This post originally appeared on the OAR blog.
As an individual on the autism spectrum, I have found many benefits to having a job. I understand that this is a position that not enough people with autism are in. I hope that one day in the near future, all people with autism will be able to find fulfilling work that stimulates and captivates their mind. The relationship between people with autism and employment is symbiotic. Autistic employees offer many benefits that neurotypical employees cannot offer…things such as persistence, attention to detail, and a genuineness that is difficult to find. At the same time, the ability to work comes with many benefits to autistic individuals. Working has become so many things to me.
One of the first things that working means to me is an increased level of independence. This is multifaceted. With any type of employment, all individuals gain some level of financial independence. People with autism are no different here. Beyond financial independence, I have also gained more independence in my daily life. It is up to me to get myself ready for the day and to get to work on time while managing other household responsibilities. Perhaps the most important facet of independence, to me at least, has been the independence I have found at my job itself. I have a unique job, doing video breakdown and statistical analysis for basketball teams, which comes with odd hours, varying schedules, travel, and lots of sensory overload. Through my job, I have proven to myself that I am capable of more than what many people said I would be. On a daily basis, I work on my own to complete assigned tasks to the best of my ability, going beyond what is asked of me. My independence has made me a happier person. I enjoy the responsibility and the challenges that come with it. I feel happy when I have the opportunity to make decisions on my own instead of having them made for me, especially when they turn out to be good ones!
As a result of my newfound independence, working means an increased level of confidence. I have become very confident in my ability to do my job as well as, or better, than anyone else. My confidence in my skills has increased as well as my confidence in my ability to compensate for my weaknesses. For example, although I am not very good at eye contact, I am confident enough that my work will speak for itself. I let my work speak for me, rather than my social skills. My confidence has also made me happier. Previously, I was very unsure of myself and of my abilities. Working in a job that I excel at has made me appreciate my strengths and some of my differences rather than constantly focusing on my deficits.
Working, overall, means happiness. I don’t “love” much in life, but I do honestly love my job. I get paid to do what I love…watch basketball! I love going to work every day. I love that.It is a significant change for me to want to wake up every morning. Now, I get up as soon as my alarm goes off because I am excited for the opportunity to go to work. I love that I come home every day from work absolutely exhausted because I did my best. I enjoy the late nights, the games, the practices, the pressure, and the mental stimulation that come with my job. I am no longer bored; I am challenged every day to work hard and use my brain to the best of my ability. I think it is unusual but I am also proud to say that I don’t really enjoy my days off. I am always ready to get back to work. I have become a much happier person since gaining employment. The doom and gloom is gone and has been replaced by happiness and positivity. I am very thankful for this change! I am happy with my job and with my newfound independence and confidence.
Within all of what working means to me is how I got to where I am today. Undoubtedly, where I am is a result of my team, my support system. I am so thankful to have so many people who believe in me, especially my coworkers and bosses. Without these people, working could mean the complete opposite of what I have described here. For this reason, I don’t just want any employment for people with autism. Individuals on the autism spectrum are worthy of fulfilling and meaningful employment and should not settle for anything less.
About the Author
Erin McKinney is 26 years and is on the autism spectrum. She works in basketball performing video breakdown and statistical analysis. She wants to see all autistic individuals have the opportunity to succeed.