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Roger N. Meyer "...of a different mind "
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San Francisco, CA
Copyright 2004 © Roger N. Meyer
All Rights Reserved


    Good morning.  I'd like to thank our conference host for the kind introduction.  As I worked on this speech, I realized that I usually give a very rambling and incoherent self-introduction.  I'm grateful that someone else agreed to do that for me.


    I hope that this speech will lead comfortably into the presentations of the AUTASTICS panel immediately following me, and the contributions of Mr. Clay and Kari Dunn Baron and the focus groups scheduled for this afternoon.


    I'd like to cover two areas in this first address to you this morning.


[SLIDE 1:]    



Employment Issues and Resources

AS Support Groups




    Since we have a jamb-packed schedule this morning, I'd like to start off, albeit abruptly, into the first topic:  Adult employment.



    Adult Employment


    During the first half of this speech, I'll cover some of the issues that present challenges to us in the workforce.


    [SLIDE 2:]  





Self-Guide Workbook for Mature Adults


Written for Late-Diagnosed Adult




    I'm not going to toot my horn very loudly about my own book.  The reason is very simple.  It's old news.  I may have been the first writer to address AS adult employment, but recently, within the last year, there have been two excellent books on adult employment for Aspies, and all I can say is "Thank God for them!  It's about time."


    My book differs in two respects from the two new books on employment that will just be hitting the bookstores next month.  I'll be introducing those new books to you at the end of this part of the speech.


    First, my book is a self-guided workbook for mature adults who've had some experience in the world of work.  At the time I wrote it there were almost no professionals who understood adult Asperger Syndrome and adult issues. There still are very few who do.


    Second, my book addresses just some of the issues of understanding ourselves as late diagnosed AS adults.  Many adults who use my book are self-diagnosed.  For any number of reasons, these readers may not seek formal diagnosis or professional, employment-issues related counseling.


    If we are employed but referred to counseling by our employer, the referral may be a warning that we are fast working outselves out of our jobs.


    I know that the few times my bosses and my union business agent recommended counseling I failed to take the hint.  Shortly thereafter, I was out the door.


    Seeking appropriate help from others is something most of us don't do very well on our own. That's evident in many of the autobiographies of adults who describe their life on the autistic spectrum.  Many successful Aspies, those with advanced degrees or custom-designed careers still have trouble asking for help.


    What's going on here?  Why do we have such trouble?


    There are three main reasons why.


    I know I risk offending some Aspies in the audience, but I beg you to hear me out.


    These reasons are on the next slide.


    [SLIDE 3:]    





Great Intellect - Lousy Common Sense! 


Getting Help:












    We're bright.


    We're intellectual.


    We're "in our heads" a lot.


    But most of us lack common sense.  My friend Stephen Shore calls the way he's learned common sense is to have it pounded into his head by people he trusts.


    He describes his process as the "cranio concussive method."


    [Bang Open Hands Side of Head]




    I lack a lot of common sense.  But, I deliberately put myself in new situations where I must exercise it.  If I don't know what's going on, I ask.  If I don't know how to do something,  I observe others, and if don't "get it" I ask them to show me. This adds to my data bank.  Then after the lesson or the experience is over, I ask people how I did.


    And I listen to what they say.


    Their feedback goes into my data bank as well.


    I still have residual concerns about flubbing it.


    All the time.


    Those concerns hold me back.  There are still lots of things I don't dare try. I know that for each one not tried, I'm losing an opportunity to learn.


    Learning new things empowers me to choose answers from among multiple choices.  Understanding those choices, I'm able to make my own decisions more efficiently.


    If many of us take pride in our intellect, we can also take pride in becoming more efficient problem-solvers.


     Two other observations about our intellect and our problems with common sense.


    First.  Many of us Aspie adults don't learn well from our mistakes.  We end up with permanent "brick wall indentations" in our foreheads.  You know, from banging our heads into the wall.


     Maybe that's funny in cartoons, movies and slapstick comedy.  It isn't funny in real adult life.


    [SLIDE 4:]   






The Frank Sinatra Syndrome


  • Action  /  Inaction

  • No Information  /  Incuriosity 

  • Aspie Arrogance

  • Wallowing in Asperger Syndrome



    For all kinds of reasons, many late diagnosed mature adults are less willing to have others help us, such as vocational rehabilitation counselors, job developers and job coaches.


    We've been out in the world a long time and like Frank Sinatra, we want to do it "our way."


    Sinatra's "I do it my way" implies ACTION. He was a man of ACTION.


    Unfortunately, many of us don't act.  We don't act or react for any number of reasons.  There's no reason to go into all of them here.


    Here, I refer to an attitudinal spectrum for Asperger Syndrome adults ranging from simple lack of information to incuriosity to outright Aspie arrogance.


    Inaction has consequences.  If we're talking about work, these are BIG consequences for not taking action.  For instance, for the most part, if you don't look for work, you don't get hired.


    Aspie arrogance is a special problem for some folks.  Many of us are "too good" or "too smart" for lots of things, and we let others know that immediately.  If they don't know that by the time they are booting us out of the door, maybe we tell them THEN.  Either way our "smarts" have gotten us into trouble.


    There are two additional down-sides to Aspie arrogance.


    First, we get reputations as "know-it-alls"  In the non-Aspie world, being a know it all" isn't a good thing.  It is not cool in most work situations.


    Second, we violate boundaries all the time.  We are perceived as people with big noses...always butting into other people's business when we're not asked and not welcome.  People resent this and they fire us because of this behavior.


    This kind of arrogance has life-changing consequences.  If we stick with it, our lives don't change for the better.  They often change for the worse.


    Let's talk about "Wallowing in our Asperger Syndrome" just a bit.


    When I first started to learn about my own flavor of Asperger Syndrome, some of the first places I went to were Internet discussion groups.  Two of them stand out.


    One was huge list of a parents of AS children.  I was one of the few "adults with" on that list.  There was a lot of sharing, celebration, and joy on that list.  I will be forever grateful to the parents on that list who helped me understand my childhood.


    Another discussion discussion group is an all HFA/AS list.


    There is celebration and joy on this list as well.  I still read the list.  I don't post to it any more.  I don't have time.  I've "moved on."  I've gotten beyond my personal need to make sense of my past and gaze at my navel.  The real world is out there.  It isn't in cyberspace.


    There is also something else going on.


Some AS adults "wallow in" their Asperger Syndrome.  They can't stop talking about their condition.  They can't stop talking to others about their condition.  These folks tend to be interesting on the first meeting, and boring to others every meeting after that.


    They live the life of a broken record..  They seem unwilling or unable to "let go" and move on in their adult lives.


    They appear more as floaters carried along by the tide than as swimmers.


    For many individuals on that second Internet discussion list I mentioned, they are mired, stuck, ruminating about their Asperger Syndrome.  They are virtual reality junkies.


    They celebrate "Doing it their way."  They are all Frank Sinatra's.  But with

a difference.


    For the most part, their way does not involve ACTION.  It starts and stops with thought.


    Lots of AS adults confuse time spent in the "virtual company" of others for the real thing.


    My definition of the real thing?  Living in the flesh and blood and bricks and mortar world of other human beings.


    One  real life place where lots of adults hang out is the world of work. So, let's return to the topic of work and employment issues.



[SLIDE 5:]        







  • Some of us know we have it

  • Some of us don't know what "attitude means

            even if we know we have it

  • Some of us a truly clueless and unaware



    By the first bullet point, I mean we know we have a bad attitude towards work..  We believe that without having to prove ourselves just like everyone else, that we have a right to work, but not just "work in the abstract."  That we do, of course.  No.  We believe we have a right to a particular job, or a particular position.


    This attitude is very "Aspie."


    But we don't change it.  We hold on to it.


    Some of that's stubbornness.  Some of it's pride.  Some is Aspie arrogance.


    By the second bullet point, I mean some of us have been told we have "attitude."  Do the "lights go on"?  For some of us, I must report that they don't. We don't connect the dots between our having an attitude and our troubles with work..


    By the third bullet point: Others of us simply aren't aware of our attitude.  When people "hint" that we have an attitude, we "don't get it."  Their comments fly "under our radar" or "over our heads."


    If you've stayed with me so far, I hope you can see where I'm going.


    Something has to shift here, and it isn't anything "outside."


    It's inside.


    As Aspies, we get stuck in thought patterns or routines that don't work well.


    Many of us have truly limited imagination about how to get out of this stuck



    There are echoes of the Frank Sinatra "I do it MY WAY" here.



    We need HELP.


    [SLIDE 6:]           







  • Do it as you consult with employment specialists

  • Seek out Asperger Syndrome adult counselors


           (Portland AS Study Group)


  • The "underground" of Aspie Counselors



    As an employment consultant, I advise AS adults "stuck" in this way that before they can expect work from others, they must do personal work on themselves.


    I am a good information and referral specialist.


    That's part of my value to my own community.  I know who does good work, who offers the best deal.


    I follow through on my referrals.  I do comprehensive, wrap-around case management for some individuals and their families where pointing out the path or holding open the door isn't enough.


    Good VR counselors will recommend our doing personal work as they continue to work with us.


    My first VR counselor did, and I'm grateful to him.  He supported my requests for self-improvement courses and professional development courses.


    For some of us :"Seek Personal Counseling" is hard advice to hear.  We're desperate about our employment and income situations and want a quick fix.


    Our families are pressuring us to make decisions.


    Or we want someone else to do all the work to find us a job.


    I'm a job developer.


    For ethical reasons, I will not do that.


    Here's why.


    People who are desperate are often impulsive.


    They may also blame others for things only they can correct.


    I won't allow them to indulge themselves that way.


    I will support their strengths and their potential.  But I'll also work with them to build their strengths and their potential.


    A final reason I'm so strong on self-understanding is that personal knowledge of how you think and how you act then empowers you to be your own best advocate.


    Learning things, often the hard way, has made me a better self-advocate.


    Learning about myself has also made me a better advocate for others who pay me for my services.




    We're lucky in Portland, where I live.  For the past three and a half years, a licensed clinical social worker colleague and I have met regularly with psychological clinicians and other counselors to develop best counseling practices in working with Asperger Syndrome adults.


    Ours is the only multidisciplinary group we know of that is doing this.


    We meet monthly to discuss issues that materially interfere with AS adults' ability to work and manage the rest of our lives at the same time.  As we discuss our cases, we often discover we have clients in common.  From our combined disciplines and our work with each other over the years, we hope soon publish a thin volume for counselors specializing in work with AS adults.


    There is a growing body of counseling professionals who do really "get" AS.  You might be surprised at the number of counselors who have discovered that indeed they are a "bit of this and a bit of that," including Asperger Syndrome.


    If they aren't AS themselves, there may be members of their families who are.


    To use a shopworn cliché and gussy it up a bit, "It takes one to REALLY know one."


    Shifting gears slightly, we're down to the last few comments about employment and resources.


    Within the next couple of months there will be at least four books on the market that address personal self-help for us and very practical guidance to employment professionals.


    As well as my own book, I've listed them in the next  two slides



    [SLIDE 7:]                      





Roger Meyer, Asperger Syndrome Employment    Workbook (2001),  Jessica Kingsley Publishers


Wendy Lawson, Build Your Own Life - a Self-Help Guide for Individuals with Asperger's Syndrome (2003), Jessica Kingsley Publishers



    This first slide lists my own book.  Just below my book information I've listed a very valuable self-help personal guide by Wendy Lawson.  I've included both books for adults who want to do as much self-guided employment and personal self-discovery exploration as you can. We both recommend seeking the assistance of others when it's needed. Most importantly, both of us recommend that AS folks listen to other folks who tell them that seeking personal-work assistance from others is need.


    Here's a simple example.  If you drive and own a car, and know little about fixing cars...if your car has something wrong with it that prevents you from getting about, do you go out, buy a bunch of tools, and become an "instant mechanic?"  The answer for most of us is, "NO."  We take it to a mechanic.  In other words, we recognize our limitations, and we seek help in an efficient, adult-like manner.  Yes, trying to fix the car yourself makes "logical sense." But in this case, it makes little common sense.


    And common sense is fuel that the world runs on.  Common sense sets a high value on efficiency of effort and getting things done so that folks can move on to take care of other business.



    [SLIDE 8:]        





Temple Grandin and Kate Duffy, Developing Talents - Careers for Individuals with Asperger Syndrome and High Functioning Autism (May 2004) Autism/Asperger Publishing Company


Gail Hawkins, How to Find Work that Works for People with Asperger Syndrome (May 2004), Jessica Kingsley Publishers



    This slide introduces two new books that are just about to hit the market.


    The first is co-authored by Temple Grandin.  Temple's book is a "must read" for first timers and young adults making decisions about the world of work..


    The second book is by Gail Hawkins,  This is the first book of its kind that offers an entire training course within its covers to job developers and retention and support specialists. There is nothing else out there like this book. As an experienced job developer myself, I am grateful that Gail has provided me with a clear, unambiguous curriculum and a cornucopia of "how to" tips.


    I believe that adults with AS have a much better chance for meaningful employment when they work with independent job developers and contract specialists who understand AS and have the counseling and training skills in place to work with us. I personally believe it is a better use of limited state resources for VR counselors to contract with such specialists very early in our relationships with VR.


    With these last two slides, I now close the first half of my presentation and move on to the second topic, adult support groups.


I'm going to ask for your indulgence during the rest of this speech.  The material I am about to present comes straight from my second book.  For that reason, I am not going to use power point slides here.  I am exercising my author's prerogative to protect my material.  This speech, then, is a draft.  It's a first draft, and like all first drafts, is subject to change.


    I'm going to be speaking quickly here, and I have a lot to cover.  If you find this material interesting enough, I hope you buy the book.



    [At this point, due to the late start of the conference, it wasn't possible to start this part of the presentation.  Aspects of it were shared with individual members in conversation when the opportunity presented itself later on in the day.


    The afternoon was spent conducting an employment workshop  for the better part of ninety minutes with approximately 35 attendees.  My remarks were supplemented by those of the San Francisco/Marin County regional Vocational Rehabilitation Director.]



Copyright Issues


    This article is copyright, all rights reserved by the author, Roger N. Meyer.  It may be reproduced in single copy once for personal use, and in no more than ten copies total for educational purposes.  Fair Use is authorized for all purposes and under conditions established by US Statute and the International Copyright Convention, to which the United States is a signatory nation.  No person shall publish, distribute, copy, or by other means make this material available to others for purposes of personal gain or professional self-aggrandizement.  Individuals wishing permission to exercise other than fair use or limited distribution as outlined above must contact the author, in writing, and receive explicit written permission from the author prior to engaging in further use of this material.


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