Of course, the desire is that they will one day be able to live their own life by themselves with minimal assistance. That expectation can seem like a big stretch or nearly impossible to accomplish especially when you’re on the spectrum. So as a young adult, I often tend to feel weighed down by the pressure, or expectations that society has. Although I don’t have to follow those norms. Societal norms most typically apply to neurotypical people but they are not mandatory. So as I live my life I try to accomplish the task of “adulting” and I shall do it as my autistic self.
One of the biggest steps I took in my adulthood was getting a job. My mom never expected me to get a job even at the age of 18 but I insisted on getting one. I wanted to support my plethora of animals and spoil them with treats and toys. Too bad though that none of my animals counted as a dependent when I did my taxes. Either way, I was determined to get a job so I created a resume, filled out applications for numerous job opportunities, and waited. I anxiously waited for any response, email, or text from any place but nothing ever came. I asked my mom why stores that were clearly hiring never bothered to hire or even interview me. She asked about my application and how I responded to questions regarding disabilities, my description of myself, my strengths, and the weaknesses I described. I told her that I just responded truthfully to things such as I have autism, my weakness is communicating, my strengths are organizing, etc. My mom pointed out that because I was transparent with my state of disability and my weaknesses they wouldn’t want to hire me. Discovering that despite companies are not allowed to discriminate against race or disability and that they still discreetly do so, left me disappointed. I don’t want to feel like I’m lying on my resume by saying no I don’t have a disability and that I don’t struggle with things such as socializing flexibility, or time management. Although I came to the conclusion that a white lie about my autism might be the only way I would even be considered as a possible candidate for jobs. I reasoned with my conscience that I would eventually share about my autism during the interview. I just at least needed to get past the application review.
Sure enough, this change in detail increased my chances of getting a job. I chose to follow through with my application at a church. The position was to be a Sunday School Teacher. I was so excited to have been accepted and at the same time, I was terrified to have my first interview. The interview was scheduled for next week and I absolutely panicked because I had never prepared for an interview since I didn’t even expect to even get to that stage. I researched and studied relentlessly though in my conscience I battled with the thought of bringing up my autism. I knew if I worked hard enough I could appear to be normal but did I really want to put up that act for the rest of my adult life? I didn’t want to mess up my first chance at a job though. I wrestled with these thoughts the whole week and just hoped that I would figure it out when the time came.
Then the day of the interview arrived. I answered every question perfectly as I had rehearsed until this question was asked. “Why do you want to work here?” It threw me off because I mean I wanted a job that’s why I wanted to work there but inside I felt a tug on my heart. There’s more to it than just wanting a job. I wanted to make a stand for autism. I wanted to prove that someone on the autism spectrum can thrive at the job and that children on the spectrum can reach their dreams too. So I answered with this “I want to work here because I’m autistic and I know there are many autistic kids that attend this church that I could help. I know how hard life can be for these kids and I want to make a place here where they can just simply be their autistic self.” There was a slight moment of silence after I said that. I felt so relieved to have stated who I really am and I was anxious to know what they were thinking. The two ladies who were interviewing me whispered among themselves. One of them looked very displeased while the other had a cheerful look on her face. She spoke up and said that she would love to have me join her Preschool team if I was interested. I was a bit thrown back because I really was interested in joining the Elementary team because I wasn’t familiar with young kids. Though it was obvious the other lady didn’t want me there. So I took the leap and chirped that I would be happy to join the Preschool Team.
Ten months later and I’m still working there I love working with the kids and always welcome anybody on the spectrum. I feel very comfortable being my autistic self and don’t feel the need to hide it. Soon after I got the job at the church I soon got the job here at The Autism Helper! This is where I truly let my autistic self shine. I couldn’t thank them enough for the job opportunity and this platform to inspire other autistics to be themselves while achieving their dreams.