Friday, October 28, 2011

Interesting article on tough job market for autistics

I see that U.S. News and World Report has published an interesting article on employment problems for those with autism. It rightly points out that this is the time supportive services from the pie-in-the-sky promises but shit-from-the-sewer delivery from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act end and the autistic person has to go out and face the cruel world. The article states: people with autism were only about half as likely to be working as people with disabilities in general (33 percent compared with 59 percent). If true, this means that having autism is a worse disability than most are in terms of employability. Of course, I am skeptical about statistics that are casually bandied around. The article interviews a professor named Scott Standifer who makes a statement that Ari Ne'eman should read: "We forget how important social relationships are in maintaining employment." For those who may not have read previous blog entries I have written, Ari Ne'eman is an individual in his early 20's who is an autism self-advocate who has never had paid employment of any kind who says that social pleasantry should be eliminated in the workplace as a criteria for evaluating new hires and job evaluations.

After this though, the article goes on to state that the lunch break is one of the more difficult things for persons with autism and the mandatory social requirement. I think of all the times in the days years ago, when I worked outside my home and usually ate lunch alone at a restaurant or bought something off a roach coach and was never required to socialize with anyone, so this is rather silly. The last 9 years or so that I worked I worked at home, so this was not an issue. Finding a job you can do at home may make some of the social problems we face easier. I realize this is probably not a feasible option for most on the spectrum, as it was for me for a time.

The article offers an opium-induced dream: Families of people with autism as well as employers and co-workers can all help to make the employment experience a positive one for these individuals. This is never going to happen. The sad truth is the world does not accommodate autistics and their families for their own convenience, regardless of what neurodiversity advocates think will happen. Though I have been out of the workforce for a while, this must ring even more true with nearly 10% unemployment nationwide.

Without going into the further specifics, (the interested individual can read the above-linked article) some rather pat solutions are given as well as certain jobs that autistics are supposedly good at.

The article is of interest to me as an individual on the spectrum with nearly 28 years experience of utter hell attempting to make a living with a fair amount of success. Though I'm retired now at a relatively young age, I will never forget those struggles. I now had to stoop to applying for disability which I probably won't get. I have contacted a new lawyer and have yet to hear from them and the deadline for filing a suit in federal court expires soon. It's probably not worth contacting any other attorneys and I'm probably going to have to drop the case, so it goes.

I wish there was a quick fix way of helping persons on the spectrum find and keep jobs but unfortunately there is none.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

is more than 100 grand to teach job interview skills to autistics worth it?

I see that everybody's favorite autism funding organization, autism speaks, has awarded nearly two million in grants to various research projects designed to help mitigate some of the challenges in life that those of us on the spectrum have. One common complaint of many affected by autism is the lack of funding for studies involving problems in adulthood. So one study in particular caught my eye.

Lindee Morgan, a psychologist in Florida, plans to study a social skills training protocol that deals with job interview techniques. On reading the last paragraph about the rationale of the study, it is unclear to me whether or not the study's purpose is to actually help autistics with their interviewing skills so they can more easily obtain employment:

Because this experimental treatment targets the job interview context, one aim is to evaluate whether ISC increases in targeted social communication skills, changes in adaptive behavior, and quality of life variables. Further positive changes in mental health status as a result of ISC will also be explored.

On reading this pedantically written paragraph, it is unclear to me what the purpose or rationale of this study is, period.

As has been previously mentioned, with the exception of the funding of Alex Plank's trashy autism talk TV videos and John Robison pocketing some of the cash from this endeavor, not a single person with autism, to the best of my knowledge, has ever had a paid job at autism speaks in any capacity. Gadfly wonders why more than one hundred grand could not be spent to employ some persons with autism in this stellar organization that claims to care so much about us rather than on this study with questionable and vague aims from reading the grant material on AS' website.

I concede that my expertise in most areas is limited to nonexistent. One subject I do have extensive knowledge in with nearly 28 years of actual experience, is interviewing and applying for jobs as an individual with an ASD. Though I managed to get some jobs where I was extensively interviewed, I often had a hard time due to body language, lack of eye contact and other issues. Also, the fact I had a bachelors degree in psychology and not pursuing a career in this area was also a liability that prospective employers sometimes commented on. My problems are probably not as overt on first blush as numerous others on the spectrum are. So, I was briefly able to "pass" for "a normal person".

At some jobs, the interview was not so important as assessing my ability to type for various data entry and other types of jobs where nimble fingers were an asset. In spite of my poor fine motor coordination in handwriting, I can type more than 80 words a minute and this helped. When I became more experienced in medical transcription and applied for jobs in that field, prospective employers scarcely interviewed me. They gave me tests, as someone's skill in MT is rather easy to assess to see whether or not they could make the cut before hiring them.

Upon being hired, getting the job was only half the battle. Keeping it was another story. After my problems (as said before not perceivable as first blush) came to the fore, such as funny movements, loud voice, inability to get along with some people, I was terminated from some jobs. Also, in spite of the testing process, my inability to later concentrate on the work and avoid making an excessive amount of careless errors cost me other jobs. My ability, or lack of it, in the interview process was certainly not a major factor in my employment problems.

I concede I can't speak for others on the spectrum completely but I suspect the situation is at least somewhat similar, if not identical, for many of them. Assuming this treatment successfully teaches them how to interview for a job, will they be able to keep a job after the interview? What about training for a job, such as teaching someone computer programming skills, plumbing, etc. I suspect that a number of the subjects involved in this study have no marketable skills or at least paid experience in any sort of profession that is in high demand. Therefore, they will be forced to look for unskilled work, such as a picker in a warehouse (my first job after college) or a ditch digger, etc, or any other minimum wage job you can think of.

I know from my experience that ironically enough, the unskilled jobs are sometimes the most difficult ones for a person on the spectrum to keep. After all, with more than 9% unemployment nationwide, including people who come to this country illegally from Mexico or other countries, the pool of unskilled labor is quite high and if an employer does not like someone due to behavior or poor work performance, they are easily replaced with someone else.

I wonder, for these reasons, if spending more than one hundred grand on a study to teach autistics job interview skills is money well spent. I am inclined to think not. Of course, there may be something that I am missing in this assessment.

Somehow, when I think of an organization that would give a man a half a million dollar grant who states that autism does not have the scientific status of a disease and that autistics are not dysfunctional only different and has a certain tenth grade dropout on their scientific advisory board, I am at least somewhat inclined to think this is another example of money poorly spent and a bad funding decision.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

My Lawyer dumped me

I thought I would update the few readers who have followed my posts about my long and ongoing efforts to get on disability.

My lawyer dumped me. The next step after losing an administrative law hearing and having the appeal of that decision denied is taking the case to federal district court. My attorney was working solely on a 25% contingency, meaning that if he could not win the case for me he could not make any money. He did not believe I had a strong enough case where I had a decent likelihood of winning, so he decided not to file my case in federal court.

There is a two month deadline for filing in federal court and I could still do it if I can find a lawyer who will take my case on contingency. I don't know what the chances are realistically of being able to win in federal court or an appeal to the 9th circuit court or the likelihood of the U.S. supreme court hearing my case in that event. I am not sure it is worth pursuing any further. I plan to consult with some loved ones and someone else with some expertise in this issue and then decide.

I will probably keep readers posted on updates, if any, or write "an end of the line" post if I decide not to look for another attorney or I can't find one in time to file.

So it goes.