Why Me? More About Workplace Bullying, Office Gossip, and the Autistic Employee

First off, I want to thank my readers for being patient with me during my hiatus from the WWA blog due to illness and other personal issues. Rest assured, readers, I am back and here to stay. On that note, I’d like to pick up where I left off with this series on workplace bullying and the autistic employee.

Last time, I discussed the basics of workplace bullying: what it is, why bullies do what they do, and the effects that bullying has on employees. This time I’ll be talking about how bullies select their targets, why they may target autistic individuals, and the role that office gossip can play in both bullying campaigns and the everyday work life of an autistic employee. Continue reading

Economic Self-Sufficiency and the Autistic Community

On Monday November 29, my fiancé and I attended Ari Ne’eman’s talk at Ohio State University. The talk was entitled “Neurodiversity and the College Campus”. However, the talk seemed to introduce the topic of neurodiversity by first presenting what he called the “medical” model of disability (which looks at fixing or removing the disability) and then addressing the problem with Autism Speaks and similar organizations, which have been observed to be pro-cure and thus part of the causation-and-cure aspect of the public conversation about autism. Against the medical model, non-profit organizations addressing autism from a cause-and-cure standpoint, and some of the parents and professionals involved with autism he contrasted the idea of neurodiversity, the self-advocacy movement, and the “social” model of disability (which focuses on what it deems to be equal access for disabled people).

This was the first time I have attended a public talk about autism, neurodiversity, or any related issues and as my fiancé and I listened, some thoughts and questions came into my mind. One of these was the question of economic self-sufficiency for the autistic community.

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Workplace Bullying and the Autistic Employee, Part I: The Basics of Bullying

In my ongoing research, I recently found an article from the Workplace Bullying Institute about self-defeating stigmas held by adults bullied in the workplace. While reading the article, I began to think about my own experiences with workplace bullying and recognized some of my own shame about it.

Then, I thought about autistic adults and workplace bullying as a whole. According to a 2010 survey by the WBI, 35% of workers have experienced bullying firsthand. With estimates of autistic children being bullied as high as 90%, it’s not hard to imagine that many autistic adults have been bullied as both children and adults. And if what the WBI call a “silent epidemic” is distressing to neurotypical employees, you can imagine what kind of pain and distress it might cause for an autistic employee.

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Diagnosis: Yep, It’s Asperger’s

You’ve been around my entire life, but I’ve never seen you
until now. Everybody else saw you and christened you
crazy, nerdy, or retarded through their own lenses… But I christen you
different, with a middle name of
focus.

(from my poem, “An Open Letter to Asperger Syndrome”)

Most of you who have been following me for the last few months probably know that I was a self-diagnosed, self-identified Aspie. Earlier this year, my counselor and I had discussed the very real possibility that I had an autism spectrum disorder. I proposed Asperger Syndrome for several reasons: 1) because I was verbal before age 3 and never lost verbal ability (most with classic autism either lose verbal ability or don’t have it before age 3 or so), and 2) other symptoms, such as obsessive and narrow interests and difficulty with social cues and interaction, also fit me. My counselor agreed, and thus began my journey to an official diagnosis.

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Aspies and Workplace Issues

Normally when I’m presented with a news story about Asperger Syndrome or that in some way covers autism spectrum disorders, I choose to read it and then pass along the information to my friends and subscribers. If you’ve been following WWA, you know that I’ve been systematically tackling topics that affect the lives of many Aspies, especially Aspie women – topics that affect my own life as well. Given that, it seemed appropriate that when this article appeared on the front page of Monday’s Columbus Dispatch, I should not only comment on the article but write about my own experiences in the employment world and with trying to find a job. Continue reading