Saturday, February 2, 2013

Hire Me! I'm good for your bottom line!

I sent this letter to my employment specialist, Jeanne Eisermann, so she could use it for job developing for an office assistant position. If anyone knows of any job openings, then please let me know.
My name is Katherine (Katie) Kagan. I am a part-time college student, and I am seeking part-time employment as an office assistant. 

I am extremely detail-oriented, have excellent attendance, a strong work ethic, and I am results-driven. Also, as evidenced by this letter, I have very strong written communication skills.

I have worked for three years (2009-2012) at Light and Associates, an accounting firm. The majority of my work was seasonal. I scanned and processed (put together) tax returns. I also filed client folders (manually), made copies, and did other office tasks.

Prior to my paid job at Light and Associates, I volunteered at the Jewish Family Services Association (JFSA). There, I redid their whole file cabinet system. I rewrote all the names on the file folders, and I made sure that the folders were neat and organized. I also filed papers.

The experience from both jobs has helped me grow both professionally and personally.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Best Regards,

Katie Kagan

Friday, February 1, 2013

Communicating With Adults With ASD

The Autistic Hoya, Lydia Brown, continuously blogs about the mistreatment and abuse of adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). She does an excellent job of detailing all the injustices done to autistic adults.

You may NOT speak for me. EVER. If you want to talk to an employer about my disability, financial, or personal business, get verbal or written permission from me first. If you doubt that I am capable of advocating for myself, close your mouth, take a step back, and let ME do the talking.

I know that I have high-functioning autism. I know that I'm not typical. I also know how to speak. Keep that in mind, please. I also  know that I have trouble speaking, at times.

I know how to read. I know how to write. I know how to think. Unsolicited scribing is very inappropriate. Unless I request a scribe, don't assume that I am physically unable to write.

Case in point, I know how to fill out hand-written applications. I graduated Kindergarten in the early 90's. I just celebrated my 25th birthday. Disabled adults are NOT large children. I am a whole adult. Please respect that.

Also, I shouldn't have to ask extensively to fill out what I should have started filling out myself. If I ask once, please take that request seriously. I don't enjoy repeating myself. Don't do anything that I have said I can do myself. That is very rude.

If an employer needs to know something, then please ASK me if who should tell them.

As one adult with a disability stated, "Do not help me even if it makes you feel good. Ask me if I need your help. Let me show you how you can best assist me."  Her words ring very true. It's not about you; I am not helpless.

I'll let the employer know that I have autism (or ASD) and any other things that he or she needs to know. If I ask you to come in, that doesn't mean immediately start talking to the employer. That literally means come in and stand there. I may just want you to be there for the support (in case a question comes up that I need help with). To reiterate, I don't need help thinking. I'll let you know if and when I do.

I don't mind telling an employer that I have autism spectrum disorder. I refuse to say "quirky." That's a lie. I have trouble communicating (verbal and non-verbal) and sensory issues. That's not "quirky." It is impairment. I have a lot of skills too - unfortunately, communicating and interacting properly with others are not part of them.

As Landon Bryce, an adult with autism, wrote in a song "I'm grateful that you don't ignore me, but you cannot speak for me."
I appreciate all your assistance, however; if I ask or tell you not to do or say something, I should only have to do it once.

Response: Autism is NOT An Identity

No, it's not. Autism is a spectrum DISORDER, and it is a developmental and medical condition. Autism is not a physical or personality trait. Sure, it's part of my brain, but that is not a choice I made.  Personality traits can be altered, but I can't change (remove/erase) autism. Go ahead, attack me... I would if I could.

It was suggested to tell my prospective employer that I'm "quirky" and have difficulty socializing. Quirky autism fashion sense! Autism is much more than that (duh!). Also, I have trouble communicating. Yes, that sometimes could mean difficulty speaking. It's all part of who I am. I would still be an eccentric geek without the autism. Autism just adds a bit (or rather a lot) of very fashionable deficits, impairments, and struggles.

First, not being able to read body language or facial expressions is part of who I am. It's a new personality trait. I chose it. Unfortunately, I can't erase it. Unlike my hair or eye color, inability to read non-verbal signals and other social cues impairs my ability to relate to others, form friendships, and romantic relationships.

Employment problems that can include challenges with speaking in stressful situations, socializing, and reading, understanding, and interpreting social cues are also part of the autism fashion sense. Don't worry, the employer will accommodate that (or not!).

Sensory issues? Those are just "cute reactions" to people and things. They're part of the "gift" of autism.

Getting distracted by noise? Difficulty filtering things out? Getting overwhelmed and anxious? Try earplugs or listening to music with headphones - IF the employer will allow it.