Autism\Neurodivergent in the workplace


by Cath Cross

I’m writing this heartbroken and on the verge of crying. My son, 29, is on his second job in one year. Last spring, he quit his dishwasher job, as he was too stressed out having been working there for six months or more watching other dishwashers come and go in quick succession, while he stuck it out. He left for what he had hoped would be a great job at a marina. They liked him and he liked them, a perfect fit. Except, because of his “exceptionality”, he lost the job after one week. He was too slow and was continually making mistakes. This is a man who was in an honours program at university and worked rush hours at a restaurant. He needed a job coach.

Looking for one was one hell of a learning curve. At first, no one knew what a job coach was. We called everywhere. No one had any clue what it was. We had to school them on what the job would consist of. 

The area job centre where we live (Kemptville area) found another job for him. It came highly recommended. It started out amazing, but soon turned into a job from hell. His supervisor, who was so supportive at the start, began to bully him and spread rumours and lies about him. He needed a job coach fast but even that wouldn’t be enough. But he would keep the job he desperately needed. After chasing down so-called advocates, he was told he was ‘too high functioning’ to get one. I raised hell, and he finally got one, but he had to pay for her out of his own pocket. So, to keep the job, he needed the job coach. To keep the job coach, he had to work.

Even with the job coach, he lost the job in mid-January, a few months after his supervisor harassed his job coach with all sorts of drama. He went on Employment Insurance after chasing down the powers that be in the job he just lost so that he could go on EI. 

My son is far from lazy; during this time, he was working with a committee to arrange an event about neurodivergent adults’ struggles. He wanted to finish his degree in Mass Media, and he wanted to be a writer, which he was very good at. Plus, he was helping us (father and I) with our acreage and horses.

So he spent the last two months chasing job leads, going nowhere. His contact in the job centre moved on. They had had a terrific relationship. She helped keep up his spirits. He had another person help him look for jobs too. Kemptville had a job fair, my son and his male advocate attended. The advocate wanted to try to get the job at the marina back, but the company didn’t have a booth at the fair. There were other jobs, but not many that he could do – manual labour. My son applied for all that he could, but only one got back to him. 

He went to the interview and followed through with the police check and TB testing (the job is cleaning at a seniors care home). He did the training. Through the two weeks, he tried to reach his previous job coach to no avail. On Thursday, March 20, he began the job. He called me at 9:40, already shaken up. There was too much to remember and, to top it off, the woman who was his job coach from the workplace from hell wasn’t doing job coaching anymore, there was someone else doing it, but the new person wasn’t in today. Once again, my son was out of luck. I told my son to explain everything re the job coach situation to his new bosses. Meanwhile, I chased down his advocate to see if he (the advocate) is a job coach. Luckily, the advocate is, but he is two weeks behind in my son’s job prospects, due to the fact my son was chasing a job coach he no longer had and didn’t know that. The male advocate and my son are back in communication. Whether or not my son can keep getting hours at the care home while the new job coach catches up on things remains to be seen. 

I’m neodivergent, and I didn’t have to jump through all these hoops to get these so-called ‘supports’. Maybe that’s why I was employed for the last 30+ years. As well, how can I encourage my other child to seek employment when they start out? Is there any reason to? Does any of this mean that my 60 year old husband will always be the only wage earner in this household? These are the questions that go around in my head.

Society is already aware of Autism, but acceptance is not even close. How many generations have to endure this before we can live a productive and happy life


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