Adam's Blog: Employment

with Asperger Syndrome

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Returning to the Workforce after 14 Years

In my post titled “My First Experience with a Group Interview” on June 8th, 2016, I mentioned the address of my current employer, The Salvation Army Anaheim Adult Rehabilitation Center. Out of the blue, I was called in for a second interview on June 23rd, 2016. Again, it was no traditional second interview. I was asked if working in a hot, un-air-conditioned warehouse would be a problem, and I said no. I do not remember the other questions due to my auditory memory issues. I was called in for orientation on July 6th, 2016, when I was asked to sign many papers, one of which read “Hire Date: July 6th, 2016”. I was paid to attend orientation, but my first day of actual work was the next day, July 7th. For the first 3 weeks I was assigned to work in Bric-A-Brac which is a department that sells predominantly decorative items. My main job was to decide if something is saleable or not, and put the item in the appropriate bin or into the appropriate price range lane on the pricing table behind me. Having a maximum of three seconds to decide what’s saleable and what’s not is a real challenge. Plus, not everything the department receives is something that belongs in the department, in which case it must be thrown into another bin. (Yes, we literally throw things into bins up to ten feet away, provided they’re not breakable, sharp, or so heavy they won’t fly that distance when thrown. As for trash, yes, we play trashketball all day everyday. It’s fun☺).

There are no customer issues because everything we sell is actually shipped to the stores to be purchased by customers. However, there is at least one difficult coworker per department. My difficult coworker in Bric-A-Brac had a short fuse with me when I was slow to remember what was to be done with a big bag of toys we received. She exclaimed in a preemptory tone, “NO! You are NOT going to dump all that in there!” (She was referring to a bin underneath the pricing table where small toys like Hot Wheels go). She was not unnecessarily raising her voice, but I almost slipped into anger. I reminded myself internally that there’s no time for my emotions at work and showing them is just going to jeopardize coworker and supervisor relationships. So I vent everything outside of work to my Westview job developer.

On August 1st, 2016 I was moved to the clothing department because they want me to work faster. They liked everything about my performance except my speed, so they decided to give me simpler work. But clothing is not that much simpler. Each article must be examined in equally as little time as the Bric-A-Brac items. If it’s saleable, it is to be placed in the appropriate pile – children’s clothing, men’s shirts, women’s shirts, men’s pants, or women’s pants. Many of the smaller shirts that might be men’s or women’s could actually be children’s or vice versa. If it’s not saleable, it goes on a conveyor belt that leads into a vertical bailer that bales the clothes. When the clothing department receives items other than clothing, each table has carts with six bins into which non-clothing items are sorted and carried to the appropriate departments by the runners. In the Bric-A-Brac department, I had to call a runner by yelling, “RUNNER!!!” But in the clothing department, the runners regularly check on the tables, and either the dumper, myself, or the other sorter working with me tells the runner what we need emptied.

There is a difficult coworker in the clothing department. Her preemptory tone is even more noticeable than my difficult coworker in the Bric-A-Brac department, and I’m literally about to remind her she is NOT my supervisor and complain to my supervisor about her attitude! I have witnessed her being snappy & barking orders at the beneficiaries, so she’s not just that way towards me. My other coworker who trained me sometimes has a bossy attitude because she doesn’t know much English. Her Spanish is way too fast for me to understand, despite my familiarity with the Spanish language for 21 years (September 5th, 1995 to the present).

Coworker issues aside, I do enjoy disconnecting from the 21st Century cyberworld for the duration of my workdays. I have identified as a 21st Century Luddite (someone who fears or dislikes certain technological advances) for at least a year now. The fast pace of the work is a challenge, but I otherwise enjoy the task. I would not want to do anything else to make my money. I hope my employment at The Salvation Army Anaheim Adult Rehabilitation Center is extended at the end of my probationary period on October 6th, 2016. Whether they fire me for being too slow or extend me, I plan to simultaneously continue my internship with Spectrum Success until January 28th, 2017 so that I’ve done it for a full year to date and it looks good on a résumé. I also believe my internship with Spectrum Success gives me the best opportunity to see how we continue to develop new ways to encourage Autistic Adults to seek employment in hopes that we become a leading name in the movement to reduce unemployment in the Autistic Adult Community from the whopping 80% it’s always been since I found out about it. My psychiatrist & I agree that having a job also rebuilds damaged self-esteem and confidence. So I am rediscovering a work ethic I always had☺.

For information about the Spectrum Success employment workshop in Orange County, contact spectrumsuccess.org@gmail.com or 951-523-7808 (only $20 per week!)

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