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(Not written by me)

What is it like to work with Asperger’s?

Jonathan, 25, who is a desktop support engineer at an insurance company in the City of London, has Asperger’s syndrome

I have worked at my current company for two years, since graduating with a degree in business computing from Brunel University London.

I had an interview for a job at a different organisation but it was a very formal panel and that was hard, as I can feel quite anxious and worried if there are multiple people watching and listening to me and I have to interact with groups at once.

I know that my eye contact isn’t always the best and having to make eye contact with lots of people at the same time can be challenging.

"I have a mentor as well as a specialist therapist who works with people with Asperger’s and helps me with any issues I face"

Someone at my university mentioned Aspierations was helping to link people who have Asperger’s syndrome (AS) with employers, so I looked it up and made contact with the team. Aspierations responded quickly. I met them and they helped with mock interviews and providing tips for interviews, which was really helpful.

I was then set up with a one-to-one interview with the hiring manager at my current company. I was given very clear instructions on how to get to the office, including a picture of the building, and what to expect at the interview.

The interview started off very informally, with the hiring manager asking me how my journey had been, which helped me relax. He then gave me lots of technical skills questions to answer, which suited me as this is what I like most about my job.

Since starting work, my employers have been very supportive. For example, I have a mentor as well as a specialist therapist who works with people with Asperger’s and helps me with any personal or workplace issues I might face.

We’ve recently had a big transformation at work, as we used to have four offices in close proximity to each other but last December we moved into one building in Aldgate, in the City of London, occupying the top eight floors.

Previously I had been supporting about 100 users in one of the offices and now I’m supporting more than double that. Although we all moved just a few months ago, I am still adjusting to the new offices. I think the adjustment is perhaps taking me a bit longer than other people.

"I would like to see more people with AS in the workplace. We need more employers to realise that we have lots to offer"

If someone has an IT issue that can’t be resolved by our remote service desk, I will go and fix it.

A good day for me is when you come in, work from 09:00 to 17:30 to resolve all the tickets (IT queries – often I manage more tickets than the others on the team) and have a few conversations with colleagues, and then leave the office having accomplished your tasks.

Sometimes I can get stressed, such as with ad hoc queries, if people come up to my desk and tell me they’ve got a problem. Multi-tasking is challenging for me, but I’ve been given some Post-its on which I can write a note to myself, which means I can carry on with what I’m doing and then deal with the new issue afterwards.

Also I used to get a bit anxious if I was reading messages on my work phone handset on the train coming into work or at the weekend, so now I leave my handset and laptop in the office so that I have a separation between home and work.

I did a presentation when I first joined the company. It was organised by Aspierations and held at Lloyd’s. It was shared on LinkedIn.

I’ve also done another event and written an article that was shared on my company’s intranet. It means that lots people at work know about my condition, which is good, but I would like to see more people with AS in the workplace. We need more employers to realise that we have lots to offer.


One organisation helping those on the spectrum into work

The experience of Laurel Herman’s son with Asperger’s syndrome (AS) led her to found Aspierations, the organisation that helped support Jonathan into his job.

Ms Herman’s son was diagnosed with the condition as an adult. As Ms Herman saw more and more high-achieving people on the autistic spectrum not succeeding in the workplace, she was convinced to help them.

“We help with things like conversation technique, interview technique – all the things over and above their education to make them business-ready,” says Ms Herman. “And we help them with career progression because once they get in they don’t progress.”

Aspierations is also building an alliance of AS-fit-and-friendly employers by teaming up with businesses such as the National Grid, BAE Systems and Linklaters to support neurodiversity in the workforce. “We’re helping them to attract, recruit, develop to potential, support and retain their autistic talent,” says Ms Herman. Additionally Aspierations organises awareness events for businesses, and provides training and consultancy on recruitment and preparing workplaces for neurodivergent employees.

Ms Herman says it is crucial to remember that there benefits on both sides when people with AS are brought into an organisation. For the individual there is a feeling of self-worth; for the business, it is about bringing in talent with a fresh approach.

She says: “If you’ve always got the same people, you’re just doing the same thing. But if you’ve got people with different ways of thinking, which is what neurodiversity is, you will get real innovation and a challenge to the status quo.”

Full names have been withheld at the interviewee’s request

Source: Telegraph

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