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Mona Pereth
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01 Jun 2019, 4:54 pm

Here, in the thread Building the autistic community?, KenG called attention to the following:

* Ocate Cliffs

Yep we need more autistic-friendly workplaces, of as many different kinds as possible. I totally agree with the basic philosophy expressed on the above page:

Quote:
Around 80% of autistic people are unemployed, compared to 5% of the general population. When the media talks about the autism “epidemic,” why aren’t they talking about this?

The scope of the problem is staggering, and something needs to change. The current solutions — like training programs that push autistic people into low-skill labor instead of encouraging them to pursue their potential — aren’t working.

Star: “My name is Star Ford, and together with a group of other autistic people, I’m building an autistic workplace called Ocate Cliffs. Instead of a model that aims to integrate autistic people into the workplace by forcing us into behaviors that are unnatural for us, we’re building a workplace and community where autistic people can be themselves and use their strengths.”

On their "Solutions" page, they say:

Quote:
Consider an autistic person who hasn’t been able to hold a job. One common but ineffective approach is to treat it as if the person just lacks training, and the thinking goes: if they are given enough training and coaching, they will normalize enough to be independent, ideally becoming “indistinguishable from peers”. This can be ineffective because the real reason for not being able to hold a job may be missed. The issue of training is not necessarily the main or only issue that is a barrier. Sensory issues or needs for a predictable environment (for example) are common in people diagnosed with autism and Asperger’s, and those factors can’t be trained away.

Another related approach is to place the person in a permanently supported job, sometimes in institutional settings and sometimes underpaid or volunteer work, in which a group of disabled workers is supervised by non-disabled managers. This can turn the person against themselves and be demoralizing, even accentuating disability. When a person believes their natural way of being is defective, they get on a self-limiting or destructive path and don’t reach their potential.

The third approach is thinking about the problems with the work environment instead of thinking of the person as defective. An effective job placement professional can sometimes create a job instead of finding one, or help develop a person’s strengths into a business. Ocate Cliffs takes this approach. The non-profit business model is about autistic people collaboratively creating our own workspace, fitting the roles to our strengths, and getting paid for it.

I agree with this idea, but with the following caveats:

1) I'd like to see more for-profit cooperative businesses, not just nonprofits.

2) I think it would be fine, and in many cases probably necessary, to have some NT's involved in running these businesses. It is preferable that at least some autistic people be involved in running them too. Nevertheless, business management inherently has aspects that are very difficult for the vast majority of autistic people. Ditto for sales and marketing. So it will be difficult to find autistic people who can do a good job of all aspects of running the business. But we certainly need more businesses that make a point of creating an autistic-friendly work environment, regardless of who runs them.

3) In order for as many such businesses as possible to be started as soon as possible, most of them will need to be much less capital-intensive than Ocate Cliffs.

4) In order for such businesses to function well, we'll still need social skills training of some kind, though not the kind that tries to make us act exactly like NT's. We need the kinds of social skills that will enable us to get along with other autistic people of various kinds and with autistic-friendly NT's, but without requiring us to do things like imitate NT eye contact rhythms or imitate NT body language generally, or pick up on subtle hints, or socialize with our co-workers more than we need to or want to beyond what's necessary to do our jobs.

I'll have more to say about what I call "autistic-friendly social skills" in another thread.

Also, sometime later, in another post here in this thread, I'll post a list of other autistic-friendly workplaces I've accumulated info on so far.


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- Finally diagnosed with ASD in May 2019, after having suspected it for over ten years, and after having deeply explored the autism community for over one year while waiting for and obtaining diagnosis.
- In longterm relationship with boyfriend who was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome in 2001.
- Long history of participation in various oddball subcultures.
- My "Getting to know each other" thread: Hello from NYC.


BTDT
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01 Jun 2019, 7:52 pm

Roses for Autism teaches workplace oriented social skills. If you want their job training you can't eat lunch by yourself.



Mona Pereth
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01 Jun 2019, 8:20 pm

BTDT wrote:
Roses for Autism teaches workplace oriented social skills. If you want their job training you can't eat lunch by yourself.

Roses for Autism no longer exists apparently; its website now says:

Quote:
After 10 years of business, Roses for Autism has closed its doors. We are grateful for the opportunity to serve the shoreline community.

Roses for Autism was opened nearly ten years ago with a vision to help individuals with autism and other disabilities gain employment within a small retail horticulture business. The Roses for Autism social enterprise has inspired many over the years, and truly has made an impact in helping people learn employability skills and find meaningful jobs. However, our business has faced numerous challenges given the demands of the horticulture industry, and the stagnant Connecticut economy which have made it difficult to thrive as a small business.

It should be noted that Roses for Autism has accomplished great things over the last ten years. We have:

Helped 128 people gain skills and work experience, 39 gain employment. Supported 3 people in starting their own businesses. Built a community sensory garden to educate people about sensory differences. Sold over 3,630,126 roses since opening our doors. We appreciate all of your support on behalf of Roses for Autism. Together, we have made a tremendous difference! For more information about Roses for Autism, please contact our parent company, Ability Beyond at [email protected]

Ability Beyond is an organization I should read up on; they have offices in Connecticut and in Westchester County, New York.


_________________
- Finally diagnosed with ASD in May 2019, after having suspected it for over ten years, and after having deeply explored the autism community for over one year while waiting for and obtaining diagnosis.
- In longterm relationship with boyfriend who was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome in 2001.
- Long history of participation in various oddball subcultures.
- My "Getting to know each other" thread: Hello from NYC.


Mona Pereth
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01 Jun 2019, 8:23 pm

Some autistic-friendly workplaces mentioned in other recent Wrong Planet threads:

- Fashion company that hires autistics: quotes the Autism Parent Magazine article Autism Warrior: Angeline Francis Khoo Luxury Designer Empowers People With Special Needs With Training And Jobs, about Rosie On Fire.

- Company makes clothes for Autistics: quotes a since-vanished news article about Spectrum Designs.

See also the thread An alternative employment model for autistic programmers?


_________________
- Finally diagnosed with ASD in May 2019, after having suspected it for over ten years, and after having deeply explored the autism community for over one year while waiting for and obtaining diagnosis.
- In longterm relationship with boyfriend who was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome in 2001.
- Long history of participation in various oddball subcultures.
- My "Getting to know each other" thread: Hello from NYC.


Mona Pereth
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04 Jun 2019, 4:38 am

Here, in the thread Autistic-friendly social skills vs. blending in with NT's:

cyberdad wrote:
An "autistic friendly space" in all work places would be great in an ideal world.

In the real world where would this be implemented?

The private sector is not going to jump for joy at the idea of creating such infrastructure unless we are talking about really large IT-tech companies who knowingly employ a reasonable number of staff who are on the spectrum. I know there are programs to employ autistic staff in places like Silicon valley but don't they just share office space/open plan with neurotypical staff? do they want to be separated? if you are alluding to "high functioning" (and lets not kid ourselves that employers only really take the most highest functioning people on the spectrum) I am sure they want to be integrated not sit in "safe spaces" away from other staff who might then think differently of them.

The next question is whether this is implemented because there is a duty of care requirement for special needs staff. For example almost all organisations make allowance for wheel chairs (because they are required to by law) but do they make allowance for staff who are visual or auditory impaired? Then there's the question of "reasonable number". If we are talking government does one autistic staff member warrant getting a special workroom and workstation? do you need two, three? what's a minimum? does this require government legislation to enact? or is it purely based on the good will of each individual organisation?

How do you advocate for this to be implemented at a government level? or do you approach individual companies on a case by case basis?

Lots of questions before this gets off the ground...

Actually I wasn't thinking primarily in terms of large corporations and government, although they would be important parts of the picture. I was thinking primarily in terms of an ecosystem of small businesses, similar to the ecosystems of small businesses that exist within immigrant enclaves and within insular religious communities and other large subcultures. These would include:

1) Small businesses founded by parents of autistic children, to employ their children and other autistic people.

2) Small businesses founded by autistic people, possibly with help from NT relatives.

Regarding large corporations: They're an important part of the picture, with appropriate incentives from the government, plus the knowledge that many HFAs excel at some kinds of tasks. There are already corporations that have such programs, and there's already a bunch of consultants out there advising companies on what they consider to be "best practices" for hiring autistic people. Some of the larger autism parent organizations are promoting these initiatives too. Although this is important, it's not my personal main interest; I personally am more interested in the small-business side of things.

As for government, another important area is civil service. See the separate thread on Civil service jobs.

I think an important step toward the creation of autistic-friendly workplaces would be for some people in the autistic community to build (with help from parent/family organizations) groups for autistic and autistic-like people in particular professions or job categories, or who aspire to same. For example:

(a) A group of programmers and aspiring programmers.
(b) A group for people who work, or want to work, in health-related professions.
(c) A group for people who work, or want to work, in civil service.

The existence of some of these groups would make it easier for autistic-friendly workplaces to recruit the kinds of workers they are looking for, and would thereby also make it easier for the groups' members to find work in autistic-friendly workplaces. The groups could even facilitate the creation of some autistic-friendly small businesses.

The proposed groups could also function as a support network for those members who have, or are seeking, jobs in traditional NT-dominated workplaces as well. In some cases (e.g. the group for civil service workers), the groups could collaborate with any disability-related support services offered by relevant labor unions, and/or could perhaps aid labor unions in the creation of said services.


_________________
- Finally diagnosed with ASD in May 2019, after having suspected it for over ten years, and after having deeply explored the autism community for over one year while waiting for and obtaining diagnosis.
- In longterm relationship with boyfriend who was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome in 2001.
- Long history of participation in various oddball subcultures.
- My "Getting to know each other" thread: Hello from NYC.


cyberdad
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04 Jun 2019, 5:12 am

Got it...so autistic affirmative work spaces...for social skills
1) Assertiveness (without being aggressive).
2) Active listening.
3) Giving and receiving constructive criticism.
4) Conflict resolution.

I would add

5) Basic written communication skills (grammar, punctuation & spelling)
6) comprehension
7) business writing skills (for example writing concisely)
8) public speaking
9) empathy and rapport
10) problem solving
11) emotional regulation
12) resilience to adversity



Mona Pereth
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06 Jun 2019, 3:47 pm

cyberdad wrote:
Got it...so autistic affirmative work spaces...for social skills
1) Assertiveness (without being aggressive).
2) Active listening.
3) Giving and receiving constructive criticism.
4) Conflict resolution.

These would be, in my opinion, absolutely essential in all autistic-friendly workplaces. Given that many of us are bad at picking up on subtle hints and will always be bad at that no matter how hard we work on it, we need clear, explicit (yet tactful) communication.

cyberdad wrote:
5) Basic written communication skills (grammar, punctuation & spelling)
6) comprehension
7) business writing skills (for example writing concisely)

All of these written communication skills are essential in many workplaces but not all, depending on the job. (For example, they probably aren't, or shouldn't be, required for TSA baggage screeners.) Nor would they be essential for car wash workers.

cyberdad wrote:
8) public speaking

Also not required in all kinds of jobs, though certainly useful in some jobs. And some autistic people do happen to be much better at public speaking than they are at, say, cocktail party chit chat.

cyberdad wrote:
9) empathy and rapport

Yes, with the caveat that many autistic people may tend to express empathy and rapport in ways somewhat different from the ways NT's express them. (More about this later, in another thread.) In autistic-friendly spaces, including autistic-friendly workplaces, a variety of different ways of expressing empathy and rapport should be recognized and understood.

cyberdad wrote:
10) problem solving

Definitely necessary in many jobs.

cyberdad wrote:
11) emotional regulation
12) resilience to adversity

These are areas of weakness for many autistic people. While these are things we should individually try to improve, possibly with help from therapists, an autistic-friendly space, including an autistic-friendly workplace, needs to meet us halfway by making a point of being aware of, and accommodating/avoiding where possible, people's sensory overload triggers, information overload triggers, etc.

Examples of ways to avoid sensory triggers common among autistic people: (1) The workplace would NOT be a large open office. (2) The lighting would be something other than fluorescent. Probably some type of LED light would be adequate for most of us. Also, if possible, different rooms might have different intensities of lighting. (3) Workers would be asked to use unscented deoderant/anti-perspirant and not wear perfume.


_________________
- Finally diagnosed with ASD in May 2019, after having suspected it for over ten years, and after having deeply explored the autism community for over one year while waiting for and obtaining diagnosis.
- In longterm relationship with boyfriend who was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome in 2001.
- Long history of participation in various oddball subcultures.
- My "Getting to know each other" thread: Hello from NYC.


cyberdad
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07 Jun 2019, 1:37 am

Yeah I agree with your points.

The additional ones are still useful in terms of generic soft skills rather than hard core specialised skills that might be specific to particular job types.

What's interesting is that some sectors like the IT industry are becoming less concerned about paper qualification and more interested in capacity, job ready skills and task competency. This should be advantageous to autistic individuals who are unable to attend college but have these type of skills because of special interests....



Mona Pereth
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08 Jun 2019, 7:19 pm

cyberdad wrote:
The additional ones are still useful in terms of generic soft skills rather than hard core specialised skills that might be specific to particular job types.

But keep in mind that autistic people are more likely than the general population to have various learning disabilities, e.g. dyslexia. Hence, in an autistic-friendly workplace, it would be important not to discriminate against people who lack skills that aren't actually relevant to the specific job. For example, there's no good reason to require good writing skills for a job in which writing isn't actually needed.


_________________
- Finally diagnosed with ASD in May 2019, after having suspected it for over ten years, and after having deeply explored the autism community for over one year while waiting for and obtaining diagnosis.
- In longterm relationship with boyfriend who was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome in 2001.
- Long history of participation in various oddball subcultures.
- My "Getting to know each other" thread: Hello from NYC.


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08 Jun 2019, 8:23 pm

Mona Pereth wrote:
For example, there's no good reason to require good writing skills for a job in which writing isn't actually needed.


It depends on i) the level they work and ii) the size of the organisation. Ad a general rule of thumb the higher you get promoted and the larger the organisation you work for the more likely you will have to produce i) instructional documentation and ii) memos iii) briefs iv) reports

Even a low level "grunt" working in IT requires the ability to i) communicate concisely ii) with precision and iii) comprehend garbled messages from a boss (many of whom don't want to explain things twice)

The latter iii) is basically the application of business writing which is to deconstruct a message and reformulate it in your own words (whether it be done on paper or in your head)



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10 Jun 2019, 6:22 pm

cyberdad wrote:
What's interesting is that some sectors like the IT industry are becoming less concerned about paper qualification and more interested in capacity, job ready skills and task competency. This should be advantageous to autistic individuals who are unable to attend college but have these type of skills because of special interests....


In my experience the software world at least has been moving partially away from this. I got my first programming job in the nineties after growing up with computers, and I'm still writing software professionally a dozen jobs later. My experience agrees with your description that college degrees aren't strictly necessary and people can sometimes get by on special interests. But I've found work environments have been getting progressively less and less accessible. Businesses can save money on open floor plans without any walls, so they're much noisier and visually busier than they were, with less protection from overwhelming distractions. Additionally a lot of new technologies make it easy to prototype a system but not any easier to build a solid, high-quality system. A lot of businesses don't know the difference, and prototypes are much less expensive, so a lot of businesses end up expecting very quick turnaround on vague features, constantly shifting priorities, and low-quality hacked-together systems that need a lot of interruptive emergency maintenance. It can be pretty frustrating and exhausting if you just want to focus on a complex system and make it work well.

Maybe others have different experiences. If so, maybe let me know where you're working and if you're hiring ;-)



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11 Jun 2019, 2:52 am

epilanthanomai wrote:
In my experience the software world at least has been moving partially away from this. I got my first programming job in the nineties after growing up with computers, and I'm still writing software professionally a dozen jobs later. My experience agrees with your description that college degrees aren't strictly necessary and people can sometimes get by on special interests. But I've found work environments have been getting progressively less and less accessible. '

It's not my field, although my brother's a software engineer, his big issue with the job market is outsourcing. Basically somebody in India can do his job for 1/5 of the cost. The way he stays employable is maintaining exceptional communication skills (written and verbal) with clients and with bosses. Client relations is the only thing that keeps a lot of Australian IT companies from completely off-shoring or outsourcing


epilanthanomai wrote:
others have different experiences. If so, maybe let me know where you're working and if you're hiring ;-)

Good luck with the job hunting :)



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14 Jun 2019, 10:32 pm

Some other examples of an autistic friendly workplace are described in the following threads:

- British Hotel for Autistic guests with Autistic staff, about The Vault, owned and operated by the St. Camillus Care Group.
- Two Wellington Hotels Seeking Autistic Staff - for some reason the hotels themselves (in New Zealand) are not named in this news story, which does mention Altogether Autism and Specialisterne Australia
- Not Your Typical Deli - Autistic staff, about a deli named Not Your Typical Deli, apparently in Arizona.
- The firm whose staff are all autistic and Auticom - Recruitment firm for Autistic talent, about Auticon.
- Alberta firm Meticulon selling autistic job strengths

Another relevant thread about the basic idea: Autistic-only or primarily autistic firm.


_________________
- Finally diagnosed with ASD in May 2019, after having suspected it for over ten years, and after having deeply explored the autism community for over one year while waiting for and obtaining diagnosis.
- In longterm relationship with boyfriend who was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome in 2001.
- Long history of participation in various oddball subcultures.
- My "Getting to know each other" thread: Hello from NYC.


Mona Pereth
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17 Jun 2019, 3:28 am

A good, relevant thread from back in 2010: Why we need to start and promote autism-friendly businesses.


_________________
- Finally diagnosed with ASD in May 2019, after having suspected it for over ten years, and after having deeply explored the autism community for over one year while waiting for and obtaining diagnosis.
- In longterm relationship with boyfriend who was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome in 2001.
- Long history of participation in various oddball subcultures.
- My "Getting to know each other" thread: Hello from NYC.


Mona Pereth
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24 Jun 2019, 1:07 am

An interesting thread just now popped up: Specialisterne. Several other threads about Specialisterne are linked at the bottom of that page.


_________________
- Finally diagnosed with ASD in May 2019, after having suspected it for over ten years, and after having deeply explored the autism community for over one year while waiting for and obtaining diagnosis.
- In longterm relationship with boyfriend who was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome in 2001.
- Long history of participation in various oddball subcultures.
- My "Getting to know each other" thread: Hello from NYC.