A-Z

Life on the Autism Spectrum

Autism & problems getting a job

Many people said that they wanted paid work, but this had proved difficult to obtain or sustain. The difficulties experienced related to a number of different factors including employers' lack of understanding about autism and Asperger syndrome, the social and communication difficulties people experienced (see ‘Communication and Interaction’), anxiety issues, difficulties in applying for jobs or handling interview situations effectively, difficulty multi-tasking or time management and obsessional behaviour.
 
“The interview technique is the difficult point”
The first problem people often experienced was trying to get a job. Several people talked about finding the application process problematic. Simon also had problems dealing with the Jobcentre.
 
 

The Jobcentre staff had 'no clue about people with autism'. Simon was told to go to a doctor to...

The Jobcentre staff had 'no clue about people with autism'. Simon was told to go to a doctor to...

Age at interview: 22
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 5
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Well, well what happened was, after I learned to drive, there was a, this was when the recession kicked in unfortunately and, the jobs that I was going to go for, no longer were available. And the next part was trying to find work, and that’s been an absolute nightmare basically. A real nightmare. 
 
First of all, I’m having to go to the Job Centre. You know, this is me, on my own, going to a Job Centre, you know, with all my social problems and stuff like that and anxiety problems. I can’t physically do that. So I took my parents with me and I was absolutely, really, annoyed about how I was treated at the Job Centre. They had no clue, whatsoever, about autism or people with autism. How it affects us and stuff like that. I just felt like I was just there for a show really, and all they were was just all talk blah blah blah this, blah, blah, blah that. And I am on Incapacity Benefits and basically Job Seeker Allowance and all that stuff. 
 
And to be honest I just don’t want to be involved with the Job Centre really. I’m not in contact with them whatsoever. I’m sort of just trying it on my own. On my own two feet really, because then I can do it at my own pace. Because half the time, going to a Job Centre, they don’t care what you have to say, and are like, “I will get you do this.” “We’ll get you work here.” “We’ll get you to work that.” Well no, no, no, no, no. You know, I want to do something that I’m interested in. I don’t to just, sit, sit on a trolley at Asda or something or push a trolley around at Asda, you know, or Tescos. You know, I want to do something interesting. But they obviously have no idea. In fact the worst thing about it was, they actually wanted me to go to a doctor so he could then prove that I had autism. Yes. I know. Tell me about it. That was fun. And the doctor…
 
Why did they want you to do that?
 
Because they needed proof, they needed medical proof. And I’m sorry, but I’d been diagnosed at school for all that time, and they had no evidence. And I had to go through all that. You know, I had to go and talk to this doctor who had no clue himself. You know because, no offensive but doctors, they don’t tend to specialise in, you know, conditions like autism. I mean some do, some don’t. But most of the time they’re more into like, you know, medication, you know, diagnosis, you know, with problems they can see, you know, if you’re sick or something like that. Not a mental condition, you know. That’s something else. And there’s, there’s me having this full conversation with this doctor, literally teaching him about autism. I mean, then he goes, “Oh yes, you’re autistic.” Then fills in this medical form. There you go, evidence. Show to people, yes, blah, blah, blah, everything all went through. But, it should never be that hard. 
 
You know, because it’s hard enough as it is, to get, you know, to get support and that. But to go through the whole process of going, you know, to a Job Centre, full of people, you know, that’s hard for us. Then going to tell them, that we have this problem. Telling them. You know, I was lucky enough that I was sort of able to tell them about my problem. But for most other people, you know, with our social system, we’re not going to do it. We just won’t go. It will just be all too much for us. 
 
But yes, I was really, really annoyed with it and I think that’s something that they really need to improve on really. Because it’s horrible. It should be easier for people, you know, with autism, you know, to get a job or to say, you know, or to claim benefits,
 

Developing an interview technique is something Russell finds difficult.

Developing an interview technique is something Russell finds difficult.

Age at interview: 21
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 12
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Is there any support that you’d like? 
 
Well, a bit difficult that one really, because the standard, the standard points of improvement for any application and interview technique would be covering letter, CV, interview technique. CV, covering letter, are absolutely fine. The interview technique is the difficult point and it’s again it’s one of these points where again I suppose the sufferers don’t do well at all because it’s face to face conversation with someone who is scrutinising your every word, every action. And when you’re suffering from Asperger's Syndrome you don’t have control over all of it. You, you may get quite twitchy and fiddly in your answers. Because if you’re concentrating on what you’re saying, then your body movements are not focused upon full control. If you focus on your body movements then you’re not focusing on what you’re speaking. That’s mainly where the problem is. I suppose it’s not so much training specifically for interview purposes but training just for talking, just for expressive talking. That’s, that’s going to be the main problem.
 
 

Oliver finds it frustrating that people with autism can fail filling in job applications when...

Oliver finds it frustrating that people with autism can fail filling in job applications when...

Age at interview: 27
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 25
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I think it’s more that I’ve got a bit of charisma. And I think people pick up on this, but I seem, I do seem to fail, this is, because I’ve just recently got a new job, and because I’ve been handing out a few CVs out and things like this. I think that people with AS fail in normal human resource, hiring situations where it’s ‘please put your name here’ and it’s in a fairly basic form and people would, because the questions are obviously going to filter certain things out and I think this is where people on the spectrum or with AS fail. Because it’s not necessarily that they can’t do the job. It’s they don’t understand what’s been asked of them, because I’ve had this with quite a few situations. And it frustrates me greatly. Because I know I could do the job. A lot of the times I know I could do the job well, if not better than any one at the place. And it’s just the fact that they’re bureaucratic, very uptight attitude is basically putting them at a disadvantage. They could have some one better rather than just someone who’s just going to do the bare minimum and it doesn’t….

 

Miranda thinks she doesn't come across very well to employers.

Miranda thinks she doesn't come across very well to employers.

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I do feel that people do see you differently and I’ve been also myself been ridiculed most of my life as well. And I still sort of get ridiculed now maybe because I’m different and I don’t look like the rest of them. I don’t know why, because from the outside I look normal, but I obviously, I must sound different to a lot of people and that’s why I think I find it hard, and also I found it hard also to get a job because I have got some very good qualifications. I’ve got all my typing from years ago. I’ve got a transport exam and I’ve got two management courses under my belt. And I do find it very, very difficult to get a job.
 
I don’t find it easy, and I think it’s because, maybe it’s because of my condition because maybe I sort of don’t come across very well. It’s possibly when I’m under stress, I probably tend to probably talk faster than what I normally do, and I probably maybe possibly repetitive and so I may not just come across quite right, and maybe that could be very off putting to some employers. 
 
While an obsessive focus for detail could suit some jobs, some people talked about how “an obsessional approach to things” slowed them down. 
 

Steven describes how people with Asperger syndrome can focus on tasks a lot more than most people...

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Steven describes how people with Asperger syndrome can focus on tasks a lot more than most people...

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I can be a bit abrupt with people apparently but I didn’t realise I was. I thought it was being honest really but yes, it is quite straightforward really. I work with some good people at the minute that there are no pressures, there is no if we don’t want to do anything, we don’t have to do things and it is good. That is what you need. I think there are lots of people with autism in general that can contribute such a lot to society that there is only supposed to be something like ten per cent of us that work but I think there can be something like seventy per cent may be that are more than capable to contributing but are denied that access because of other people’s preconceived misconceived ideas of what autism is and the fact that they feel that they might have to make changes for us.
Well yes, they have to make changes for lots of things but it doesn’t mean to say that if it means that some of us with AS want to work in website design house let’s say and they might have to alter some of the lighting just to help us to work. We could contribute probably as much if not more. It is one thing, I mean Asperger's people are you know people on the spectrum can probably code just as good if not better than other people. Well there would be no Friday afternoon code would there because we wouldn’t be worried about going out on Friday we would get the job done. And we would be late out as well because we would make sure the job is done. We can focus on tasks a lot more than most people but the task has got to be what we want to do which I understand is probably why we might have to find the niches at work that can take into probably account of some of our special interests but we can still contribute as much if not more.
 

Mary finds her OCD more debilitating than her anxiety and dislike of dealing with the public.

Mary finds her OCD more debilitating than her anxiety and dislike of dealing with the public.

Age at interview: 22
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 21
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I would like to have a paid job. I don’t have a job, I did have a temporary job in February at the County Council. That came to an end and it’s difficult finding a job that appropriate for me, because I know I can’t deal with the public and I can’t do practical things and I get very stressed very easily, because it’s mainly the OCD. I would say the OCD in many ways is more debilitating in a sort of way, because although I find it hard to relate to people, the OCD has got, I mean it’s all the obsessions and you know, about dirt and stuff. I get very obsessed and have to wash hands all the time. It’s quite… So I am more under control. 

 

But it wasn’t easy to get onto benefits. And then obviously we had a problem when I got the job, you know, the temporary job at the County Council, because I actually it was because I worked too many hours and got too much… you know, got paid too much. So you see we had a problem with the benefits then, and we had to go through the whole process again, and that’s very stressful. 

And we were told that wouldn’t be a problem at the start so we were kind of, we felt a little bit cheated. We don’t want to go through that again because obviously I want to get off benefits and I want to get a proper job. But it goes, it’s a very difficulty, it’s a really difficult problem which that all the problems in relation to OCD and people and practical skills and extreme anxiety means that I’m very unpredictable and I often like, you know, I mean I know in voluntary work I often can’t go in because on some days I’m just too extreme. You can’t do that in a paid job, you would be just be a liability. You’d let people down, and obviously it’s just very, very difficult really. You know, you just, conflict that you’re really wanting to have a job and then having to work through all these barriers. So it’s quite hard. I think I’d just like to get in sort of gradually. I would hate to have a, I mean I wish I was in a sort of situation where you could actually have a job and your benefits were taken away gradually instead of suddenly taken away and then if you can’t deal with a job, you have to apply all over again and it’s just a stress, just … 

 

 

 

Sam feels he is 'psychologically incapable' of doing a job that he isn't obsessively interested in.

Sam feels he is 'psychologically incapable' of doing a job that he isn't obsessively interested in.

Age at interview: 26
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 24
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I mean, the notion of the life, a lot of people have lived, or of getting a, you know, leaving school, getting a job, working, whatever, they just… people to my mind seem so very, very easy to satisfy. Whereas an autistic person in my experience will often very much more difficult to satisfy, insofar as we can go over and just get any particular job, whereas it’s difficult for me to imagine myself working any but the most specific of jobs, because I just simply don’t care about most of them. And yeah, most of people aren’t very enthusiastic about working whatever job they’re going to work, but they’ll do it, it’s not particularly that big a concern. Whereas, it’s to the point whereby I probably couldn’t do it, I’d be psychologically incapable. Because I just couldn’t focus upon it, and the sheer, the level of will power it’ll take to get up and go to it. I think it would be so much more, because it’s just I’d have to be...out whatever thing I’m particularly interested or obsessed with at any given point. Hm.

“In an office situation, somehow being sociable with your colleagues is kind of expected”
Several people discussed their dislike of the social side of employment. Tim was pleased to work in IT where he didn’t have to talk to people all the time. Gail found fitting in with other staff difficult, unless they were from another country. Paul had some “anxiety issues” around talking to people on the telephone in his job as a warehouse assistant.
 

John's dislike of social interaction and his obsessional focus have led to difficulties in the...

John's dislike of social interaction and his obsessional focus have led to difficulties in the...

Age at interview: 47
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 45
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Okay, we can talk about employment now, I just wondered have you had difficulties in sustaining employment?
 
Yes, absolutely, yes, yes. Repeatedly really. I mean particularly in doing office jobs. I mean there would be other things that you could do where you might say it wouldn’t interfere at all, but yes, and I think this comes from more than one, there’s more than one facet of the problem that impinges on you in the work place. There’s as we were discussing earlier, there’s the social interaction and employers very much like their staff all to be getting on with each other and to be actively socialising is something that is sometimes encouraged. And it seems if you’re not involved in that, somehow, somehow you’re sometimes not seen as part of a team, but also if you productivity is affected. If you work more slowly, perhaps more methodically but somewhat obsessively and your productivity is low, then employers aren’t, aren’t going to look favourably on that either. So there’s more than one facet of the condition that negatively impacts on me in the workplace and I’ve found, I’ve found, I mean I’ve worked in the public sector for six years from the mid 1980s to the early 1990s and in the end, was dismissed from that job on grounds of inefficiency. You know, and that is, that is a repeated experience.
 
Have you had support now that you’ve got the diagnosis, has that changed your experience of employment?
 
No. I can’t say that it has. I mean, I think, I mean there’s a difficult tactical issue about whether or not you disclose your condition to an employer. I mean think increasingly you’re asked when you apply for a job you know, do you suffer from a disability? Increasingly job applicants are being asked that. It’s a difficult call I think for the individual to know whether to answer positively to that question or no. And if you do answer in the affirmative, ‘Yes, I suffer from mild Asperger's’, you know, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the employers then leap in to give you a lot of help. You know, often they view that negatively, because of their understanding of the condition or whatever. No I can’t say that I’ve been given help by employers and I mean neither by psychiatric services. I mean the, the sole source of help I’ve had is from a local charitable organisation set up to help people across the autism spectrum. That is really the sole source of help. I mean the I mean what psychiatric services tend to do with you is to refine medication that you’re being given, but I can’t think of any, any of the particular medications that I’m on, particularly being aimed at the Asperger's. It’s mainly aimed at other conditions.
 
Difficulties with multi-tasking, time management and anxiety caused problems. One man got into debt, took on more overtime than he could cope with and ended up getting a criminal record. He said, “I am now working in the kitchen. I hate it but I left school with no qualifications, I have got a criminal record for not delivering leaflets. My future doesn’t look too good”. Alex said planning for the unexpected, like the fire alarm going off, was one of the problems she would experience in the workplace. John L has had varied work experiences but describes how he has “sort of wandered, really not doing much”. He is aware that he has to look after his health and while he would like to work but employers do not seem to understand that “they have to accept the package” that comes alongside his skills and abilities. Paul I describes himself as “slow to pick things up” and says that workplaces want ‘quick’ and efficient.
 

Daniel explains why he has never worked.

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Daniel explains why he has never worked.

Age at interview: 32
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 23
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I have done work experiences before and I have done quite well in them, but I don’t know how I would cope year in, year out, doing a job. I think I might find that, I could find that difficult, I am not sure. I could find a lot of problems with things like, like ethics, I think what I used to worry about was, if I was working, I would be paying taxes, and some of those taxes might go towards like weapons, that sort of thing. But I spend money though so maybe it is more then that. Maybe it is may be it is a fear of not being able to change something, maybe stuck in a job for all my life maybe. Maybe I find committing to things a bit difficult, I think. And maybe, maybe I might say the wrong thing, and people might not like me, or I might I might maybe, maybe my beliefs are a lot different to some people may be. Taking things literally, and to more extremes, and that might be difficult for some people I think, yes. I don’t really know.
 

Catherine describes the difficulties she has had in work.

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Catherine describes the difficulties she has had in work.

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And I did do a cleaning job in a hotel, a chamber maid type thing, which was all right for a bit, because you just kind of cleaning rooms basically. But it came to problems when there was another girl working alongside me, and I couldn’t really sort of talk to her or anything and say things like, “Well you have to knock on the room,” and you know talk to the person who was in the room. “Can I clean your room?” I really couldn’t do it, and I sort of ended up having to leave there, because it was getting too much for me.
 
I did another cleaning job. My Dad was the caretaker in a school and he said, “Well why don’t you come and work with me, you know, that should be all right”. Just cleaning in a room. Cleaning the classrooms, you know after the kids had gone home. So I thought yes, you know, that sounds doable with my Dad there and everything. So I did that for a bit. But then it started getting so that the teachers were staying late in their classrooms after school and doing you know, marking or whatever and I really felt awkward, like they were just watching me, and judging me. And if they talked to me, I felt really bad and stuff. So I had to leave there as well [chuckles].
 
I have got a lot of jobs that I have just left for this reason. And I had one job where I lasted a day. It was in a factory where you pick and pack the items. You know just to have a list. And I thought oh that sounds all right. A list of things and go and get them off the shelf, put them on trolley, oh right you have got to talk to the people on the fork lift trucks to get the higher up things. And all the girls were all like flirting with them, and talking with them, and I just couldn’t speak them or anything. So I just walked out after I had been there for about four hours and just ran home and felt awful.
 
 I mean I have had a successful job. I had..because my Mum is a gardener at a stately home and they needed someone in the office and the boss already knew about all my problems. He is sort of like a family friend by this point because my Mum has been working there for ten years now. And he just needed someone in the office to do basic sort of filing, typing, that kind of thing, you know and it turned out as a lot research, historical research because it is a stately home there is all the research, historical stuff there which I really enjoyed because I am in to history and stuff. So it was really good, because I was just in an office, which was basically nineteenth century, no eighteenth century dovecote. I am the only person in the office, so I don’t have to talk to anyone. And so it kind of worked out because my boss was hardly ever there and it got to the stage where he would just kind of come in in the morning and say ‘do this’ and I just got on with it. And you know it was just part time, a couple of days a week. And my Mum was there if I needed anything. 
 
So yes, I think I was there for about six years because it was something I could cope with and I think the only way I could ever have a job would be if it was something like that. I mean there were a few situations that got bad because where I was working was above the exhibition and people would come into the exhibition and sometimes they would shout up the stairs to me and I would just be cowering under the desk, hiding, because I just couldn’t bear talking to them. 
 
And some situations where one of the other people who sometimes worked for him wanted me to come into a meeting with her, and I went, but I just had a massive panic attack and my Mum had to like come and sort me out and stuff. But I mean for the most part it was good, but it kind of got a bit, it was only ppart time, but it got a bit trying, because I was finding it really hard to be away from home and where I feel safer for periods at a time. I don’t think I could ever have a full time job because of that because I just get really, really panicky and really sort of, feel really bad if I can’t kind of be where I feel safe and at home or… you know.  But yes, I think, you know, it was okay, but it was quite hard at times. So yes, that’s, that’s yes [laughs].
 

John describes himself as competent, efficient with a good eye for detail, but he can't 'multi...

John describes himself as competent, efficient with a good eye for detail, but he can't 'multi...

Age at interview: 65
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 62
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This sort of difficulty has persisted throughout my life, although at work, I have noticed, I always, I think, have been quite competent and quite efficient. I have noticed I have got a good idea for detail, which is very useful if you work in graphic art. I also noticed I have actually got a good memory unless it gets overloaded. What I can’t do is what people call multi-tasking. If you ask me to do one or two or three things I will do them properly and thoroughly. It will be perfect or as near perfect as I can get it. What I can’t do is start something, get half way through it, then you come bouncing in to me and say, “Oh will you ring so and so.” “Yes, I will.” And then you will come back in ten minutes, “Did you remember to..?” “No, no, I haven’t done so.” “Ring so and so.” And then I will forget what I am doing. I can’t jump from one thing to another. I can do one thing reasonably well at depth.
 
I will give you an example. I just bought in the middle of [City] today, I bought the French newspapers, ‘Liberation’ and I bought the Frankfurt paper ‘Frankfurter Allhmeine’. I will get home. I wouldn’t read the whole papers obviously. But I can pick an article in those. A feature on the the elections on Morocco, it is all over ‘Liberation’. But I can pick an article, and read, I’ll translate it, virtually on sight. I will do it virtually. I will have a dictionary, but I will probably do it virtually on sight.
 
And again, I can do the same thing with the Dutch, with the German newspaper. There was an article on the terrorist bombing in Frankfurt the other day, it was a terrorist arrest in Frankfurt. Again... I can sit down and read that virtually on sight. I can translate it virtually on sight. What I can’t do, is do that and listen to the radio or play music. I love music. You can’t listen to the music. I like the radio. But I can’t listen to the radio or watch television or do anything else at the same time. Do one thing accurately, you know, well thoroughly, whatever the word is. But I can’t hop from one thing to another which again I have since discovered is quite characteristic of people with Asperger's. But what will happen is, if I listen to music I will start translating my French article or whatever, and everything else goes out of my mind. I forget all about everything else... You once I …just things... like time will go out of my mind.
 
But of course when you are at work it is a different matter, because you are working virtually in somebody else’s time. But I tend to try to be thorough and diligent. All the things are supposed to be thorough and diligent, hard working, good at detail and all that, and you wouldn’t believe some of the things I have done for employers and very effectively. Whereas well they just either ignore me or they use me or they wait for me to make a mistake, waiting for me to do something that will enable them to attack me.
 

Debbie now does voluntary work because she can't cope with pressure, stress or bullying.

Debbie now does voluntary work because she can't cope with pressure, stress or bullying.

Age at interview: 44
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 35
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And then what did you do with you finished with college then?
Well I had, I did get, I have had a variety of jobs.  One or two are temporary and one or two were permanent, but you know I didn’t manage to keep hold of them. I have done some temporary office work. I did a temporary and… the job that I, oh yes, when I think about it, I did actually go to an Employment Rehabilitation Centre. It was to help people to get jobs that were finding it difficult and I expressed an interest to do clerical work so they put me in the commercial department and I had to answer the switchboard and do various tasks and then they had some work experience in the office. But after a week they decided that I wouldn’t be any good in an office, you know. I was quite upset at that because they didn’t really give me a chance.
 
So then they put me in the packing department and I was very good at that. At the end of that they managed to find me a job in the place in the next door, packing soles and I ended up being very good at it because it was a repetitive job. And I was there for a while and then they actually moved buildings. They moved over to [town] which was quite a way to go but, you know, I was there for a while, but then I got made redundant because they had to shuffle everybody round and I think they were trying to get rid of me because they told me I had got to do a new job but I didn’t want to, you know, so I got made redundant in the end. But that worked out in my favour anyway because as I was having a lift to work, and then I had to go on the bus and I had to get up extremely early and it was really just tiring me out.
 
And then after being made redundant, I just got, you know, some temporary jobs and this that and the other. I got, I did get a job, was successful in getting… well it is a called a writing out clerk/VDU operator. It was at a watch distribution centre and I had to do VDU inputting, inputting customer’s information and what they wanted for their watches, you know, the type of thing that they wanted mending. You had to read customer’s letters to find out and then you fill in these little forms which would then go to the VDU operators to type in but I found it quite pressured and I was, they kept pestering me to do more and more and I just couldn’t cope with either of the jobs.
 
And I was bullied very badly by the manageress. You know she used to humiliate me etc. In the end I just couldn’t cope with it and then I went to see the personnel officer and she said, “I think you would probably find it would be less pressured if you went into the packing department.” So I went in there and I held that job for seven years. I was really good at it. And I really liked it. it was repetitive but then I had a breakdown and had to leave and spent a short time in a psychiatric hospital which wasn’t very nice. But then I sort of got better and left there...
 
And then I got, to aid my recovery, because I was suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome dad bought a computer and I started to play around with it and rather liked it. So to help me get out of the house a bit I decided to go to college and I went on a computer course and things sort of went from strength to strength there. I did a computing and office course and then I have done NVQ level one and two, in administration. I also did RSA Tech/wordprocessing level one and two and got a distinction in all parts. And I was sort of retrained really to become computer literate.
 

And then I got I got a job at a hospital but I was very badly bullied there. And that was what I was saying then I had a really awful time there. And that is what made us decide to push for a diagnosis.

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A couple of people talked about having difficulty with ‘authority’ figures which had led to problems in the workplace.
 

Damian has always had a problem with being told what to do, especially when 'it is ill thought...

Damian has always had a problem with being told what to do, especially when 'it is ill thought...

Age at interview: 37
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 36
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After university I couldn’t get any work. I had never been good at job interviews. Even after a Masters Degree I ended up working as a cashier in William Hill for a while because I was good numbers. I did a bit of MORI polling, knocking on doors and being shouted out [laughs]. And then the PGCE which was quite stressful and hard to get through and that was after my son was born and I was just determined somehow. I had to make all these qualifications work in a job way. And I did a good job on my work placement and I managed to get a job at an FE college where I worked for five years. 
 
In that time I think I was overloaded. I was paid the least in the department and probably had the biggest workload. And then I was made redundant, the summer of 2008 and I feel that was my department, I feel ganged up against me as a way of blaming poor figures on one of the courses to a higher manager and I was scapegoated, because I had the least power, personality wise in the department. And nobody understands what a sociologist does anyway in FE colleges. So although I fought an appeal and wrote almost a dissertation of reasons against it in two days, I was still made redundant. But… So generally my experience of work has been awful [laughs]. What more can I say really? I hate job interviews. Don’t like offices. I don’t like being in one place for too long. I tend to not get on with managers. Never given any flexibility in the role that I’ve got so it kind of deadens you, I find, work. Or you’re just misused by people and blamed for their mistakes. Things like that, so … I don’t like it very much either when it runs the way it does.
 
Can you explain what you mean?
 
The kind of hierarchy and power within work places, how others treat me, not being valued. Yes, just… never really had a positive experience of a work place for any extended period of time. I mean I enjoyed doing the lecturing at first, but it kind of gradually went downhill. I had sort of four managers in five years or something. Each one was worst than the last, total chaos really. So … I think given the right environment and the right people I’d happily be a workaholic and was in that job. I took a lot of pride in it. 
 
It’s funny because I didn’t have problems with students, generally that other teachers did. It was occasionally colleagues and virtually always management. And I’ve always had a bit of a problem with authority I think and people telling me what to do. Especially when it’s irrational and ill thought through and they’re not listening to you. You end up in a bit of a stubborn stand off situation [laughs]. So I tend not to roll over very easily. I do understand things, you know, I mean there’s some, my mum’s says I’m a pushover on certain things and on other things I’m not at all. So … I think sometimes with teaching it was fine in the classroom, because I was leading it, and people were looking to me and my store of information to explain things and it was my structure. But in the office in the team meeting, in the other things around work I didn’t find that any where near as straightforward. And I taught adults. I don’t think I could have coped with thirty children in a class... [laughs] No. [laughs again]. One’s enough, just put it that way.
 
“There are a lot of people who could be a lot more productive and integrated into society”
There was some support to help people access paid employment, although this support had not yet been successful for most people we talked with. People were involved with organisations such as Workability, Connexions and the Careers Development Group. 
 

Peter has found a support organisation helpful in finding employment.

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Peter has found a support organisation helpful in finding employment.

Age at interview: 33
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 30
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It is a company in [city] who actually try finding jobs for you, with people with autism and Asperger's and because some people don’t understand questions like I don’t. I find it really difficult to like fill in forms because I don’t understand some things, the questions, and the way the questions are put. They will sit in an interview and if you have got a puzzled look on your face they say to the person, “Listen, could you ask me this question this way.” And they actually come into the job for the first six months I think, or six weeks to make sure you are doing some… I joined that. It is free to join and they give you all the support you need. So, yes, I am happy, and my depression is not as bad as it was. So … maybe the depression is not as bad because I know it is connected a bit to autism and now I know how to handle it.
People also talked about the kind of support they thought would possibly help them. This included a more flexible approach to the recruitment and interview process, the provision of training to help with interview and job application writing techniques and more awareness of autism spectrum conditions. As Damian said, given the right environment and people, he would be a workaholic.

 

John thinks that raising awareness of autism among employers would help.

John thinks that raising awareness of autism among employers would help.

Age at interview: 47
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 45
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Well that’s quite a broad question. I mean I’m not an expert in job design or anything of that kind. I think, I think one of the main things that would help would be for somebody to explain the condition properly to an employer, so that, you know, when, when you as an individual are behaving in a certain way that you’re driven to behave in, that, that, somehow that’s explained to them, that it’s, you know, it’s just a facet of the condition and isn’t anything more serious. And, that, that’s one of the main things. And I suppose the other thing is you know, as I suffer with Asperger's I find I’m quite good at absorbing written instructions but, but when pragmatically local managers are trying to juggle competing demands and they want to not necessarily abide strictly by written instructions but to just get the productivity up, that, that you know, to, to explain that to me, rather than me sitting away thinking well I’m doing fine because I’m following the written instructions. I think those, those kind of interpretive pieces of assistance would also be useful. 

 

Vicky has found that employers don't really understand that people on the spectrum need support...

Vicky has found that employers don't really understand that people on the spectrum need support...

Age at interview: 37
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 33
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The big issue is employment because unless, unless, unless people understand it, unless people actually understand what it is, you are totally going to sink, because the employer won’t give you the chance to actually prove yourself. Because I am capable let’s say of using the computer, I am capable of using it just like everyone else but they won’t give you the chance, if you know what I mean. Because they think oh she has got Asperger's or she is going to be slow at doing it which is fine. I mean if I had a job working say with somebody say with actually computers I would probably be able to do it, I would probably be able to meet their deadlines if I didn’t have the pressure of people actually breathing down my necks.
 
I mean that is when it will get difficult. I mean I could probably meet the deadlines which I can but providing I don’t have people actually shouting at me, breathing down my neck, saying where is it, we need it for such and such a date. If I was then told right do it, and be left alone I would be able to do it because I would not get totally stressed, but if people then start shouting at me for not having it, not doing it, that is when it will start getting a bit hard. But employment is one big issue because the government again doesn’t see it. But because they think oh people with Asperger's are normal. But what they don’t realise is they are normal but they need, depending on the situation, but they need the support to get into the job and to actually help them to find the work that is actually suited to them.
 

John says there is nothing constructive or structured about his life; he is just filling in time.

John says there is nothing constructive or structured about his life; he is just filling in time.

Age at interview: 65
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 62
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What do you with your days now then?

 

Waste time. I feel that I am wasting time. Make things to do really. I make things to do. There is no structure in my life. There is no structure. I don’t have to do anything, you know. It is not laziness I mean people could think it is laziness but it is to do with... I walk around in a sort of state of muddle, muddlement, you know, I am very often muddled... It sort of paralyses you. I don’t know if there is a better way to put it.... it is a lack of clarity, lack of clarity of thought. It is like a lack of perspicacity in my thought even....
 
You know I manage to fill my days. I fill my days in bloody Tesco’s and wandering around and reading bits and not reading anything properly in depth but just reading bits of this and bits of that you know. As I said, I have got the French and German newspapers and that. But it is all bits here and bits there. It is not, there is nothing constructive about it. Nothing structured about it. Nothing, you know, it is just filling in time.

 

 

Last reviewed February 2020.
Last updated July 2016.

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