Learn more about strengths and challenges that could translate to the workplace in my book, Six-Word Lessons for Autism-Friendly Workplaces.
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.
Learn more about strengths and challenges that could translate to the workplace in my book, Six-Word Lessons for Autism-Friendly Workplaces.
Autistic movie reviewer, Trevor Pacelli, shows what we can learn about autism through the recent movie, Logan.
You may relate to the countless individuals in the world who misunderstand autism. Well today, I will give you an easy parallel to autism: Mutants. Yes, the mutants in the X-Men universe share similarities to autism.
Six-Word Lessons for Dads with Autistic Kids, Lesson #12: They May Have Very Obsessive Interests.
Each of the X-Men are abnormally strong at one skill; Logan/Wolverine possesses physical strength and endurance as well as claws used for fighting, while Professor X has phenomenal mind-bending powers. Likewise, somebody with autism could have a “freakish” advanced skill, including math, memorization, art, or anything else.
Six-Word Lessons for Autism Friendly Workplaces, Lesson #84: Autistic Employees Can Be Literal Thinkers.
In Logan, the border patrol wanted to take advantage of the mutants’ skills to become future weapons. While an autistic scenario looks a little different, abnormal traits still leave individuals on the spectrum as easily susceptible to being used by someone else. For example, others I knew in high school took advantage of my autism by mocking my ridiculous mentality to sound funny for their friends.
Six-Word Lessons for Dads with Autistic Kids, Lesson #29: Will Kids Make Fun of Him?
Due to differences, these mutants get outcast by society, mistreated by everyone except their own companions. In the real world of kids, it leads to bullying. In the world of adults, it leads to discrimination.
Six-Word Lessons on Growing up Autistic, Lesson #23: Some Actually Prefer to be Alone.
In this movie, Logan seems clueless about what it means to be a father, partner, and hero. The same goes to the little girl he partners with, who knows nothing about how the world works. Many autistic individuals hold such a social barrier between themselves and the world, preferring to stay cooped up at home.
Six-Word Lessons for Autism Friendly Workplaces, Lesson #31: Discrimination Can Surface in Various Forms.
Remember those times when somebody labeled as “retarded” was sent to live in a mental clinic, sometimes for life? It parallels the mutants in Logan who were forced to grow up in a hospital in order to become weapons. Except in the real-life scenario, the mentally handicapped were at one point sent to live in asylums.
I realize these scenarios feel like a bit of a stretch, but below the surface level, some superhero movies in fact develop complex social commentaries.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see reviewed, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
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. It allows autistic adults to further develop their skills and understanding. Our son Trevor liked being around people and enjoyed the feeling of accomplishment at his jobs.
This is why it's important to instill the idea of working in autistic children as early as possible by expecting them to do chores around the house and outdoors, including them in volunteer work and asking them to clean and take care of their own room and bathroom or other space. As they get into middle school and high school, talk to them about what kind of job they might want when they grow up, and encourage their ideas, even if they seem unrealistic to you at the time.
Our son has gone through some challenges with having jobs and finding new jobs, but we have continued to encourage and support him, and have not given up. Keep researching and networking and doing volunteer work while job-hunting.
For more about the workplace and people with autism, see my book, Six-Word Lessons for Autism-Friendly Workplaces. I wish you the best in finding work for yourself or the autistic adult in your life.
Neurodiversity is the idea that the neurological differences behind autism, ADHD, and many other intellectual disabilities are the result of normal variations in the human genomes and not pathologies to be cured. Autistic individuals have long found it difficult to find employment, but as the concept of neurodiversity is beginning to take root, companies have begun to recognize the benefit of hiring neurodiverse talent.
1 in 68 people has been identified on the autism spectrum in the United States. Despite the fact that it is often associated with higher than average intelligence and traits such as the ability to focus, passion, honesty, and attention to detail, individuals with autism are often seen as unemployable due to their problems with social skills.
Thanks to increased pressure to innovate, however, companies are finding that accommodations in their hiring and onboarding processes can result in significant growth for their organizations. Indeed, these new hiring initiatives are less about inclusion and more about their impact on the bottom line. In fact, two giant multinationals that have specifically created neurodiverse hiring initiatives and reported generating significant innovations as a result--in one example, innovations led to a $40 million savings.
Higher productivity, better problem solving, and more creative innovation doesn’t have to be limited to just a handful of companies. In fact, other organizations can learn from their examples and adopt one or both of the following changes to increase neurodiversity in their workforces.
1. Change the Hiring Process
Traditional hiring processes rely heavily on the interview, which is skewed towards extroverts and people with high levels of emotional intelligence. While it’s not uncommon to find autistic candidates with one or more high-level degrees in the application pools, these candidates tend to do very poorly in interviews, as they often struggle with things like eye contact and conversation tangents.
Instead of the interview, companies might consider adopting a different kind of application process. In its pilot program designed to hire people with Asperger’s, Ernst & Young ditches the interview and uses informal settings and tasks (building a robot) to assess candidates.
2. Provide Support Across the Board
If the company's’ goal is to drive results, creating support teams to assist neurodiverse candidates through the hiring and onboarding processes (and beyond) is important. Companies can often work with nonprofit or government agencies (such as the Arc) to provide social skills training and make minor workplace accommodations (such as providing headphones to limit auditory overstimulation). Additionally, commercial landlords are responsible for accessibility in their properties, which ensures that those with special needs can move around comfortably within the building. It is up to employers as tenants to ensure that these regulations are up to standard.
It’s also important to engage managers and coworkers, who benefit from up front communication about accommodations needed by neurodiverse new hires, and who find themselves needing to manage for the individual, instead of managing compliance to a set of rigid standards.
Finding and accommodating neurodiverse talent might require operational changes, but its benefits far outstrip its costs. Organizations that want to actively recruit and hire employees with autism can make tremendous progress by changing how they hire and providing support across the board to coworkers and managers, as well as the employees themselves.
By Lucy Wyndham, freelance writer
Northwest Center of Seattle recently hired Trevor Pacelli, a young adult on the autism spectrum, and one of his duties is to write blog posts for the company. In this post, he has written about his experiences with his past jobs and the varying degrees of inclusion in those workplaces.
Northwest Center is a nonprofit company that " . . . was founded in 1965 by parents who refused to institutionalize their children with developmental disabilities or accept the prevailing notion that their children couldn't be taught. Banding together to form Northwest Center, they hired their own teachers to develop education programs targeted to special needs children." (NWCenter.org) Their mission is "to promote the growth, development and independence of people with disabilities through programs of education, rehabilitation, and work opportunity."
Trevor is thankful and excited to be working for Northwest Center.
Guest post by Paul Denikin of DadKnowsDIY.
Having a child on the autism spectrum means doing most things a bit differently. It can be difficult to know how to navigate around certain events, especially when they require so much planning to keep your child safe and happy, yet it’s imperative to be prepared in order to do just that.
When thinking about projects in and around your home--crafts, DIY fixer-upper jobs, or simply rearranging the rooms to make them more accommodating for your child—find the best ways to get your child involved, because big changes can lead to anxiety. Having a helping hand in these projects will allow your child to feel a measure of control and will likely make the transition easier.
Here are some of the best ways to get your child involved around the house while keeping them safe.
Big tasks--painting a room, or rearranging furniture--can lead to overwhelming changes for a child on the autism spectrum, so it might be best to start small. Create a space in your home that’s just for your child, full of soft textures, color, lights, and soothing music (if they enjoy music). You might put in a sensory table they can help with; with objects such as cotton balls, beads, rice, water, and anything else your child enjoys running her fingers through. The senses are very important to a child on the spectrum, but every child is different, so be sure to do some research on what she might enjoy and what to stay away from. And don’t forget to get their input! You can find out more about sensory play here.
Create safe zones
Many children who fall on the spectrum are at risk for wandering, so it’s imperative to make sure your home--and the surrounding area--is safe. If your home has stairs, for instance, the use of baby gates can be extremely helpful in keeping your child away from them. It’s also a good idea to make sure the appliances in your home are child-friendly--such as a stove with removable knobs--and install motion sensor alarms on the doors so you always know when someone comes in or goes out.
Keeping your child safe outdoors is a concern, as well. Having well-lighted steps is a good start, but you’ll also need to make sure your child can’t wander away. Keeping safe zones around your home is a great way to ensure your own peace of mind should she leave without you knowing, or if you want to give her a bit of freedom to play outside. A strong privacy fence is a great way to go, but there are many things to consider first, including pricing, size, material, and finding the right fencing company for your needs. Do some research on the different types available to you, and find some help with narrowing down your choices here.
A fun way to involve your child in these processes is to introduce her to the game “Red Light, Green Light”, in which you have him or her move around the areas while you coach them. When they get too close to the edge of your property--or to a door they need to stay away from--say, “Red light!” When they move away from it and into the safe zone, say, “Green light!” Keep it fun, but let them know those “red light” areas are to be avoided.
You can also allow your older child to be involved in choosing the fence; the design, color, and height are all things to be considered, so look online at different types and ask what their favorite is, and what they dislike. After it’s installed, consider working on a sign together to hang on that gate with your family’s name or address, or create a little garden in one corner of the yard that the two of you can work on throughout the year.
Play up your child’s strengths
Many children who fall on the autism spectrum enjoy sorting and organizing; others love working from a visual chart that tells them what comes next. Whatever individual strengths your child has, play them up when doing a household project so they can participate. If they enjoy sorting things, let them help you clean out the cabinets and give clear instructions on how to organize the contents (this is a great chore for the garage; if you have several loose nuts, bolts, and screws--and if your child is of the age where they can handle such items--give them empty baby food jars and have them sort each type into a different jar).
Remember that the goal is not to have your child do things the way you would do them, necessarily, but rather to give them the tools to work hard and see the positive results of that work. Try to stay patient and give them lots of support and positive feedback when they are successful. This will build their confidence and lead to more independence and future projects.
We all know about the heavily blunt themes of prejudice and racism in Zootopia, and it’s no secret that the treatment between predators and prey disturbingly parallels our own society. Say whatever you can about the treatment between the police and Blacks, or politicians and immigrants, or virtually any religious group against a much greater body, but the one piece of unfair prejudice I would like to discuss relates to how everybody has some form of unfair opinions about people with autism.
Every day I come across people who look down upon me because they know that I am “different” from everybody else. Even if somebody is trying to be accepting and friendly to me, they still set me aside to give more attention to their other “normal” friends. I will admit, I am not much of a talker, and socializing is relatively difficult for me. You also could call me “not the most fun talker,” not to be self-degrading. But from my experiences out in a crowd, I often feel that although people may feel they’re accepting me and giving me a fair treatment, they really just say a few brief sentences, get uncomfortable, then move on to chat with someone else. Now, this doesn’t happen all the time, but it has still been common with many of my interactions. Despite people’s self-assumptions, they can still unintentionally shun a person with autism because of their blatant differences.
Even I myself have been prejudiced towards others on the spectrum. I admit that I have quite often avoided interaction with people who I knew were mentally disabled. Like most others, I felt my most comfortable around people who had no mental disabilities. Even if I tried to look like I was accepting of people with autism, Asperger’s, Down Syndrome, or anything related to such, you could probably tell I was my most enthusiastically social around “normal” people.
Yes, I admit. Even we autistics are guilty of unintended prejudice against autistics.
It’s just like in Zootopia. Judy Hopps felt that with all the hatred and prejudice that the prey were pressing onto the predators, that she was different in the way she interacted with them. She felt that working with Nick Wilde on her case proves how accepting she was relative to everyone else. But it turns out she was still just as prejudiced as all other prey in Zootopia, as she still carried around fox repellant out of fear that all foxes were bullies out to get her. We all are guilty of prejudice, no matter what we may think.
But there’s one absolutely crucial point to keep in mind:
Six-Word Lessons on Female Asperger Syndrome, Lesson #32: First Impressions Rarely Reveal True Character.
After working with Nick Wilde for some time, and learning more about him, Judy learns that this fox is not quite as mean or deceptive as he looked upon first impression. Just ask either of my parents what they thought about raising a child with autism, and they could easily tell you this:
Six-Word Lessons for Dads with Autistic Kids, Don’t Underestimate His Life Skills Abilities.
They probably didn’t think I would be able to drive, but I got my license at 16. They probably didn’t think I would ever go to college, but I did, and graduated with honors. Hearing one thing about a similar person with me does not automatically conclude what future I am destined to hold. The same goes to everybody else simplified to a label:
Not all blondes are dumb. Not all Asians are mathematical geniuses. Not all Christians are street protestors. Not all single mothers are emotionally distressed. Not all savants are hopeless in functioning in society. We are a beautifully diverse world with cultures as varied as the animal kingdom, one where no two people are ever the same. It’s time we realize how different we all are and see every individual as unique.
Read full movie review of Zootopia.
Thanks so much for your time in reading! My book Six-Word Lessons on Growing Up Autistic is available on Amazon, Kindle, and iBooks. -- Trevor Pacelli, TrevorsViewonHollywood.com
Independent living is an important goal for young adults with autism, and studies have shown that it can lead to better employment success. The process can start early in life, and there are several things to help meet this goal while still living at home.
Your Child as a Roommate - During your child's late teens or early twenties, if still living at home, treat your student more like a roommate and have expectations of them as if they were living on their own, such as doing their own laundry, keeping their own room or space clean (or not), buying their own food and toiletries, and anything else that had been provided when they were younger. To do this, they will need an allowance or "salary" of some kind, which will help them learn (with your instruction) to manage money. Have them pay you rent, and at least some of their car or transportation expenses, and some of their personal purchases. Along with this, get them started with a simple budgeting spreadsheet to manage their bills, purchases, and even some savings. We did this with both of our children, regardless of an autism spectrum diagnosis.
Moving Out - When your child does move out on their own, give them a lot of encouragement to do things their own way, but be available to help them as well. Depending on your relationship and your child, you may need to back off a little more than you'd like, or you may have to force them to do more on their own. Our son was very excited to be on his own, and wanted to arrange his items in his new place by himself, but some young adults might be too dependent on their parents, and the parents might need to push them to do more on their own. We tried to find the balance between making sure Trevor was living successfully and keeping safe, while letting him do things his way, even if he made some mistakes or it wasn't perfect.
Living independently, whether in stages while still at home, or in their own place, leads to greater self-esteem, confidence, household skills, knowledge and comfort with social situations, especially when living with roommates. This leads to less stress and more confidence and ability to learn new skills in the workplace.
For more about autism and preparing your child for employment, check out my book, Six-Word Lessons for Autism-Friendly Workplaces - Patty Pacelli
Far too frequently I get the idea that because I have slower speech and a lack of understanding towards other people, I can’t be of significant help to them. But this Memorial Day, I was proven wrong about myself.
You see, I was sitting on a park bench in a forested area near my home. All seemed fine, until I suddenly started hearing high-pitched screaming and crying. I ran over to see the source of the mayhem, and I saw two women who clearly didn’t know each other, one with two huskies, and one sitting on the ground, a smaller black dog held tight in her arms. I asked what happened, and they told me that one of the larger dogs had bitten the smaller dog on the neck. They told me to call 911, which I did. The problem though? These types of emergency services don’t help dogs. The woman with the larger dogs said that she would help out the smaller dog, but needed to go back home to get something. So as she was walking away, she shouted out her name and phone number to me before I could get a chance to get it right. By the time she was gone, the other woman, I’ll call her Kayla, realized that she was just trying to escape the situation. Then her injured dog, I’ll call her LBD (Little Black Dog), ran out of her arms and into one of the bushes, her front left leg clearly damaged. Kayla started to freak out, as she took it as LBD losing trust in her as an owner.
Kayla’s next mode of action was to take LBD to the pet hospital, which in our circumstance, was at PetSmart. She asked me to come with her as a witness, and I quickly said yes. I got into her car, and the whole time, she was still sobbing and panicking over thinking she was a terrible dog owner. I kept affirming to her that she did nothing wrong, from what I could tell from the situation. So after a drive that felt longer than it really was, Kayla brought LBD into the hospital wing of PetSmart. I sensed her trauma, so as we were sitting in the waiting room for the doctor to come and check up on LBD, all I did was pat her back to let her know that she was not alone.
Then the doctor came to check up on LBD, which meant he had to take her away from Kayla, definitely not easy for her to accept. Thus, we waited as they checked on the damage done by LBD, and at this point, I was mainly repeating to Kayla that she did nothing wrong, and that it would be unlikely that LBD would dislike her now. But Kayla was more concerned about LBD being able to go for walks, after facing such trauma with a larger dog. Then the doctor came out, and he told her that LBD had quite a bit of swelling and damage to her back and front left legs, and that they would have to take some X-rays. I decided it was good to ask how the trauma would affect a small animal like LBD, and I believe from what I can remember that he said it would likely be traumatic at first, but would heal over time.
At this point, Kayla decided that she didn’t need me around anymore, as she had called her boyfriend to come over and help her out. So she agreed to give me a ride home as she waited for the X-rays to develop. As we got into Kayla’s car, I then asked her, “Can I pray for you?” Now, I am of strong Christian belief, so praying is a part of my way of helping others in need. So I said a quick prayer for Kayla, and she drove me home. As she dropped me off, she was ever so thankful that I was there to help her. Later that day, I got a text message from Kayla (I gave her my phone number in case she needed my eye witness later on) giving the status report on LBD. She even texted me a video/status report that I assume she sent out to her other Facebook friends, of LBD on her car seat. I texted back saying I was going to continue praying for her.
I learned something very important about myself from all this. Just because I have autism does not mean I can never help somebody in need. Nobody has to do anything elaborate to help somebody else, it only requires giving your time to let somebody else know that they’re not alone. It’s not a matter of how good of a speaker I was, I understood the situation and knew ahead of time how to verbalize what happened, so talking my way through it just came naturally.
So again, autism does not mean incapable to love or show a random act of kindness. It doesn’t even mean a limited ability to help others. Anyone can aid anyone in need, all it takes is a simple reminder that we are not alone.
He never got bored talking about his areas of interests and could recall the minutest of details with ease. He could keep himself occupied for hours on end which in some respects made him very easy to care for. At the same time, letting him live in his own world without interaction wasn't good for his long-term social skills growth. Today I know more than the average dad does about Spongebob Squarepants, Patrick , Squidward, Sandy, Mr. Krabs, Plankton, and Pearl (Mr. Krabs sperm whale daughter).
Now I love watching movies, and I LOVE food. Given his passion for both, these are two natural connection points that we have together. One of our favorite movies is Men in Black. We've seen it many times over the years. In fact when the third Men in Black movie came out we went to see it together in the theater. Prior to the movie they had a MIB trivia contest. Trevor and I nailed the questions and came home the proud owners of black MIB t-shirts. We also love going out for breakfast, lunch or dinner together at places ranging from The Melting Pot to Costco for hot dogs. These are things that we both love doing together and as a dad I fiercely protect our time for these activities.
Do you see this as an area to work on? Here's a few pointers that may help you strengthen those connection points as well as help your child with socialization and exposure to new things:
I cannot express enough the importance of finding those connection points with your autistic child. While there have been struggles along the way, I am thankful that Trevor and I have those connection points where we are able to enjoy activities together and build upon the great relationship we have.
Inspiration for Life with Autism
This blog has a variety of articles about people living life with autism, and topics and ideas that can help in the journey. Guest bloggers are welcome. Inspired by Trevor, a 24-year-old college graduate, film critic and photographer on the autism spectrum.