March 9, 2015

Career SuccessWe’ve talked a bit about how to land a job, how to get settled in, and some of the things that might trip you up along the way (and how to avoid tripping in the first place). The Internet is full of advice for parents of autistic children (some valuable, others, well, I’ll save that for an OpEd). But there’s only a little bit of advice out there for adults on the spectrum, an issue which we’re trying here at ADNewscast and ASDigest to reconcile.

But as the saying goes, if you’ve met one autistic person, then you’ve met one autistic person.

We are human beings. Though, for you Star Trek fans (RIP Leonard Nimoy), remember the Vulcan proverb “Infinite diversity in infinite combinations.” Autism is but one common element of who we are as human beings. But we are every bit as diverse, every bit as beautiful in our uniqueness as any neurotypical person. While autism does describe an important element of our neurology, it does not constrain us to a fixed spectrum of behaviors and remedies.

The advice that you’ll read from me and from others is based on our own understandings of the world, through a certain lens that may not very well match your world view at all. We do the best with what we know, what we’ve experienced and what we’ve learned from others. But your path in life is no one else’s. Own it. Make it yours.

Hopefully what you’ve read here and in other places will expand your understanding of what is likely, or what is possible, and how others have found success being autistic in a world that has a long way to go in embracing our neurodiversity. But it’s not law, it’s not a prescription; it’s merely a collection of ideas to try. Ultimately, you have to find what works for you. And, if you find it, consider sharing what you’ve found to increase the pool of ideas for others who are trying to live full lives.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that many of the unsavory experiences that happen with autistic professionals in the work place stem from what I like to think of as an impedance mismatch between people of different neurologies and the resulting anxieties that pile up. The burden of adjustment is all too often placed on those who differ from “the norm” and it is my ultimate hope that we can, through our efforts, broaden the norm to make a wider variety of neurotypes feel included and engaged in their careers.

All of this requires us all to bend, neurotypical and autistic alike. Figure out what works for you, and find a way to communicate it to the people who care about your success. Flexibility in routine is a challenge for many of us, and I know it’s no small thing to ask. Communicate that you’re making an effort to find your zone of comfort, but don’t be afraid of failure. Not everything is going to work. But it’s a place to start. Reflect objectively over what works, what doesn’t, and why. Make an adjustment. Try again. Keep trying.

Remember, this isn’t about survival of the fittest, but rather the thriving of the most adaptable. You can do this. When you find your zone, what works for you, let me know. You can comment here, send me a tweet, or email me. I’m happy to hear more about your experiences. May success be yours!

About the author 

Magnus Hedemark

Magnus has been in the IT industry for over 20 years, and a technology enthusiast for most of his life. He’s a verbal autistic professional, father, and husband. In his spare time, Magnus enjoys photography and riding motorcycles.

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