Autistic in the workplace

The super lovely Alaina Leary (A Boston-based “Swiss army knife” of publishing and digital media skills) tweeted a few weeks back asking her followers how could employers help support autistic employees in the workplace. I reached out and below are the questions I answered on the topic. Read the full article here.

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What does inclusiveness and accessibility mean to you in the workplace?

  • It means being understood as a valued team member / employee but having my difficulties and accessibility needs taken into consideration so that I am on the same level playing field as everyone else. I want to be able to work as time-efficiently and effectively as everyone else but I just need a few accommodations in place to help me do this well.

What are some of the challenges facing autistic people who are in traditional workplaces, particularly due to a lack of accommodations or accessibility?

  • Less awareness or willingness to learn more about people with autism and their difficulties
  • Less likely to understand how the work environment affects us and how simple accommodations can really help

What can employers, coworkers, hiring managers, HR departments, etc. do to better support autistic employees?

  • Give autistic employees more time to process things for example: more time to read through and sign forms.
  • A quiet place/room/environment to work from. Open plan offices can be difficult as they can be quite noisy and distracting places to work in.
  • Maybe provide mentors for weekly or bi-weekly catch-ups as just having someone to chat to about work and what you need more help with can be very helpful.

What stereotypes or myths have you come across about autistic people that affect how autistic people are treated in the workplace?

  • Stereotypes of being very slow to understand and complete tasks sometimes.

Can you give me a specific example of different things that help you succeed in the workplace? Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve had to ask for your workplace to be made more accessible to you?

  • Wearing noise cancelling headphones or earphones.
  • Asking people to remove their fluorescent bike jackets from desk hooks around the office as sensory-wise these are super bright and distracting to me!
  • Everyone wears in-earphones and listens to their own music rather then have one loud office radio on which works well.

Are there any common workplace trends that you feel employers need to re-think in order to make the workplace/office more inclusive? (For example, Skype interviews or open office plans)

  • Open plan offices can be very distracting and noisy – quiet break-away rooms could be a great step forward – just to get away from the loud environment if you need to concentrate on work properly.
  • Skype interviews or over the phone interviews can be difficult as it’s hard to understand facial expressions, tone of voice, long questions (which I always need to hear repeated again). Although a face-to-face interview is very intimidating I feel more comfortable asking for questions to be repeated and being able to hear and see the interviewer properly.

Have you ever worked remotely, or do you have anything to say about the benefits of working remotely or flexible working hours for autistic employees? 

  • I have worked remotely / have flexible working hours which does help to split up my time / days between different environments. I do miss out on team discussions and meetings if I am not in which can be difficult to catch up on as I wasn’t in the room at the time!
  • Benefits however are: I can choose my hours so I can work earlier or later in the day to suit me / how I feel.

Thanks to Alaina Leary and do go check her out on Twitter!

Also check out my previous blog post on ’10 things I wish my employer understood about Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)’

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‘Some autistic feels’

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So I received this super awesome ‘lil zine in the post from the super lovely Megan Rhiannon’s Etsy shop this week! It’s intricate illustrations are beautiful and give a little insight into ‘Some autistic feels’. Have a little click through the slideshow of images above which give a little sneak peek of some of the pages!

Follow Megan here: Twitter | Instagram | YouTube | Etsy UK Shop

Some of my own autistic feels:

  • Living in big comfy baggy jumpers and skinny jeans all day everyday. I would dress in grey and black 24/7 if I could!
  • Hot drinks: specifically tea which is my go to hot drink…(with plain digestive biscuits!)
  • My weighted blanket: I use it every night without fail and during the day if I feel stressed out or anxious (it’s from Sensory Direct)
  • My phone: I listen to lots of podcasts and audiobooks to keep me distracted and to learn on the go about new things. (I might do a little blog post listing all the podcasts I love) I also love taking photos and videos of quirky things.
  • My wave projector: I use this most nights, it replicates sea waves moving and it’s super calming to watch 😍
  • My Sensory DIY Box: my go-to when I need to fidget or calm down sensory-wise. Currently loving my little fidget cube and tangle!

So there are some of my own autistic feels – let me know what little things you use everyday to self-soothe or distract yourself in the comments below…

Hello to you 👋

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Hello to you – I’ve recently had an influx of lovely new followers here on my blog and on my Instagram page! So I thought why not give everyone a little intro (or refresh!) on who I am and why I blog about sensory stuff. To me there is no better way then a good old-fashioned drawing to explain a bit about myself!

Summary of my drawings in text:

  1. I’m Emily, I am 23 years old and I work as a Creative Designer.
  2. I have Sensory Processing Disorder: a neurological disorder that (put simply) makes it hard to receive information to my brain. SPD is a neurological traffic jam and info I receive through my 5 senses doesn’t get organised or detected properly. This means my 5 senses are constantly overwhelmed and overworked so the world is a sensory place for me. SPD creates challenges in my everyday living and performing tasks. I was assessed / diagnosed with SPD aged 8 by an Occupational Therapist (OT).
  3. SPD described in a sentence: It’s like receiving every sense all at once: touch, taste, sight, smell and sound!
  4. I was 21 when I began blogging – hence the name ’21andsensory’. I decided to start documenting my sensory life right here on this very blog. I share tips, tricks, experiences, reviews and much more!
  5. I also experience/have/suffer from: anxiety, dyslexia, mild OCD and hyperhydrosis (excessive sweating and flushing)
  6. I even have my own sensory podcast…! You can have a listen here if you like. Also available through Apple Podcasts and Google Play.

So yup that’s me in a nutshell.

Blogging as a sensory-being in a super-sensory world!

Documentary Review: Aspergers & Me

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A couple of weeks ago I sat down to watch a documentary called ‘Aspergers and Me’ and I found it very thought (and feeling) provoking. I wanted to write a little review of it here on my blog to share with others…

The documentary follows a man called Chris who happens to be a BBC wildlife presenter. So here’s a little introduction to him:

“For most of his life, broadcaster and naturalist Chris Packham didn’t tell anyone about the one thing that in many ways has defined his entire existence. Chris is autistic – he has Asperger’s Syndrome, which means he struggles in social situations, has difficulty with human relationships, and is, by his own admission, “a little bit weird”. (BBC Media Centre, 2017)

Like 700,000 or so others in the UK, Chris Packham is autistic – he has a developmental disability affecting how he relates to other people, and also how he experiences the world. Specifically he has Asperger’s syndrome. His documentary invites us inside his autistic world to try to show what it’s really like being him. He lives alone in the woods with his ‘best friend’ who is called Scratchy. Scratchy is THE CUTEST dog; but Chris also has a long-term partner, Charlotte, who discusses the problems Asperger’s creates in their relationship – she describes Chris as being sometimes “like an alien”.

Chris experiences the world in a very different way, with heightened senses that can be very overwhelming. He grew up at a time when little was known about autism. Chris wasn’t diagnosed with Asperger’s until he was in his 40’s.

However with todays modern and scientific advances new possibilities are being offered to treat his condition. In the documentary Chris travels to America to witness new and quite radical therapies that seem to offer the possibility of entirely eradicating autistic traits. On the flip side of this Chris also meets those who are challenging the idea that autistic people need to change in order to fit into society. He visits one of many special schools in the U.S where children undergo repeated behaviour modification, in order to try to make them more normal. This makes for uncomfortable viewing.

Chris continues his travels, this time to Silicon Valley, one of the places where people with autistic traits are making massive contributions. Tech companies are slowly breaking the stigma and learning about untapped talent of autistic people. These people who are considered and often referred to as weird, geeky or lonely are starting to run the world.

Chris ultimately explores the question of whether he’d ever want to be cured himself, or whether Asperger’s has helped make him who he is today…

Would he ever choose to be ‘normal’?

“I’m anything but normal,” he agrees, staring at the floor. “I experience the world in hyper-reality. Sensory overload is a constant distraction. I’ve just been for a walk in the woods, and it was very different for me than it would be for you – the sights, the smells, the sounds.” He frowns, and glances at his partner, 41-year-old Charlotte Corney. “But we need to go to the supermarket later, and I’ll do anything to get out of it because supermarkets are a swamping of the senses. The lighting is hideous, it’s crowded, and the complex of smells is overwhelming.”                                                   (Chris Packham, Radio Times, 2017)

He is very good at getting across some idea of what it’s like to have a brain that is different, the sensory overload he experiences, sounds, smells and tastes. But what if there was a way of taking away these autistic traits?

“If there were a cure for Asperger’s, I don’t know if I’d want it. Humanity has prospered because of people with autistic traits. Without them, we wouldn’t have put man on the Moon or be running software programs. If we wiped out all the autistic people on the planet, I don’t know how much longer the human race would last.” (Chris Packham, Radio Times, 2017)

That’s the key, Chris says: not trying to change people, but learning to better understand and adapting to accommodate them. And, with this awesome and insightful documentary, he is really doing something to help with that.

The documentary was first aired (UK) on BBC Two, Tuesday 17th October at 9pm.

An Insight: The Fluorescent Jacket…

Why on earth am I writing a blog post about a Fluorescent jacket I hear you ask…just bear with me and read on:

Picture the scene: I am working away at my desk and at around 9.05am one of the company directors get into work. All normal and well so far. He then proceeds to hang up his fluorescent bike jacket on the hook by his desk. Now this jacket is visually brighter than the sun to a sensory being like me…(I realise this sounds utterly ridiculous but stick with me).

This jacket is in view just behind my laptop screen and is immediately screaming at me visually. It is so loud almost like a noise to me and is instantly distracting and grates on my mood.

I think back sometimes on how I feel when things like this affect me. They seem so big at the time and engulf me, taking up all my thoughts and feelings. How crazy is that? A bright neon jacket can affect me that much! In hindsight it’s a teeny tiny small insignificant part of my life – it affects me but I learn to cope and move on (through distracting myself and repositioning to face away from the indoor sun…!)

How do you feel about bright coloured objects, clothing and environments? Comment below with any stories and coping mechanisms!

And for more of my ramblings why not check out my podcasts? Links below!

anchor.fm/21andsensory

Apple Podcasts

Google Play Podcasts

The Mystery Blogger Award!

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Firstly I just want to say a big thank you to the lovely Bec for nominating me.  I would definitely recommend popping on over to her blog here. Her blog focuses on anxiety/mental health and she shares some amazing thoughts and ideas on it!

This award was started by Okoto Enigma on her blog, it’s an award “for amazing bloggers with ingenious posts.” Click the link to the blog for details!

Here are the rules of this award:

  • Name the creator of the award and link their blog.
  • Place the award logo or image within your blog post.
  • Thank the person who nominated you and link their blog in your post.
  • Tell your readers 3 things about yourself.
  • Answer your nominator’s questions.
  • Nominate 10-20 people.
  • Ask your nominees 5 original questions of your choice.
  • Share 5 links to your best blog posts.
  • Notify each of your nominees by commenting on their blog.

Okay here goes…3 things about me:

  1. I love apples and blueberries. If I could eat them all day everyday I would.
  2. I love wearing Converses. I wear them 24/7 and luckily can wear them to work too!
  3. I love succulent plants I think they are wonderful.

If you could have the perfect 3 course meal, what would it be?

Ooooh. Okay erm…I’d say dough balls and garlic butter for starter (I love bland meals!) Veggie Spaghetti Bolognese for main meal and then definitely some form of ice cream for pudding!

What’s your biggest fear?

Now this is a tricky one. At the moment my biggest fear is socialising with people and loud noises! I am more then happy with great heights, rollercoasters, bugs, etc!

What would you say is your best characteristic?

Hmm. I love helping people out and problem solving things for people so I would say hopefully my best characteristic is being helpful 🙂

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

I love anywhere by the sea so I’d either say maybe somewhere in Devon or Cornwall or even somewhere on the coast in Italy!

How are you today? (Strange question, but I want to know how you’re doing)

I think I’m okay today. I’m also excited because it’s Friday tomorrow which means the weekend and less work stress!

Okay here are my 10 nominations:

  1. highlysensitivelifeblog.wordpress.com
  2. sociallyawkwarrd.wordpress.com
  3. introvertedthinkingblog.wordpress.com/blog/
  4. sensitivegiraffe.wordpress.com
  5. potsitivityy.wordpress.com
  6. anonymouslyautistic.net
  7. myanxietydiariesblog.wordpress.com/about/
  8. sensoryseastar.wordpress.com
  9. inmyaspergersworld.wordpress.com
  10. mariner2mother.wordpress.com

And my 5 questions for the nominees to answer:

  1. What makes you smile?
  2. Where would you most like to go no holiday next?
  3. If you had one day completely alone how would you fill your time?
  4. If you could have any job besides the one you have right now, what would it be?
  5. If you could rewind 5 years and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?

Lastly my five favourite blog posts I have written:

  1. My Sensory System
  2. Loud Environments
  3. Change and why its difficult
  4. Memes to do with me
  5. DIY Sensory Box