Training for Employers on Workplace Diversity and Asperger Syndrome

As part of our continued segment on Employment, today we bring you a sample of ASTEP’s (Asperger Syndrome Training & Employment Partnership) training offerings for Employers.

employment, employer training

Seeking employment is a crucial topic for those with Aspergers and High Functioning Autism. Let’s look at the critical tools, tips, and training for both employers hiring potential employees with Aspergers, and for those on the spectrum searching for employment. It is important to prepare yourself for the workplace, and the initial interview. By understanding the view of the employer, you can collect a set of skills and information that will help you become a desirable employee to the place of work you are applying, and a successful sustained work-life.

It is also crucial for employers to have the knowledge and tools necessary in fully utilizing and incorporating their employees with Aspergers or High Functioning Autism.

An interview is a two-way street. (A polite street, with traffic rules.)

Ask questions. The employer should, and will typically, provide an opportunity for you to ask questions at or near the end of the interview.

Always prepare questions to ask. 

Having no questions prepared sends the message that you have no independent thought process, are ill-prepared, or some combination of the two.

Employers make judgments about you based on the questions you ask. 

Have you done your research on the organization? (If yes, good.) Are you asking dull questions that you can have answered from an internet search? (Not good.) Are your questions intelligent, thoughtful and cordial? (Very good.)

How many questions to ask? 

There’s no set number. It’s not a formula. It really depends on what you need to know. A good rule of thumb is to enter an interview with three to five questions that you are prepared to discuss. You may in fact have 20 questions on your mind, but there may not be sufficient time allotted to cover that many questions. So, prioritize your questions based on the interview situation:

  • Is this the first interview? Ask for information that matters most early.
  • Is this the second interview? By now you should know the basics, so ask more probing questions.
  • Is this an all-day interview during which you are meeting with different groups and individuals? Ask questions that fit the roles of each individual and ask one question to everyone you meet with so you can compare responses.

Show you’ve done your homework. 

Example: “I read on the company website that employees recently presented at conference XX. Is that a typical opportunity in the job for which I am interviewing?”

Know the nature of the organization and appropriate terminology. 

Not all employing organizations are “companies.” Governmental agencies and not-for-profit organizations are usually not referred to as companies. Most educational institutions are not for-profit (although some are), and may call themselves schools, colleges, universities, institutions, etc. Some for-profit organizations may call themselves firms or businesses or agencies.

You will appear more prepared if you use appropriate terminology as used by the specific organization. 

Some of your prepared questions may be answered during the course of an interview. If this happens, you can simply state something to the effect that, you were interested in knowing about XX, but that was addressed during the interview and express appreciation for the thorough information you were given. You can also ask for additional clarification if appropriate.

Do not ask questions that are clearly answered on the employer’s web site or in any literature provided by the employer to you. 

This would simply reveal that you did not prepare for the interview, and you are wasting the employer’s time by asking these questions.

Good questions are open-ended, and cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” 

If you are having trouble developing questions, consider the following samples as food for thought to help you consider your own questions. However, don’t ask a question if you are not truly interested in the answer; it will be obvious to the employer.

Your questions should show your own thought process.

  • What are the company’s strengths and weaknesses compared to its competition?
  • How does upper management view the role and importance of this department and this position?
  • What is the organization’s plan for the next five years, and how does this department fit in?
  • Could you explain your organizational structure?
  • What do you most enjoy about your work with this company?
  • How have various types of decisions been made?
  • What are the various ways employees communicate with one another to carry out their work?
  • How will my leadership responsibilities and performance be measured? By whom?
  • What are the day-to-day responsibilities of this job?
  • Can you please describe the company’s management style and the type of employee who fits well with it?
  • What are some of the skills and abilities necessary for someone to succeed in this job?

Employment with ASD: Embracing Disability Hiring

CHICAGO — Seyfarth Shaw, one of the city’s largest law firms, occupies nine floors of a skyscraper at 131 S. Dearborn St. Shalonda Sanders is responsible for picking up and delivering packages on each of them, plus keeping certain areas clean. It is a job she cherishes.

“I love my co-workers, all of them,” Sanders, 35, said of the 15-member office services team of which she is a part. “Downstairs,” she said, referring to the mail center, “I consider us as one.”

Sanders, who suffered brain damage when she was struck by a car as a child, was hired at Seyfarth about a year ago with the help of Best Buddies Illinois, after many years of trying unsuccessfully to gain paid employment.

The local chapter of the national nonprofit, best known for fostering one-on-one friendships between people with disabilities and a network of volunteers, had recently launched a jobs program to place people with intellectual and developmental disabilities into competitive jobs.

Shalonda Sanders, 35, works in the mailroom delivering letters, documents and FedEx packages to law office employees at Seyfarth Shaw in Chicago. Sanders, who was hit by a car at age 9 and left with brain trauma that slurs her speech and causes some tremors, was placed in the job through Best Buddies. (Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

Shalonda Sanders, 35, works in the mailroom delivering letters, documents and FedEx packages to law office employees at Seyfarth Shaw in Chicago. Sanders, who was hit by a car at age 9 and left with brain trauma that slurs her speech and causes some tremors, was placed in the job through Best Buddies. (Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

The program, one of many attempting to tackle the massive unemployment rate among those with intellectual disabilities, is part of a movement away from what are known as sheltered programs that keep workers with disabilities apart from the mainstream workforce and often pay less than minimum wage. Its challenge is to show companies that tapping into this underused talent pool isn’t just a good thing to do, but good for the bottom line.

The Destroying Sociopath

The Monster that Seeks to Manipulate, Fracture and Demolish

It is not Aspergers nor Autism, but it’s a comorbidity that, if undiagnosed may devour, destroy and create a lifetime of chaos in the families they ‘belong’ to. A sociopath is a term used to describe someone who has antisocial personality disorder (ASPD). People with ASPD can’t understand others’ feelings. They’ll often break rules or make impulsive decisions without feeling guilty for the harm they cause. People with ASPD may also use “mind games” to control friends, family members, co-workers, and even strangers. They may also be perceived as charismatic or charming. Know this is NOT autism, it is a comorbidity commonly known as ASPD or Antisocial Personality Disorder.

The above is a clinical definition, but to those abused in the wake of their path, it reads a lifetime of pain. It is a destroyer. It’s what you pray for protection from…and it just might be a family member.

Some people respond to the emotionless stare of a skilled manipulator with discomfort, while others feel hypnotized by them.

The parent must see the signs to recognize and acknowledge their child (or self) has such symptoms. If not for the child, than for the lifetime of grief and destruction (sometimes death) the sociopath will inflict upon all family members and those in their path. Getting early treatment is vital in dealing with all aggressive mental disorders including bi-polar, schizophrenia, mania, oppositional defiant disorder and more. With appropriate diagnosis and treatment, people may find relief from their symptoms and discover ways to cope effectively.

They are compulsive liars and even if they do apologize, it’s never genuine

Sociopaths are people who have little to no conscience. They will lie, cheat, steal and manipulate others for their own benefit. They know exactly what they are doing, they just don’t care because they don’t think that way. If you are naive enough, they will brainwash you into doing exactly what they say and what they want which is the only time a sociopath is truly happy.
Sociopaths can hide this well if you haven’t known them for long. They’re really nice and charming at first, almost too nice, but it’s extremely fake. The niceness will last until a problem occurs in which they are at fault however, you will be manipulated to believe that you are in the wrong. There is no reasoning with this person. Things have to be their way or it’s the highway. They will blame you for hurting them (even if they’re the ones who hurt you) or blame the world for all their problems. They are compulsive liars and even if they do apologize, it’s never genuine. Most are anti social and have few to no friends because most people around them don’t want to associate with them. However the sociopath will again tell you that “people hate me for no reason/the world is against me”. It is said that the only person who will put up with a sociopath is someone who is off their rocker or someone who has absolutely no self respect or quite possibly, it is a relative and not so easy to disassociate.

Sociopathy is more likely the product of childhood trauma and physical or emotional abuse. Because sociopathy appears to be learned rather than innate, sociopaths are capable of empathy in certain circumstances, and with certain individuals, but not others.

The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), released by the American Psychiatric Association in 2013, lists both sociopathy and psychopathy under the heading of
Antisocial Personality Disorders (ASPD). These disorders share many common behavioral traits, which leads to some of the confusion.

Samaki Bilakichwa Studies of depression and personality disorders.

Key traits that sociopaths and psychopaths share include:

  • A disregard for laws and social mores
  • A disregard for the rights of others
  • A failure to feel remorse or guilt
  • A tendency to display violent or aggressive behavior

Sociopaths tend to be nervous and easily agitated. They are volatile and prone to emotional outbursts, including fits of rage. They are more likely than are psychopaths to be uneducated and live on the fringes of society. They are sometimes unable to hold down a steady job or to stay in one place for very long. It is often difficult, but not entirely impossible, for sociopaths to form attachments with others.

Many sociopaths are able to form an attachment to a particular individual or group, although they have no regard for society or its rules in general. Therefore, the meaningful attachments of any sociopath will be few in number and limited in scope. As a rule, they will struggle with relationships.   

One surprising aspect is to see how they enjoy other people’s pain and hardship.

Bill Eddy, LCSW, JD, Training Director of the High Conflict Institute in San Diego

Profile of the Sociopath

Common features of descriptions of the behavior of sociopaths.

  • Glibness and Superficial Charm

  • Manipulative and Conning
    They never recognize the rights of others and see their self-serving behaviors as permissible. They appear to be charming, yet are covertly hostile and domineering, seeing their victim as merely an instrument to be used. They may dominate and humiliate their victims.

  • Grandiose Sense of Self
    Feels entitled to certain things as “their right.”

  • Pathological Lying
    Has no problem lying coolly and easily and it is almost impossible for them to be truthful on a consistent basis. Can create, and get caught up in, a complex belief about their own powers and abilities. Extremely convincing and even able to pass lie detector tests.

  • Lack of Remorse, Shame or Guilt
    A deep seated rage, which is split off and repressed, is at their core. Does not see others around them as people, but only as targets and opportunities. Instead of friends, they have victims and accomplices who end up as victims. The end always justifies the means and they let nothing stand in their way.

  • Shallow Emotions
    When they show what seems to be warmth, joy, love and compassion it is more feigned than experienced and serves an ulterior motive. Outraged by insignificant matters, yet remaining unmoved and cold by what would upset a normal person. Since they are not genuine, neither are their promises.

  • Incapacity for Love

  • Need for Stimulation
    Living on the edge. Verbal outbursts and physical punishments are normal. Promiscuity and gambling are common.

  • Callousness/Lack of Empathy
    Unable to empathize with the pain of their victims, having only contempt for others’ feelings of distress and readily taking advantage of them.

  • Poor Behavioral Controls/Impulsive Nature
    Rage and abuse, alternating with small expressions of love and approval produce an addictive cycle for abuser and abused, as well as creating hopelessness in the victim. Believe they are all-powerful, all-knowing, entitled to every wish, no sense of personal boundaries, no concern for their impact on others.

  • Early Behavior Problems/Juvenile Delinquency
    Usually has a history of behavioral and academic difficulties, yet “gets by” by conning others. Problems in making and keeping friends; aberrant behaviors such as cruelty to people or animals, stealing, etc.

  • Irresponsibility/Unreliability
    Not concerned about wrecking others’ lives and dreams. Oblivious or indifferent to the devastation they cause. Does not accept blame themselves, but blames others, even for acts they obviously committed.

  • Promiscuous Sexual Behavior/Infidelity
    Promiscuity, child sexual abuse, rape and sexual acting out of all sorts.

  • Lack of Realistic Life Plan/Parasitic Lifestyle
    Tends to move around a lot or makes all encompassing promises for the future, poor work ethic but exploits others effectively.

  • Criminal or Entrepreneurial Versatility
    Changes their image as needed to avoid prosecution. Changes life story readily.

Thanksgiving Reminder: “One Size Does Not Fit All” with Autism

The holiday season is a time of friends, family, parties, food, and gifts. It is also a time of tight schedules, inter-personal drama, and occasional overspending. Yes, we all know that holiday cheer comes with its typical share of stressors, but adults with autism spectrum disorders may face a completely different set of challenges than you might expect. Specific sensory needs, unexpected social demands, and changes in routine may be overwhelming to an autistic individual during this time. As friends and families of adults with autism, we can do our part to ease these stresses and help them better cope with all of the holiday parties and family gatherings. Madison House asked advisory board member and self-advocate, Jeffrey Deutsch, Ph.D., to comment on what the public should know about autism and the holiday season. Together, we’ve come up with a list of suggestions that we hope you and your friends find helpful.

1. If you’ve met one Autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person

These sensory issues can also be directly relevant in the holiday setting. For example, a person on the spectrum might be reluctant to wear certain clothing garments or eat certain foods that are considered important for the season. In being mindful of these sensitivities, gift buying for someone with autism can be a little more challenging. When purchasing a gift for a someone on the spectrum, consider asking the individual directly what he would like, if he has any special interests, etc. If you are still unsure as to what to buy, Visa gift cards can be used anywhere Visa debit cards are accepted. This is a great option if you’d like the recipient to be able to purchase his or her own gift with flexibility similar to cash.

2. The Right to “Alone Time”

Many people on the autism spectrum are introverted. It is important to remember, especially during the holidays, that things can get overwhelming, and we all value the opportunity to duck out, go off to another room, or take a moment outside and be alone. Those who are socially oriented should take note that not everyone shares their desire for company, and even those who do may not feel like chatting at a given moment. Even with the best intentions, insisting on trying to talk to someone who has asked to be left alone or reprimanding them for being “unfriendly” may be perceived as a form of harassment. A good rule of thumb: People define “personal space” differently. Try not to apply your own definition to the person standing next to you.

3. Practice Tolerance

Be tolerant of certain behaviors even if you don’t ultimately accept them as appropriate. This means that it is okay to insist on certain standards of decorum, such as politeness. However, an individual deviating from socially acceptable norms does not necessarily indicate rudeness. It is okay to correct inappropriate behaviors, but try not to get upset at the person because his intentions might be well-meaning. Pulling the person aside privately and teaching acceptable behavior is one good way to approach this scenario.

4. Plan in Advance

People with autism have a tendency to be at their best when they know of plans in advance and when those plans are adhered to within reason. Changing plans midstream places undue challenges in a variety of different areas. Make a conscious effort to explain to our autistic loved ones how a future event will ensue as it could alleviate a stressful situation later. Dr. Deutsch provided a hypothetical scenario to explain how one with autism might experience a change in plans:

“If you first say, ‘We’ll go to Grandma’s on Thanksgiving 5-8pm’, and then, the day before Thanksgiving, say, ‘Actually, instead of going to Grandma’s house, we’ll all go to Outback Steakhouse from 7 till close,’ we may get cranky. We might have visualized our Thanksgiving in advance: first, doing whatever we do at home until it’s time to leave, then being at Grandma’s house in a familiar atmosphere (including only being around people we’ve at least met before), and then going home to watch a movie before going to bed. Now, we have to change that visualization to doing chores for a couple of hours at home, going out to what may be an unfamiliar restaurant packed with definitely unfamiliar people — who may or may not take our stimming or other habits in stride — and afterwards having to go straight to bed due to the late hour. That change may not give us time to mentally prepare.”

5. Dietary Restrictions

Many people with autism are on special diets in which they cannot consume certain ingredients such as gluten or casein. Just as you would provide options for your vegetarian friends, there is a need to make provisions for these guests. If you know that someone with autism will be attending your holiday event, ask if the individual has dietary restrictions. This way, you can prepare suitable meal options for that person and everyone can be included in the festivities.

by: Shannon Doty and Dr. Jeffrey Deutsch

Madison House Autism Foundation

Supporting women with Autism Spectrum Disorder

ABC Life / By Jodie van de Wetering

It’s not often you see someone with autism spectrum disorder in mainstream media. And when we do, these characters tend to be male, nerdy and single. Think Rain Man, Sheldon Cooper and various mean-spirited memes. Now, though, it really feels like things are changing. Women with autism are more present in writing about the condition, research, advocacy and public speaking.

A young woman standing in a field holding a large sunflower to depict supporting women with autism spectrum disorder.
Chloe is one of the young adults featured on Love On The Spectrum. Like many women, she wasn’t diagnosed with ASD until the end of primary school.(Supplied: Love On The Spectrum)

And in a great sign that society’s concept of autism is evolving, we’re meeting different genders and sexualities. In the show, the adorable first-date couple, Chloe and Lotus, mention they were diagnosed at 11 and 12 respectively. That’s late, considering specialists like to get stuck into early intervention before a child turns six, but they’re still babies compared to women whose conditions aren’t being picked up until their 30s, 40s and beyond.

For a long time, research into autism and what we knew about how it presented was largely based on men and boys, meaning girls miss out on diagnosis and therefore miss out on support they need until they’re too old to access it.

Since autism as a concept is still relatively recent, in many ways we just don’t have the framework in place to support an adult autistic population. Yet.

Finding the light after years of stumbling in the dark

A woman with curly hair sitting holding a mug and smiling

Like many women on the spectrum, writer and autism advocate Maura Campbell didn’t discover she was autistic until her son’s diagnosis, when she was 44.

“It was like taking off a corset I didn’t know I had been wearing. I could finally breathe,” she says.

Maura reflects on the how autistic women get missed in her contribution to the anthology Spectrum Women: Walking to the Beat of Autism.

Interests can serve as calming mechanisms for the brain with Aspergers

The fact that special interests can serve as calming mechanisms is largely true for neuro-typical persons as well. Think of your favorite interests outside of your job and your family.

What do you enjoy doing when left to your own devices? Some common interests include the following:

  • Reading
  • Gardening
  • Sports
  • Movies
  • Music
  • Photography
  • Exercising
  • Shopping
  • Traveling
  • Collecting Items

Whatever your interest[s] might be, you probably find them enjoyable, fulfilling, and even relaxing.  The interesting thing about interests is that one person’s most favorite activity/thing might be another person’s least favorite thing to do.

Shopping might be a relaxing and enjoyable activity for someone as they comb through racks and racks until they find that crazy deal of all deals! That very same experience might cause stress and even heart palpitations for another as they search for the nearest exit. As with most strategies, interests are highly individualized.

For persons with Aspergers, interests may take many forms and be especially intense.

WEBINAR: Driving with Autism Texas Initiative

Sign Up Here For November 21st Webinar sharing all components of this trail-blazing initiative. Oh…it’s free!

Register Online Now for the Texas Driving with Autism Webinar! The Driving with Autism initiative is a first-of-its-kind program out of Texas that is improving interactions between law enforcement and drivers diagnosed with a communication challenge. Now we want to share the entire initiative with other states, law enforcement agencies and organizations who desire to duplicate the successful program. The One-Hour webinar will be hosted by Ron Lucey, the Executive Director of the Texas Governors Committee on People with Disabilities. Join Jennifer Allen, Executive Director of Aspergers101 and the force behind the initiative, Jeremiah Kuntz, Director of Vehicle Titles & Registration of the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, and Skylor Hearn, Lieutenant Colonel of the Department of Public Safety as they cover the development and details of the program. Templates, videos and downloadables will be provided. There is no cost. A Q&A will follow the presentation.

What You Will Learn

1) “Communication Impediment” on State Driver’s License and ID: Offering this restriction code on Texas Driver License and State ID’s cover many diagnosis including Autism and the Deaf community. We will discuss all the diagnosis, the internal process and how to effectively market this message statewide via TV, radio and within every DPS Driver License Office. Templates included
2) Texas Law Enforcement Training: We will go over training materials and how Texas is reaching all it’s law enforcement agencies regarding understanding those with a communication challenge during a traffic stop. Also discussed will be overview of a medical study (poster) published on the effectiveness of the training on mental disorders with Texas State Troopers and what the findings mean to law enforcement agencies.
3) New Option for Disclosure in State Law Enforcement Telecommunication System: With the recent passage of the Samuel Allen Law, Texas drivers now have the option to place “Communication Impediment” in the Texas Law Enforcement Communication System (TLETS), which will alert officers prior to approaching the vehicle during a traffic stop. What does this mean for both officers and drivers and how did we pass legislation.
Bonus: Texas Driving with Autism Camp – Aspergers101 teamed up with Texas DPS Training Facility in Florence Texas to develop and offer it’s citizens a “Driving with Autism” Camp. This unique day long camp offers a one-to-one participant to trooper ratio, allowing participants hands-on experience with a law enforcement pull-over situation with no cost to the family or participant. We will share it components with you!
 

When: Thursday, November 21, 2019 at 10a – 11a (CST)

Presenters:

Jeremiah Kuntz
Director of Vehicle Titles & Registration @Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (TxDMV)
Jennifer Allen Founder & CEO Aspergers101 & “Driving with Autism’ initiative

Skylor Hearn Lt. Colonel @Texas Department of Public Safety

Overview of the Texas Driving with Autism Initiative:

KXAN -TV Sept 2019: Texas Driving with Autism Initiative





Q & A with Dwayne Dixon at VSW Productions

Artist, Writer, Director and college student Dwayne Dixon possess the talents of many diagnosed with Aspergers. Though Dwayne does not have Aspergers, he is a strong example of utilizing what talents/intense interests you do have into a passionate living! He and his production team from New York are always on the scout for voice talent (see contact info at end of blog) and recently enlisted Sam (my son with Asperger Syndrome) for a part in a working program titled: Kuro ni Fedo. We caught up with Dwayne during his hectic schedule to ask some questions about VSW Productions, his aspirations and his advice for those on the spectrum.

Brief Background: VSW (Vendetta Spying Wolf) Productions is a non-profit production crew made up of college students who have an interest in voice acting, animation, etc. The latest project is a series titled Kuro ni Fedo. We caught up with VSW owner Dwayne Dixon to learn more of the behind- the- scenes makings in his fan fiction animation.

Aspergers101:  Hello Dwayne and welcome to the Aspergers101 Community! Tell us about your talents and how you pooled them with some of your New York college friends to form VSW Productions.

Dwayne Dixon: Hello to you too and thank you for having me. To begin answering that I must first rewind the clock a little. When I was younger I would always draw characters from certain cartoons that I enjoyed. I’ve been given compliments in response to my art. It made me feel good so I kept practicing. Honing my skills I’ve meet up with my co-writer/best friend from High School and due to having common interest we decided to write the story to Kuro ni Fedo; which stands for Fade to Black in Japanese.

Aspergers101: What kind of projects are VSW Productions currently working on?

Dwayne Dixon: Still early to the whole Production aspect we don’t have a lot of projects out yet but we’re mostly working on Kuro ni Fedo since the illustrations and the voice work takes the longest of our time. But I also have another project in mind that could possibly be a live action short film that will even involve those that aren’t close by. Such as those who voice outside of the state of New York. VSW Productions doesn’t try to leave anyone out.

Aspergers101: Who writes the copy, produces the music, illustrates and edits for Kuro ni Fedo?