The Autism Spectrum (including Asperger’s) familiarizes itself with the external world more than ever. Those on said spectrum exceed expectations from the ones previously set on preceding generations regarding most facets of functional life.
Such functions include the all-time favorite of every civilized individual from any background: Work.
Jobs in customer service can be rather bothersome when pertaining to any person. For those on the spectrum as I, the extent of such bothers can skyrocket to unmanageable amounts of stress.
Ideally, a person with High Functioning Autism (HFA) or Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) finds him or herself in work that is quiet, predictable, and less than confrontational.
Before exploring the concept of jobs, and their association with the Autism Spectrum, allow me to elaborate (in brief) as to what it is.
The Autism Spectrum, otherwise known as the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is considered a cognitive disability in multiple variations. ASD often manifests itself in social instabilities such as one-sided conversations, not picking up on social cues, and not innately understanding social conventions and traditions. The disorder also takes place in physical and emotional forms; such forms include poor fine motor skills, sensory issues (especially in noisy environments), a narrow range of interests, an appearance of lacking empathy (not necessarily true), and everyone’s favorite *insert sarcasm here*: meltdowns.
In the above paragraph, I mentioned only the potential cons. Some of you may ask “Why?”. My reason for listing the negatives first pertains to an Aspie’s initial incompatibility with jobs in the target industry of this post.
As an example, I will use myself, provided I currently work in the grocery retail setting. As previously mentioned, one-sided conversations occur heavily, even for someone with ASD whom is taught otherwise. Working as a bagger at times, part of my job involves packing consumer’s items reasonably, and offering them help out to their vehicle as needed. When taking a customer out to his or her car, I sometimes talk that person’s ear off regarding interests that may not necessarily align with theirs. This scenario combines two quirks; the first is not reading the body language of disinterest coming from the customer, while the second is having a limited range of conversation topics, often pertaining to current fixations.
Aside from the social monkey wrenches thrown in for ASD bearers, there is also a plethora of sensory issues that are simply unavoidable when working in customer service. A prime example takes place at everyday checkout.
Though most may hear just fine, able to tune in to the customer’s voice aside from what’s around them, those on the Spectrum often have the excess stimuli drowning out the intended information they wish to take in.
This applies to not just hearing important information, but to also see and read it. Often times, if an Aspie’s senses are overloaded, he or she cannot see directly in front of them, and bear a temporary blindness. In my case, if I have been standing in one place for too long, and do not have a chance to “reset,” then when given simple requests (e.g. where an item is) I cannot respond appropriately, and become even more flustered. Inevitably, there comes a temporary blur in vision; when given a task demanding detail orientation, that task is completed with subpar standards.
In cases like these, coworkers not on the spectrum find themselves frustrated with the one that is on the spectrum. This frustration, in turn, adds to the social predicaments and limitations that the Aspie is potentially already facing. It may lead to the neurotypical coworker talking down to the Aspie, belittling him or her, and eventually enticing others to follow.
Unless managers see the problem themselves, workplace hostility involving the Aspie will continue, possibly leading to that Aspie snapping out of anger, frustration,or a flurry of other emotions invoked. Often, a blindly dedicated mindset of those on the Spectrum (I am guilty of this), will lead those to never speak up of interpersonal issues in the workplace, in fear that their hours will be cut for bearing any issues with the occupation.
A personal favorite regarding “quirks” is a supposed lacking of empathy. I can say that Aspies will not always fully connect with others emotionally, which is often indicative of their “detached” look. However, to an extent (often not as noticeable) Aspies do connect with those they engage with.
Aspies are often guilty of speaking their mind, which may be taken for being rude or offensive (and sometimes it is). However, what Aspies lack in a filter, they make up by folds in a compassionate attitude for both their associates, and the customers they interact with.
Empathy, by definition, is to feel what others feel in the current moment. But compassion, regardless of what the other person may be feeling, assumes the idea of being of emotional aid. Aspies live by the latter definition, more so than they are aware of at times.
Aspies are, undoubtedly, the more eccentric ones within the groups they partake in. Though they may initially struggle with being different, those on the Spectrum eventually learn to utilize their strengths.
From the above paragraphs, I mentioned only the weaknesses of ASD employees, and how those would pose a hindrance to the job. What I failed to mention, however, are the numerous strengths that an Aspie bears within his or her mind, and how they reflect back in the workplace.
First and foremost, those on the Spectrum are superbly analytical, often capable of solving problems with a preferred efficiency expected by managers. When faced with previous problems to solve, the Aspie will often be the first one to solve it.
One other trait that is generally cherished in any workplace, from which those on the Spectrum often possess, is an eye for detail. Those on the Spectrum, with a clear mind, can see what most other employees would overlook.
Overall, between the weaknesses and strengths, Aspies can adjust to almost any work environment related to customer service. If you are an Aspie looking for his or her first job, don’t be afraid to try this particular field. It can lead to promotions within, or pave the way toward something more suitable for you.