Autistic Workers Project
by Mona Pereth
One of the types of groups the autistic community needs, in my opinion, is groups of autistic (and autistic-like1) workers in particular categories of professions / occupations / jobs (or who aspire to same). Examples:
- A group of computer professionals (and aspiring computer professionals). Hopefully some members of this group (including myself) can create a good online platform that can help the other groups below get organized too.
- A group of lawyers and other legal professionals (and aspiring legal professionals).
- A group of accountants, financial analysts, etc. (and people who want to work in those fields).
- A group of people who work, or want to work, in health-related professions.
- A group of autistic autism professionals! (Personally I think it would be highly desirable for the staff of all services for autistic children to be about 50% autistic at all levels of the hierarchy -- although it's desirable for NTs to be involved too, ideally paired with autistic staff members.)
- A group of people who work, or want to work, in civil service -- which has traditionally been a relatively friendly environment for unpopular minorities of all sorts.
- A group of people who work, or want to work, in skilled trades (auto mechanics, electricians, plumbers, etc.)
- A group of autistic small-business owners and co-owners.
The existence of some of these groups would make it easier for autistic-friendly workplaces to recruit autistic workers, and would thereby also make it easier for the groups' members to find work in autistic-friendly workplaces. The groups could even facilitate the creation of some autistic-friendly workplaces in the first place. (See the Wrong Planet thread on Autistic-friendly workplaces.)
The proposed groups could also function as a support network for those members who have, or are seeking, jobs in traditional NT-dominated workplaces as well. In some cases (e.g. the group for civil service workers), the groups could collaborate with any disability-related advocacy services offered by relevant labor unions, and/or could perhaps aid labor unions in the creation of said services.
Other disability communities are similarly organized by professional / occupational category. For example, the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) has lots of Divisions, Committees, and Groups, many of which are occupation-based.
Unlike the NFB, however, I don't think occupation-based groups for autistic people should all be part of one big organization. Instead they should be part of a looser network. While some of us can do a reasonably good job of leading small groups, I doubt that very many of even the best leaders among us can cope well with the politics of a large organization. The loose-network-of-smaller-groups approach has worked well for at least some other kinds of minority communities, such as the LGBT community.
Ideally, each occupation-based group could also have a "Friends and Family Auxiliary" or something similar, enabling some (mostly NT) parents, spouses/partners, etc., to help out with fund-raising, business networking, and other aspects of running the group that may be especially difficult for the autistic peer leaders.
As I envision them, both the occupation-based autistic worker groups themselves and their friends-and-family auxiliaries would exist primarily online (as forums and chats) with occasional local in-person events. Online chats could include both text-based chats and audio chats, to accommodate the differing communication needs of different work-capable autistic people.
To help all these groups get started, I plan to (1) create, together with some other members of the hopefully-forthcoming computer professionals group, an online platform that will facilitate the creation of these various groups, and (2) introduce people in the same or closely-related professions to each other, as I happen to get to know them, e.g. via the support groups I attend.
It will be a while before the above-mentioned online platform can be created. In the meantime, if you are interested in being introduced to autistic people who work, or want to work, in a particular professional / occupational category, with the eventual aim of being one of the founding members of a group, feel free to contact me.
"Autistic-like" is not a clinically-defined term. Anyone who feels that they face the same problems as autistic people can identify as "Autistic-like," similar to the term "cousin" as used by the first autistic adult organization, the Autism Network International. (See Autism Network International -- The Development of a Community and Its Culture by Jim Sinclair, 2005. See also Reviving the concept of cousins by Mel Baggs, 2016.)
Featured page: Where to get an ASD evaluation as an adult.
It's not easy to find psychotherapists who are qualified to diagnose autism spectrum disorder, especially in adults.
On the above-linked page is a preliminary list of places where some members of local support groups obtained their diagnoses. Soon this list will be updated to include many more places and, for those already listed, more information about insurance, other reduced-cost options, etc.