Okay, so ... the article after my last, Why Neurodiversity Matters at Work, was supposed to be about workplace accommodations for the neurodiverse. That one's coming, still in the works. But there was a moment today, a moment that perfectly illustrates how awareness and understanding are, by themselves, 90% of the battle for accommodations. When there is enlightened awareness in combination with compassion and understanding, the accommodations will come.
This afternoon I was doing my physiotherapy (recovering from a titanium rod having been put in my left tibia, after a motorcycle accident in which the bike was totaled, making On The Road Again somewhat ... nostalgic) when my wife poked her head in the room and said, "I've got to run to the grocery store, do you want to ride with me?". I gave her the aspiest of all possible responses, saying, "I'm doing my physio" (those of us who have Asperger's Syndrome don't always move seamlessly from task to task). But I've been working on my own self-awareness, and in a moment was able to think beyond the task in which I was currently involved and realize that my wife might be asking this of me, not to find out if I'd been pining away, wanting to visit the grocery store, but simply to express a desire to spend some time with me. Duh. But that's quite often how we Aspies navigate the world of social interaction: more with intellect than intuition. So, again in a very Aspie manner, I ask my wife to clarify, and she says that, yes, she'd like to spend some time with me. So of course I said yes: it's important to grab quality time whenever you can, whether it's with your wife, your kids or a good friend — even a co-worker. So, off to the grocery store we went. It was entirely uneventful and, at the same time, some of the best fun I'd had all day.
It was as we were riding home that it struck me: this interaction worked because both my wife and I — the two of us Aspies — are aware of each others' and our own aspieness, and both of us understand what it is to have Asperger's Syndrome. My own awareness allowed me to realize that I needed to use my brain to compensate for an untypical Theory of Mind, and my wife's deep understanding allowed her not to react with a bruised ego to my very Aspie response to her asking if I'd like to ride with her. No fuss, no muss: we communicated with each other — free of judgment — and got the thing done.
This is why I am working to change workplace culture. This is why I am working to foster greater awareness and greater understanding of what autism is and how autistic people can add amazing value to your business.
I'd also like to thank my wife for being amazing. ❤
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