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      Depression, Mental Health and Crisis Support   06/04/2017

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call me jaded

Better, faster... and no office politics: the company with the autistic specialists

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Mumble   
Does anyone want to work here?

No thanks :) - If I can pass myself off as Superhuman, I'm auditioning for the next Superman movie :lol: :lol:

 

Jesting over, :jester::shame: I think it would be right for some people but I do have reservations about what is essentially segregation, both for autistic individuals and for the rest of society. :unsure: I still cling to my hope that we can all be recognised for what we can do with that being seen over and above any dx - some of the skills/jobs the article mentions I am very good at - the checking databases, number-crunching etc - and have been asked to do for others as parts of their projects because I can do it accurately and quickly. Do I want a job that involves only doing that though, I'm not sure. If I only worked on what I could already do, and wasn't ever put in positions where I had to use other skills, where I was essentially protected from the 'real' world, would it be detrimental to me developing more all-rounded coping skills? Or would that fact that I had a place I 'fitted' and felt accepted help me feel more accepted in the world at large? I don't know the answer and it's one I'm struggling with in thinking about the best career for me.

 

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bid   
...he is the nicest, most gentle and caring child you could imagine...

 

Hurrah!!

 

At last, a public comment about someone with autism that explodes those ###### stereo-types!! :thumbs::notworthy:

 

Bid :)

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bid   

As to the AS-specific firm...

 

Mmmmm, I guess in a way there have always been sort of 'autistic enclaves' in the world of work: Silicone Valley, certain areas of academia, etc, etc.

 

In my own Night Room, I think it's fair to say that we have our share of syndromes, and that's not including me!! :lol:;) In fact, there are times when I think I'm the most normal (what with Kellyanne being on mat. leave and all ;) )...

 

Bid :)

Edited by bid

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baddad   

Erm... perhaps they can call it 'stereotype city'

 

Aspergerians, on the other hand, relish the repetition, their focus doesn’t waver and their numerical skills are superlative.
:blink::blink:

 

It’s a powerful illustration of the incredible, verging on superhuman, attention to detail, recall and unflinching ‘ focus many autistic people have, whether expressed in architectural terms (as in Stephen Wiltshire’s work – he can draw a landscape after seeing it once); linguistic (autistic author Daniel Tammet is said to have learnt Icelandic in a week); or, as is the case with many of Sonne’s employees, numerical.
:blink::blink:

 

Don't get me wrong - i'm not denying that some of those things apply to some autistic/AS people, or even that there's probably a higher incidence within the autistic/AS population, but these are terrible, terrible stereotypes to project onto the whole AS population on the basis of the minority of people who do think in and/or 'obsess' in such a marketable way. What happens if you're AS but not a maths wizz, or number cruncher or repetative task orienated? Doubly 'useless'? (taken that the premise behind this whole business eneterprise is that it has 'tapped in' to skill sets inherent in a population that was otherwise being disregarded and overlooked.)

 

On mumble's points: Providing a safe platform from which people with AS/Autism can expand their options and challenge their safety zones to enhance their opportunities is hugely important. That's greenhousing at it's best: providing an environment in which the 'fruit' can reach it's maximum potential. Providing an environment that demands nothing of them other than to 'do what they do anyway' is at best warehousing, and at worst intensive farming.

 

Now as always the chances are that the actual model for this business is quite different to the overview the media has given us. Probably. But what's presented here looks great in theory but is inherently flawed as a genuine attempt to breakdown barriers, challenge preconceptions/value judgements and promote equality in the work market generally.

 

Another idea. If I built a factory specifically designed to be staffed, run and operated by either people in wheelchairs or people of restricted height I would be able to fit four storeys and work areas into the same physical space that normally accommodated two. That would double my profit margin/productivity Vs overheads forcast overnight. Thinking about it, in the case of people of restricted height they would also have shorter arms, which would mean my conveyorbelts only needed to be half as wide, which would mean I could fit more of them into each floorspace too. :thumbs:

It would be a huge step forward in terms of work opportunity for people of restricted height or those disabled who use wheelchairs; but is it strictly 'enabling' for them?

 

Just had another thought - Santa got there first! That's why he has the elves working at the toy factory! Well that's the feem of one of next year's blogs covered, if i ask Santa nicely ;)

 

L&P

 

BD :D

 

 

 

PS:

Maximised profits or exploitative business model? Click here and vote ;)

Edited by baddad

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I know what you mean, Baddad and Mumble, and agree with much of what you say, but there are those out there who cannot handle a workplace where their safety zones are challenged every day. In fact, I'm sure there are many adults on the spectrum who, like many of their NT counterparts, have no desire to challenge themselves in this way. If that's the case, then I can only say that I wish there were more employers out there who could accommodate them in the way that Mr Sonne has.

 

Don't get me wrong, I understand what Mumble was saying in her post. But I think for many, the world at large is a place where they are constantly challenged and strive to cope. Perhaps if those people had a workplace like this, it would give them a place where they could let their guard down whilst achieving something (not to mention earn a decent wage!) through working. That in itself, allows people to contribute to society when they might be unable to do it in other ways, perhaps? And, I feel, that in many ways, that is a form of enabling.......these people are adults and humans, after all, and whether or not they should challenge themselves by trying to work in a more conventional way is up to them, surely?

 

 

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Mumble   

:oops: I think I have made myself misunderstooderised :unsure:

 

I didn't like the superhuman bit - from that I was having a bit of an (unsuccessful) jest at the idea.

 

In the more serious part, I was trying to debate with myself more than anything but interested in others' input which was best:

 

1. Working somewhere where I would be totally accepted but never challenged to try new things or push myself

 

2. Working somewhere where I was challenged, perhaps on a daily basis.

 

With option 1 would being more comfortable during my working day (although boredom might also come in) make it easier for me to push boundaries outside of work - or would I become more 'detached' from society?

 

With option 2 would being challenged daily at work make the other daily challenges seem easier or would I be so exhausted trying to fit in during the day that I had no energy left to face society outside of work even if I 'could'?

 

This is actually relevant to me at the moment as I need to be thinking about Transitions after university and it's exactly this balance of challenge and comfort that I'm struggling with.

 

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baddad   

Adding to above - I wasn't suggesting that any staff should face daily challenges they did not want to face, but i do believe 100% (and it seems borne out by every piece of research into work/motivation or hust huiman development and milestones) that people grow as individuals by exploring, testing boundaries and testing themselves. It is uncomfortable to some degree for everyone - autistic or AS - and how uncomfortable or the manner/sum of 'stress' has to be considered on an individual basis, but without it there isn't 'growth' - just standing still.

There are two meanings to 'enabling': One is where someone is helped to overcome/circumvent or learn to cope with stresses, challenges, and barriers and the other is where they are enabled in avoiding them.

For many autistic people from the moment of diagnosis the latter becomes the 'norm' - and when you are dealing with a psychology that is already geared toward reluctance to change you compound that problem.

Many of the things my son has achieved have involved serious 'nudging'. Often, things he's wanted to achieve (like riding his bike) took months to achieve because 'fear' got in the way of achieving them. Once the fear was overcome, he was able to get from those things what he wanted, but if he hadn't risen to the 'challenge' and had I been less supportive in giving him the 'nudges' he needed then he wouldn't have ever had that opportunity. It's harder of, course, for many autistic people to 'generalise' skills, but even taking this into account it's undoubtedly the case that my son's own 'can do' attitude has been built from the ground up: the small successes (riding his bike, learning to swim etc) were the building blocks for the major successes (Go Ape a few weeks ago more than adequately demonstrated he's conquered his fear of heights - now if ONLY I can conquer mine!). In a similar way, if a child always backs away from his fears and is enabled in doing so that is the 'building blocks' for a can't do mentality. If all you give a child is an artificial environment where challenges don't arise they will only ever be able to live in an environment where challenges don't arise. That applies to socialisation, work, education -absolutely every aspect of their lives.

As I said in my orig post: I'm sure the work environment being described here isn't as 'warehouse' as the news article makes it appear, but i have seen many, many 'work projects' that have been incredibly patronising and ill-conceived. Day care projects can be equally flawed too, but at least they say what they mean on the tin, IYKWIM.

 

L&P

 

BD :D

 

L&P

 

BD :D

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bid   

It's all about balance, isn't it...

 

I have been able to achieve things I didn't think I could handle in my job, like being a team leader...but that is because the overall environment is extremely supportive and accepting, and more to the point, right for me within my AS.

 

I know from experience that I simply couldn't do the equivalent job as day staff, even working with colleagues I know well...because the environment on days is just too overwhelming for me.

 

Pegs and holes...

 

Bid :)

Edited by bid

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pearl   

JP is coping with full time work in an NT environment. He finds it absolutely exhausting, but also loves it. His workplace have always known about his AS (supervisors etc on a "need to know" basis) and a few adjustments have been made for him. It hasn't always been plain sailing, there have been glitches, but they have been overcome by clear communication & expectations.

 

It feels fragile, though - one boss who doesn't understand AS, & months of good work could be undone. Thats the risk you take. I found the article very encouraging, & sometimes would love the thought of JP working in such an enabling environment. But on balance I think he's best engaging with the rest of the world as much as possible.

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Canopus   
No thanks :) - If I can pass myself off as Superhuman, I'm auditioning for the next Superman movie :lol: :lol:

 

Jesting over, :jester::shame: I think it would be right for some people but I do have reservations about what is essentially segregation, both for autistic individuals and for the rest of society. :unsure: I still cling to my hope that we can all be recognised for what we can do with that being seen over and above any dx - some of the skills/jobs the article mentions I am very good at - the checking databases, number-crunching etc - and have been asked to do for others as parts of their projects because I can do it accurately and quickly.

 

I have mixed feelings towards these companies set up to employ highly skilled people with AS. On one hand it gives people with AS a chance to really shine in an environment they feel comfortable and confident in. On the other hand it produces a culture of segregation into us and them type environments creating the impression that people with AS can, and should, only be allowed to function in their own special islands.

 

I personally feel that a better strategy for people with AS is to make them more welcome and accepted in existing organisations where they work alongside NT staff, as opposed to setting up more companies that employ people with AS. What I hope companies like Specialisterne achieve in the medium to long run is to change many of the current corporate attitudes that work against people with AS, and convince managers and HR types that people with AS have much to offer the company and should not be shot down on silly issues like lacking certain NT traits that are needed to pass the interview but are not needed in the job.

 

Do I want a job that involves only doing that though, I'm not sure. If I only worked on what I could already do, and wasn't ever put in positions where I had to use other skills, where I was essentially protected from the 'real' world, would it be detrimental to me developing more all-rounded coping skills? Or would that fact that I had a place I 'fitted' and felt accepted help me feel more accepted in the world at large? I don't know the answer and it's one I'm struggling with in thinking about the best career for me.

 

On mumble's points: Providing a safe platform from which people with AS/Autism can expand their options and challenge their safety zones to enhance their opportunities is hugely important. That's greenhousing at it's best: providing an environment in which the 'fruit' can reach it's maximum potential. Providing an environment that demands nothing of them other than to 'do what they do anyway' is at best warehousing, and at worst intensive farming.

 

It is possible for people with AS to acquire and improve certain 'people skills' providing they are given the right support and training. This support and training is difficult to come by in a world where most NT people are either born with the same people skills or manage to pick them up as they go along.

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bid   
Would you all stop making assumptions that all NT people are the same.

 

:rolleyes:

 

That's exactly what my DH always says :lol:

 

Bid :)

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Mumble   
Would you all stop making assumptions that all NT people are the same.

Sorry, I didn't mean to - I appear to have made a right hash of trying to say what I was trying to say in this thread :oops: I'm not even sure I know what I was trying to say anymore (but that's nothing new...)!! :rolleyes::lol:

 

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baddad   
Would you all stop making assumptions that all NT people are the same.

 

:rolleyes:

 

Ahhhhh... we're all the same under the skin, you know :shame:

Now stop it, you naughty aspergers people :whistle:

 

:devil:

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alanm   
I have mixed feelings towards these companies set up to employ highly skilled people with AS. On one hand it gives people with AS a chance to really shine in an environment they feel comfortable and confident in. On the other hand it produces a culture of segregation into us and them type environments creating the impression that people with AS can, and should, only be allowed to function in their own special islands.

 

I personally feel that a better strategy for people with AS is to make them more welcome and accepted in existing organisations where they work alongside NT staff, as opposed to setting up more companies that employ people with AS. What I hope companies like Specialisterne achieve in the medium to long run is to change many of the current corporate attitudes that work against people with AS, and convince managers and HR types that people with AS have much to offer the company and should not be shot down on silly issues like lacking certain NT traits that are needed to pass the interview but are not needed in the job.

Sums it up really well, I feel what is good about what Specialisterne is that they are highlighting the point that people with AS are employable. I feel that employers spewing "good communication skills" left right and centre imply anyone who isn't "good" at communication isn't employable at all, and like you say hopefully HR staff can see from Specialisterne's example that they have other strengths.

 

 

Providing a safe platform from which people with AS/Autism can expand their options and challenge their safety zones to enhance their opportunities is hugely important.

There are those out there who cannot handle a workplace where their safety zones are challenged every day. In fact, I'm sure there are many adults on the spectrum who have no desire to challenge themselves in this way.
These are both good points. I feel I have benefitted from the general experience working in various teams of NT people, clicked Ok with some, not so some others but isn't that true everywhere, i.e. on the "safety zones" point that was a good "challenge" to the hypothetical safety zone of a wholly AS team. However it was a challenge too far for an employer to expect me to take phone calls from suppliers who the company were well overdue paying and were irate, that was unrealistic to expect me to develop the more sophisticated skills to handle that, highlighting the referenced need for the balance between that "comfort" and "challenge". I now state that the impact of my AS is that I would not be suited to contact with customers and/or suppliers, yet am reasonable at internal communication with colleagues.

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Sally44   

I don't have a problem with an ASD only workforce. If it works, it works. I believe that there does have to be such a high level of experience and expertise of those differences that are an ASD, that every employer just cannot ever gain that experience or expertise by employing one person with an ASD every 5 years. I think that aiming for inclusion all the time doesn't work and doesn't actually met anyones needs. There are plenty of other places where people can all work together if that is what they wish. My own sister GDD works in a sheltered factory as a machinist and has been employed there for over 30 years. That was the only job she held down because all the workforce and management know what the limitations are and the approaches to take. Prior to that she usually lasted one day at work before she refused to return or was fired.

Yes this is stereotyping one section of those with an ASD, but it is a start, and if this one is successful then other aspects and strengths of ASD will be found and used in the work place. And it gives something definate and positive to quote ie. this firm is using an ASD only workforce and it is succeeding and it is profitable.

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I applied to Specialisterne's one UK office but subsequently withdrew my application when I learnt that they only paid their trainees travelling expenses. I wonder if this is standard practice in all of Specialisterne's branches?

What happened next

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@Aeolienne - I was one of the people made redundant, it had a massive impact on a lot of people when it closed as well as me - so I would ask that you act with a bit more forethought.

 

They have since re-opened as a smaller company in Glasgow, and I have been hired back under a self employed basis for 7 months now, and they have a head office in London which is on it's way to recruiting its first trainee class.

 

They only pay travelling expenses during the training phase, and you are still able to claim benefits. You get training for free which includes web development, programming, software testing, also coaching on work interaction soft skills, and a formal qualification which if you were to sit of your own volition would cost you upwards of £100.

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What about people who are unemployed but ineligible to claim benefits, like myself?

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The only stipulations as far as I know is that you have a formal diagnosis, and some knowledge of computers/testing/programming or at least the potential to pick it up.

 

Once they are in a position to take on trainees, I am sure there will be advertising to that effect - I'll probably post something here as well.

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Canopus   

I'm querying whether Glasgow is the best location for such a company. Recently I have been involved in discussions about establishing an embedded systems company employing people with AS. A question that was raised was where to physically locate it. Berkshire and Hertfordshire were high up on the list.

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We're not the only location - if you read my post, there is a branch being opened in London soon. We're a substantially smaller office than we were before - however the London office will be a lot bigger and able to support a trainee class of 12 plus staff.

 

Where are you based?

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Canopus   

I'm based in the south of England. London was examined but later rejected because of sky high house prices and there are not that many people who work in low level software or embedded systems outside of universities. The IT industry in London is very heavily biased towards business computing and financial services. London would be a first rate area for any company that operates in these sectors. The choice was between areas where there already are embedded systems industries or areas with cheap housing. In the latter case obtaining investment will be harder which is why economically depressed areas exist.

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Since Specialisterne are a testing company as well as a third sector organisation, they are better placed to get investment in London.

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Shnoing   

I think Sonne had a good idea, even though I don't need it at the moment as I am employed, under similar (but not the same) conditions. And I do word-crunching instead of number-crunching.

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Canopus   

Companies in London and the south are better placed to get investment than companies elsewhere in Britain. Not too long ago I was talking to a businessman who was forced to relocate from Stoke on Trent to the south because of difficulty in finding anybody who would invest in his company. Once he moved the company south investors were more willing to hand over the cash. Interestingly Stoke on Trent was considered as a location for the proposed embedded systems company because of its good geographical location and low house prices.

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Canopus   

no investors = low house prices. Funny, that.

I was referring to investment in business. There's already more than enough investment in property in Stoke - mostly by southerners with plenty of spare cash.

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Specialisterne's London branch is operating more as a recruitment agency than a training services provider. To this end they arranged an interview for me with a software firm in Ealing in late 2013, but nothing since.

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Aeolienne, Specialisterne are very clear that they are focusing on growing the business side to make the whole organisation sustainable - so that they can run the training again in the future. You've also been sent several job opportunities which have been open to everyone on the mailing list to apply to if they a. want to and b. meet the criteria - it's just been the case that you've not felt they are suitable. I've also encouraged you to pursue further coding knowledge through the LiveCode initiative, but again, you've felt it's not been for you.

 

That's totally fine, and completely your choice - however to say there's been nothing since isn't entirely accurate.

 

I'm actually about to send out another opportunity for a graduate programme in the next few days - so there are options out there.

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Interesting, going back about 4 years I was meant to do a training course for a Glasgow based company that had 6 months training I think and a job at the end of it.

 

But what happened in the end was the Tories in their usual hate of anyone not rich slashed the funding meaning years later i am still on benefits.

 

I was told the company intentionally hired people on the spectrum as they were better workers.

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Livelife   

This Government doesn't want to help people who need it, they are already making people work for dole money so it won't be long until a new version of the workhouse is created.

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I've also encouraged you to pursue further coding knowledge through the LiveCode initiative, but again, you've felt it's not been for you.

Did that come to anything? The Indiegogo page says that the crowdfunding target was not met.

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/empower-individuals-with-autism-through-coding#/

Edited by Aeolienne

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