I have felt the brunt of bullies, abuse, and discrimination throughout my life. About a dozen examples come to mind. These are all life changing and not in the garden variety restaurant or grocery store nasty comment or glare. Now before I get started let me say although I see heredity at play in our family my Grandfather, Father and myself fall into the "just a little different" category and have never been diagnosed formally as being on the autism spectrum. I would say we all were autism level 0. The category of those that can contribute without assistance but are on the outside of the social mainstream.
I am bringing up these five situations just to give examples of what those on the spectrum may face and not be able to defend for themselves. At some point we will have to address these issues for parents and adults on the spectrum. The original title I had for this piece was "What does discrimination towards parents and those on the Autism spectrum look like?" I thought about it and wanted to make sure that you understand that I take full responsibility for getting myself into these situations. Although, in each one Judges, adjudicators and counselors have found that I had reason to suspect discrimination.
The five situations can be broadly described in the following way. 1. Emotional reflection of a manager and outburst. 2. Lack of sleep impacting job performance / Not taking family needed family time. 3. Removal from a non-profit board after phone meltdown. 4. Denial of Positon / Does not meet "Requirements" 5. Taking things literally - Whistle-blowing. Reporting demeaning behavior and crude jokes in the workplace.
Imagine yourself in a closed door, private employee meeting. Described by the manager as a "Come to Jesus" sales meeting. A very aggressive manager has 8 of us cornered and is screaming at us. I counted the "F - bomb" being dropped 15 times. I was uncomfortable being in very close quarters to my peers. I analyzed and agonized over every word over and over and each personal attack hurt more. After personal confrontation and rule changes I was very frustrated. So at my breaking point I lets loose in reflection with a "Grow some F***ing Balls." Immediately the room was cleared and I was let go from the company. To this day I do not understand why others can cuss all day and I drop one "F -Bomb" and I get censured.
Illustration number two is as much as a warning as it is example of what can go wrong. I had been sleep deprived for a couple of weeks ( More than usual). Tanner had to be taken to the hospital I was feeling bad ( Maybe Guilt?) for not being with Cheri. I was keeping touch via the phone. I told my direct manager not to expect to much from me that day. Cheri called and asked me to get prescription for Tanner at lunch and bring it home. Another manager came up and asked me to do a project right before lunch. I did it very rapidly. I bumped the new product and thought I may have damaged it. Got out looked. Saw no damage and went to lunch. Upon return from lunch I was let go for not reporting damage even though there was none. Again the learning experience was sleep deprivation can get you in a heap of trouble. Take time to be with your family when you are needed. Be upfront with all managers.
I see irony in the fact that some Autism non profits do not know how to handle individuals on the spectrum. Those in the Neurodiversity advocacy groups claim they are actively discriminated against. I have two examples of this. I live in a remote downstate rural area of Illinois. So many of my board and volunteer positions have been through Skype, Go to meeting or phone. In one particular situation I was developing a business Idea and decided to contribute ( Donate) the program to a charity. The charity was having severe financial difficulties, so a outside "leader" of the community with "Contacts" was brought in. He was a talker. Many times I would be on the phone for two hours and not say a word. Well after discussion of my proposal he suggested doing the project on their own and excluding my group. I had a meltdown and again said a few words I shouldn't have said. Within hours I got an email informing me of my removal from the board.
The latest experience was a request to be on the Board as a Director. I volunteered and was accepted. Now due to fluctuations in our economic status ( Being Broke and out of a job) and being a primary caregiver for Tanner. I have not been able to be a very active participant in activities and pay all the dues. I did however volunteer when I could and gave them advertising, social media support, grant support, and other tangible donations of time and energy. So this week I get this letter:
I thought I would be able to speak with you in person, about this but you were not at lunch on _____ this week. I always thought you are member of ______ because you come quite often on the ____ lunch times. I am sorry, but you cannot be a board member unless you are a dues paying member. You do not meet this requirement and you will not be able to serve on the board. I have filled that position and perhaps in the future, when you become a member, we would be able to have you serve in that capacity. Thank you very much for your interest in the job. I really appreciate you offering to serve."
I am pretty sure there is more to this than a few dues being due. I had fully intended to do whatever was needed to meet the requirements of the board. My frustration and anger overflows at the embarrassment of this situation. I doubt I will set foot back into this group. The sad part is I doubt any of them have empathy or have taken the time to learn a little more about our situation over the almost ten years that Tanner and I have been involved with them.
Finally, one of my challenges has been the taking of things literally. You know, that open door policy every leader of an organization has? We are told any idea or issue we would like to pass up the ladder. Throughout my various careers I have been very eager to share my ideas. I did not realize until many years later my various calls to CEOs and Presidents really disturbed my boss, my Boss's Boss and My Boss's Boss's Boss. The one that comes to mind is where I reported a manager to Human Resources for telling sexist and racist jokes in the work place. Now this was not a one time one liner things. Many of his jokes included pulling up his shirt, unbuttoning his pants and physically requiring action of the employees he duped into participating in his jokes. I was mortified at the way he would demean and speak to minorities and women. There was a short investigation but supervision and management remained the same. I was told since I was neither a minority or a woman only they could not put in a complaint. I feel to this day I was treated differently by management after these reports.
I will leave it up to you to decide if these honest examples of my experience and feelings reflect in anyway the reasons those on the spectrum are not given a chance in the workplace. I have learned a lot but know I am gullible and easily manipulated. I pray my honesty here helps you and your loved one traverse the next few years in dealing with school, community and work place situations. I do know more of these situations will happen unless the wave of adults on the autism spectrum are given some accommodation, and real education / change takes place. As always I love to hear your comments, share your personal situations, or just give me a shout out @TannersDad Tim
Tim Welsh, is one of the most active and influential Parent Advocates for Autism. Avid Speaker, blogger, and Tweeter (@TannersDad). Tim works to build unity within the Autism community, Gain Insurance coverage reform, End Restraint & Seclusion, Advocate for services, prevent wandering and much more. Tim & his wife Cheri have one son Tanner (16).
“I have a son he has autism, but, I also have dream. I dare dream of a world where profound regressive autism is not only treatable, but is also preventable”