Autism Spectrum Disorder

“How I’m Improving the Workplace for Adults with Autism”

I was shunned and exploited in former jobs because I was different. My struggles inspired me to create change for other neurodivergent employees. Here’s how I’m doing it.

As a child, I was described as talkative, nosy, and bossy. I remember trying to make friends and then hearing those “friends” whisper to others that I was weird. Growing up, I often heard that I was resilient for enduring my outcast label and treatment.

These struggles continued into adulthood. At work, I was often reprimanded for spending too much time on one task and ignoring others. The first time I heard about autism or ADHD was in a college psychology course. I was a mother of a two-year-old and realized that the indications seemed to describe my child. Through his diagnosis of autism, I learned of my own.

An Unforgiving Workplace

I continued to learn about my diagnosis of autism after experiencing an unforgiving workplace that both shunned and exploited my differences. In one job, I was tasked with identifying stored materials and keeping correct records. My attention to detail found mistakes in others’ record keeping. Instead of being praised for this, I was written up for taking too much time in my section and purposely looking for colleagues’ errors.

[Watch: An Open Conversation with Temple Grandin – Autism Expert, Author, and Scientist]

At another job, my peers and I were asked during meetings to bring up ideas for improvements. After suggesting a few ideas, I was later pulled aside by my manager and told I needed to know my job better before speaking up.

Making a Difference

I’ve talked with other neurodivergent workers who had experienced similar issues in their organizations. I did not want my own children or others to endure this, so I asked: How can I make a difference?

I studied and became an industrial organizational psychologist and just finished my dissertation for a Ph.D. This career field helps organizations learn to improve the people component of the workplace and celebrate the strengths of employees with ADHD, autism, and more.

I found where my difference could make a difference!

Autism in the Workplace: Next Steps

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