous “Dan”, is ADHD and has recently, self-diagnosed as Autistic. The candidate was very open with me about their experience and quite a lot has arisen from this interview. The topics covered were: job interviews/work environments, masking, impulse spending, and special interests. From previous conversations with neuro-diverse adults, I have noticed that job interviews are a common topic of interest as they can be very stressful.
I asked Dan if interviewees show bias towards autistic candidates and this was his response:” I’m not sure about this as I just recently discovered my autism. I will say when employers knew I had ADHD they were different”. I asked Dan to elaborate on this and he said that they were “easier on me” but in a way that made him feel that he wasn’t being taken seriously and he has decided not to tell work that he is autistic as it is not worth being treated differently in the workplace. So Dan said he would continue to “mask at work and maintain”
Workplace environment and masking
This raises two very important issues: workplace environment for neurodiverse people and masking. I asked Dan what are his thoughts about raising awareness in the workplace and if this would help: he said “to be honest I think the normal workers should be the ones who we are made aware of like they should be the ones who are thought of as the different ones. It is easier for them.”
The issue here is how society is, it is not a neurodivergent problem, it’s a societal one and until any real progress or change is made, people have to cope with the right now. This conversation made me think of the following which I suggested to Dan:
“Awareness for neurodivergent people about how neurotypicals are in the workplace and how to deal with it”. Dan said “that’s a good place to start” According to a recent study there is a small amount of research that is focused on the workplace for neurodivergent people and their experience in the working environments. The study indicated that the majority of the participants reported negative experiences in the workplace that they found “disabling” (Cooper and Kennady, 2021).
In another study I found showed that neurodiverse work teams had a beneficial affect on the work itself, highlighting the positives that neurodivergence brings to the table (Bernstein, 2021). The authors also mentioned how “old school” the hiring process is and that this is not very accommodating for neurodiverse individuals:
“Job postings are often jargon-filled, nebulous walls of text that alienate entire populations. The old-school job interview: a high-pressure situation reliant on making a good first impression, heavy on social cues, and requiring spontaneous verbal responses to unexpected questions” (Bernstein, 2021).
What to be aware of
So there is some research beginning in this area and some companies that are trying to make accommodations but as mentioned above in terms of a solution for right now for people in work environments who don’t accommodate atypical needs there needs to be awareness for neurodivergent people of the following:
- Interviews may be uncomfortable
- Interviewers might expect eye contact
- Interviewers may ask questions without allowing enough response time
- Interviewers may ask questions that are difficult to answer on the spot
- Interviewers may not have prior knowledge of neurodiversity
- Interviewers may treat you differently
- Colleagues may treat you differently
- You may experience discrimination
- Social awkward situations may arise
What to do? Here are some helpful ideas
- Mentally prepare yourself for the above-mentioned possibilities
- Practice with someone you are comfortable with
- Have a comfort item that may help with calming (if self-conscious, excuse yourself to go to the bathroom and try to calm yourself there)
- Have a prepared list with you of talking points.
- On this list include what you would like to say to the interviewer before it begins: for example: “I am neurodivergent, I am not comfortable with eye contact, I am not being rude”
- You could possibly explain the above via email as well before the interview as well as the fact that you need to refer to your list.
- Do background information check to be prepared for questions they ask you about their company
- If you are being mistreated or discriminated against, report it to HR or whoever is in charge of those cases in your workplace.
- Try to use your strengths and interests in your job and while communicating with others
- Find ways to help you cope such as sensory kits or other items that may make the work environment more comfortable
If you the reader have found helpful coping tools, please do share them below, this is about helping each other learn and feel supported.
Dan mentioned how he has spent most of his life masking he said “I masked well and had no idea what I was doing” When I asked him to look back and explain how he had been masking his whole life that now that he was aware of it he responded:
“I was always nice and always put on a smile in public. I think if you went places that I frequent the people would say that I am polite, approachable, and respectful. I tried my whole life to fit in and be like others so they’d accept me, I copied laughs of popular people…..“
I said to Dan that this must be very draining and he agreed : “it was draining I’d come home so drained and mad and have no idea why. Like no idea at all.”
Maybe special interests can help in situations like this?
Dan’s special interests include “drawing, painting, sculpting. Art in general is just a mind-blowing experience for me. The freedom it enables you to express is just fantastic. Rap music. House pets. House plants.” Dan\’s special interests help him to de-stress. I am a firm believer in using one’s special interests in cathartic and healing ways. Special interests are wonderful and should be explored.
Dan’s take on art was “I use art to express my emotions and angst at times, it is a release and fulfilling to say the least. Therapeutic properties. Art is fantastic for coping and getting out stress. I think that it’s awesome that art has such a positive role in Dan’s life.
Again if any of the readers would like to share their experiences or how their special interests have helped them then please do in the comments below.
So this brings us to the next topic I have not yet discussed which was impulse spending. Dan brought up that he sometimes impulse spends and that is something he would like support with. I have noticed that impulse spending is another common theme. So I have put together a few helpful ideas and some visuals below. Once again I am asking the readers to share if they have found something that has helped them and also let me know if any of the following is helpful.
- Set up spending rules for yourself
- Stick within the budget
- Wait a specific time period before making a decision
- Creating a “treat yourself” purchase if you stick to your rules (I do this)
- Use your special interests (in the example of Dan, when you feel like you are about to buy something impulsively stop, draw something, then see if you still want to buy it afterward)
- Stick to a shopping list
- Shop Online
- Do not shop in groups (this sometimes influences people to buy things you don’t need, unless with someone who is very strict about their spending)
- Conduct a needs versus wants analysis (see visual below)
- Draw a specific amount of cash that is in line with your budget
- Use and stick to a budget (see budget below)
Instructions for the budget:
- Fill out the wants/needs analysis.
- Go to budget planner. Fill out income in the \”income streams\” table.
- Fill out expenses in the \”expenses\” table (item and amount).
- Add up all of the expenses and put totals in the grey column at bottom of the expenses table.
- Put the totals from the grey column in the corresponding \”comparison\” table below it.
- Do a budget analysis:
- Is your income more than your \”fixed\” expenses?
- Do the following two sums:
(1) Income – “Fixed expenses” = AMOUNT
(2) AMOUNT – “Wants expenses” =
7. Look at the Post Budget Analysis Diagram
Can’t decide which “want” purchase you would like to buy, try doing the wants comparison below:
These visuals are just an idea of something that might help with organizing finances, budgeting, and impulse spending. You can use them or copy them. I am not saying they will definitely work for you but if you think that something like this could help, please let me know. Maybe I can collaborate with some to refine it and make it more suited to people’s needs.
I hope you have found this article interesting and or helpful in some way. If you would like to discuss the budget with me or would like further elaboration on it, please contact me. Once again please share any helpful tips you have found regarding the topics covered into this article. As we continue on this Everything Autism journey, I hope to discuss these topics and also share helpful ideas.
I would like to thank Dan for his time, honesty and perspectives. I appreciate it and look forward to learning more and seeing where this journey takes me and you as the readers.
Bernstein, A., 2021. On the question of diversity: equality in the workplace. Journal of Aesthetic Nursing, 10(6), pp.278-280.
Cooper, R. and Kennady, C., 2021. Autistic voices from the workplace. Advances in Autism, 7(1), pp.73-85.