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.)