I am on the autism spectrum, and here’s why you should hire me
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I am on the autism spectrum, and here’s why you should hire me

Guest Post by Nathaniel Major, Intern at Pacific Gas and Electric Company

Originally posted on LinkedIn, July 20, 2015

Nathanial Major at LinkedInThis past Friday, I was invited to speak at the LinkedIn office in San Francisco at an event hosted by EnableIn, the LinkedIn employee resource group for people with disabilities. EnableIn hosted this event to educate employees about the autism spectrum, and to discuss how LinkedIn and other companies can create employment opportunities for people with disabilities globally.

Over the last five years I have been speaking up for autism on a peer to peer level with an initiative I call Project Speak Up. Each individual on the spectrum is unique. We have a wide range of abilities and interests. I can’t speak for everyone with autism, but I think by sharing my story I can give people some insight into the realities of autism.

In my EnableIn presentation, I emphasized that innovation is just looking at things in a new way. I pointed out that two of the most innovative minds in history, Albert Einstein and Nicolo Tesla had personality traits and communication deficits that could be considered to be on the spectrum. I then asked the question, what if Einstein or Tesla applied to your company? Would their quirky behavior, social awkwardness and difficulty with communication make it challenging for them to even get past the first interview?

Strong, Positive Characteristics

I believe that people and companies in general are open to understanding and accepting people on the spectrum, they just don’t have the most accurate information or direct experience. So, I talked about some of the common characteristics of autism, how they affect me, and my experiences in high school and in college. But my primary goal was to describe that even though we may vary widely in abilities, interests, and aptitudes, we have many positive characteristics that make us strong employees. We typically have strong mathematical, technological, and/or musical abilities. This may be due to the way our brains are organized, but we are particularly good at logical reasoning. We have great concentration skills, we are precise with details, and have a commitment to getting it right. We are also very good at solving repetitive tasks, and because we see the world so black and white, we are very good at understanding and retaining concrete concepts, patterns, and rules. We have excellent working memories that help us to hold on to information, facts and statistics, and continue to process them. We may miss some of the subtleties, but we see the world very clearly.

My own work experience is limited.

Last year I completed an AA in Communications and a Bookkeeping Certificate of Proficiency from Foothill College. Just recently, I completed a twelve-week training program at The Specialists Guild here in San Francisco. The program at TSG is a job-training program for people on the spectrum that focuses on computer program quality assurance testing. The program focuses on QA testing because it is often a good fit for people on the spectrum based on our attention to detail, precision and focus. I was part of an eight person training group that ranged in age and experience, but we are all on the spectrum. For me, this was my first experience with coding other than one computer science class. I learned so much during the program, but I didn’t quite master the skills necessary to become a paid intern for the program. And to be honest with you, I am not sure if QA testing is the right fit for me.

Not all people on the spectrum are intensely into computers and coding. I do have strong computer skills and I am really capable, but I use my computer as a tool. It is not my total focus and only way to communicate.

I am part of a spectrum.

I have some strong skills at the high end and some challenges that make life really difficult at times. However, like many others on the spectrum, with patience and understanding, and with some accommodation, I know that I have exceptional talents to contribute and would make an excellent employee.

Project Speak Up

If you are interested in learning more about Project Speak Up, follow me at www.facebook.com/ProjectSpeakUp

Newsletter Articles – October 2015

Reese and mentor at Holiday Inn

It may surprise you to hear what I have found to be the biggest challenge for young adults with disabilities as they move through the transition into the working world. You might guess it is something like struggling with learning new tasks at work, or having difficulty engaging with co-workers or supervisors. Maybe even the process of applying and interviewing seems like an insurmountable task. But, no, I would say that while these things might pose some challenges, they are areas that can typically be addressed and overcome through individualized attention and support.

Dealing with adult problems with a learning difference

This story is about the independent person I am today, who is more comfortable in his own skin, and the struggles I went through to become that person. I’m sure we have all tried to become more independent and we’ve gone through struggles, but in all different ways. The funny thing is that no matter how different our journeys are, at the core, the need and desire are essentially the same.

Disability disclosure in the workplace

Disability disclosure in the workplace is a personal choice to be decided by each individual. At CLE, we give our students the information and understanding to decide for themselves what to do when it comes to disclosure. For some, disclosure means being understood and assisted by their employers and co-workers. For others, disability disclosure might be undesirable; being a part of team without a focus on differences is the kind of work experience that these students are looking for.

We spoke with several of our students in the career program and asked them about their choices in disability disclosure. The answers were as varied as our students and it really does show how much the individual’s perception and personality affect their choice.

Deciding to disclose disability at the workplace

We set off to discover a few things about the beliefs of our students. We are particularly interested in how they view the word disability. In the course of the conversations we had with five students we discussed issues related to disability in the workplace including the nature of a disability, disclosure and accommodation. There was a range and a similarity of views among our students on what disability is.

Cal at CLE - Standup Comedy

Sometimes the traditional Monday-Friday, 8-5 work week is just not the best option for people. This is particularly the case for CLE students who may be trying to balance school, CLE appointments and transportation issues. This predicament can be further complicated for some students due to physical constraints and mobility issues. Cal Sheridan of CLE Denver is one of those students where a conventional career pathway will not be the best fit. Cal has Cerebral Palsy, so the ease with which others move around and verbally communicate at the workplace is not the same for him. As Cal put it to me quite candidly in our career advising session, “It is not like I am going to have a job working in a grocery store. I don’t even bag my own groceries. If someone were to ask me for help with their groceries I would have to find someone to help me help them!”

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This has been a special needs program update from College Living Experience | CLE | Choose Your Future. You may also click here to read the original article on the main program website.