Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Take the Focus off Autism

Those on the autism spectrum are known for their hyperactive focus. This is the sort of focus which impedes with the perception and interaction of the surrounding world.  Now, employers such as SAP are recognizing the potential value of these individuals with autism and filling tech positions with those on the spectrum.  However, the reason this works is not because the focus is placed on technology rather than autism.

Let me use another example that is a foremost struggled faced by those with autism: relationships.  Particularly, romantic relationships.  This is something that many on the autism spectrum long for and ultimately struggle with.  Please view one of my most popular blog posts on the subject to see how I felt about this issue three years ago.  Of course, that was before I met Jackie.

Jackie and I met through the popular online dating site Eharmony.  We're getting married next summer.  We've lived together for more than a year in our own apartment.  We both are a vital part of making our relationship work.

She knows I have autism.  I told her a few days after we started talking.  She has two cousins who are more severely autistic than I am.  Since she used to babysit her cousins, she is very familiar with autism.

She accepts me for who I am as an individual on the spectrum.  Her feelings on the subject is that autism is simply another way of being.  Just like there are different races and cultures, autism is simply a different neurological state.  I'm really lucky to have her.

In our day to day life, autism never really comes up anymore.  Our focus is on our respective jobs, keeping up with household chores, our respective families, and planning our wedding.  The topic of autism might come up if we have difficulty communicating or don't see eye to eye on something.  Other than that, our focus is not on autism, it's on each other and it's on the world around us.

One thing to really keep in mind about autism that as a spectrum disorder, there are correlations between those on the spectrum but what solves one person's problem is not guaranteed to solve the same problem for another person.  I'm not saying my approach to my relationship and upcoming marriage will work for all.  I'm only mildly affected by the spectrum unlike many others.

To make a relationship work, or to make an employment opportunity work with a company such as SAP, the focus should not be on autism.  The focus should not be on the behaviors or characteristics that make someone autistic.  Rather, the focus should instead be on the interests that can translate into employable skills.  Or in the case of relationships, the focus should be on making day to day life work with your boyfriend, girlfriend, fiance, husband or wife.

Do you have any feedback on the topics discussed above?  Perhaps you have a story where the focus was taken off of autism?  How did that change things?  Leave your comments below my friends and don't forget to tell others about the Voice from the Spectrum!