Autism Complicates the Path to Employment

Employment history and various job searches demonstrate how difficult it has been for me to locate and retain employment.

In September, Slate carried the following article by Sarah Carr, using "Leigh" as an example of the hurdles facing autistic adults.
The Tricky Path to Employment Is Trickier When You're Autistic
Autistic children grow up to be autistic adults. Our society doesn't give them the support they need.
By Sarah Carr  Leigh epitomizes the underemployed. The 39-year-old has a master's degree in library science from a top-ranked school, years of experience working the circulation desk in a Boston library, and an IQ of 145. He is reliable and considerate, and he works hard.  Yet for the past eight years, since he lost his salaried Boston library job due to austerity measures, the only permanent job Leigh has landed is at the T.J. Maxx near his mother's home on Cape Cod. He works part time dusting, vacuuming, and washing the mirrors, and he is paid t…

Smile, the Photographer Said

"Smile," the photographer kept directing me.

"I am," I kept replying.

"Look at the girls and smile."

"I am. How could I not be smiling?"

On the way home, our five-year-old foster daughter asked why Daddy can't smile. I smiled. Or so I thought.

My wife finally explained, "If Daddy can't see his face, his brain thinks he's smiling but he isn't. He has to really work at it. It's called paralysis. The doctor broke Daddy, remember?"

And in that moment, I had a flashback to an annual review meeting when a department chair said I didn't smile or seem happy and probably wasn't a good fit within the program. It was the start of a very rapid decline at that job.

Everything I hate about being judged by social skills.

My voice, my facial expressions, my gestures… so many things I try to control yet fail to control properly.

When we tell autistics or other disabled people they need to "Be happy! Smile!…

Holiday Survival Mode

Holidays offer a number of challenges for individuals with sensory processing challenges. For me, the lights and sounds of the holidays can lead to migraines and tremors, along with a general sense of overload.

Imagine being a child without the ability to escape the sights, sounds, smells, and touches of the holidays. Blinking lights (and often too many or too bright); sirens and party sounds; smells of baking, fireplaces, and fragrances; everyone seems to wants hugs and handshakes, if not kisses. It is an overwhelming holiday.

We have two little ones with sensory processing issues and other special needs. I rarely write about them on the blog. I wanted to share that not only must we plan strategically for my special needs, but we must also plan for their needs as children.

First, tell people about the sensory challenges. Eventually, I either have to leave a party or will have a stress meltdown. Telling people that crowded, loud spaces can be a problem might let hosts know that …

Television Autistics

Parenthood (2010 TV series) (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Television now includes a surprising number of autistic and possibly autistic characters. We've already had shows with autistics (The Bridge, Touched, Alphas, Elementary, Parenthood, and more). There seem to be more, now, or maybe that's merely my perception.

I am not impressed with this trend. As with the novel and play, __Curious Incident__, the characters seem like a collection of assumptions about autism. Not horrible, but too reliant on shallow understandings of atypical neurologies and savant personalities.

An expert consultant? A specialist? Maybe even an autistic person offering some opinions regarding scripts or even on set. But, generally, the characters feel superficial.

Atypical is just bland and lousy, with or without the geeky boy in search of sex (or love). I simply don't like the characters. If it weren't pitched as a show about autism, maybe it wouldn't be streaming.

The Good Doctor trie…

School is Social (and Academic)

Navigating school requires social skills, and often the most successful academically are also successful socially.

Despite the stereotypes of jocks and nerds, geeks and goths, consider actual data. To participate in athletics, a minimum GPA is required. I recall the star athletes from my high school and today those individuals are doctors, lawyers, and teachers. They were involved in student government, and later joined organizations at their colleges and universities.

The "privileged" students had time to participate in sports, music, drama, and student government. They were raised in reasonably secure and successful households. They understood the rules of high school and, later, the universities. The balanced academic and social skills, leading to academic and professional success for themselves after high school.

The student who can feign admiration for a teacher or professor? She does well, for some reason. Teaching assistants at the university particularly seemed to…

Another Degree of Overqualified

Earning the MFA in Film and Digital Technology proved a challenge, in many ways. We had medical emergencies (including surgeries for both my wife and me), family emergencies, and the general financial stress of a graduate degree. There were long nights and weekends spent working on projects and papers, trying to add to my marketability so I might earn some money to contribute to the household.

I now possess the MA, MFA, and PhD pieces of paper. My areas of specialization are the economics of media and portrayals of economic issues in the media. I'm interested in how we discuss economics and find it fascinating that an expensive industry (media) that embodies capitalism finds itself conflicted. More narrowly, I'm fascinated by the visual aspects of digital media and how those are used to engage in persuasion.

There isn't a huge demand for the rhetoric of economics, especially within visual rhetoric. It's a small field, dominated by a few names. You need an appreciat…

Thirty Years Ago...

Thirty years ago, I was preparing to move to Los Angeles to attend USC. If I could tell myself what I know now…

1) Do not drop the physical sciences degree four units short! The English and journalism degrees won't get you far.

2) Do not drop the computer science degree, either. Sure, the courses are boring and you will do more interesting stuff at work in the computing center, but darn it… uhg!

3) Do not pursue the teaching credential. It isn't going to happen, so stop it. Now! (And you'll keep repeating this teaching career mistake. Get over it.)

4) Do more than work and study. Two years at the Daily Trojan and nobody will remember you because you didn't hang out or attend any events. That's not how to network. Clips alone aren't the ticket.

5) Enjoy LA more. You'll miss it later. Riots, earthquakes, and all, you'll always consider LA "home" in some way.

I graduated in 1990, after three years, with the fall 1990 semester for my pr…