Autism Appreciation Month: Work and Autistic folks

Hi folks,

Your friendly neighbourhood autistic here. It’s autism awareness/acceptance/appreciation month so I thought I’d share a couple of great resources for helping yourself and other colleagues interface better, smoother happier, etc.  It’s more specifically Autism Awareness Day on the 2nd April but I was busy with my ADHD taking me in many other directions so … here we are. And I’m going to just assume that you are aware and accepting of us so let’s move onto appreciation.

Of course it’s always good to start with “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.” We’re all different and mileage may vary but these below are a good starting point.

Hunter Hansen is a great advocate for autistic professionals and he sounds like Owen Wilson so what’s not to like!  All his content is great but especially relevant are the youtube vids 

Ashlea McKay. Now I’m going to riff of the last Hunter video as a segway into Ashlea’s great advice.  But first a bit about Ashlea.  You’ve heard me mention her in a previous post about using a codeword (banana) to indicate informations processing time in a meeting.  Well she regularly posts tips and thoughts about autism at work in her Quirk Monster Bites on LinkedIn. The one that jumps out at me everytime is about Open Plan offices.  Yeah we all hate them.  The ‘pop-in‘, the ‘have you got a second‘, the ‘I’ll just save you form overwork with my mew tiktok dance‘ – yeah it’s exhausting to us. You can read her take here

Dr Nancy Doyle is neurodivergent and her Genius Within (based in the UK) has a lot of great information about all neurodiversity and advocacy in the workplace.  Her articles on Forbes and posts on social are also worth a read.  Information neurodiversity is here

Neurodiversity Media by Rachel Worsley is the last trip on our tour and definitely not the least. There are an incredible number of free resources for  autistic and ND workers and managers including case studies and advice. They also have Toolkits to help addressing issues and getting every one on the same equitable footing.

Thanks for reading my little autism appreciation and awareness post.  Remember to read autistic/bipoc/trans/disabled voices and listen to what they have to say. Happy holiday if you are having one, and just general happiness even if you are not.

Heath

Neurodiversity vs Martyr Complex (aka gaslighting)

I work a lot I’m told. I’ve often been accused of having a Martyr Complex and frankly I’m a bit over it. This is something that a lot of neurodivergent and autistic folks I’ve talked to have experienced as well and I think I understand the reasons.

Hyperfocus and special interests are things things that are very central to the way neurodivergent people experience the world. Being focused on a single topic for a long period of time is very common to me. Hyperfocus is a state of being where I can keep attending to a single thing for hours and/or days on end. In the work environment it can mean working on a single problem for a week until I finish it.

Breaking out of that is aggravating to the point of painful. Having that done for me by people banging my desk or waving in front of my face for attention, is frankly aggressive and violent. Saying that “but they were only trying to be friendly” is no more a reasonable statement than it was in the 80s when it was used by grabassing men. It needs to stop. Ashlea McKay has been incredibly eloquent in here covering of that here and here when she says “Good intentions do not negate not-so-good impacts. They didn’t mean any harm, but they caused harm and that harm has an impact.

Good intentions do not negate not-so-good impacts. They didn’t mean any harm, but they caused harm and that harm has an impact.

Ashlea McKay – LINKED IN

So let’s talk about the Martyr Complex.

  1. I know my limits. I know how much I can take and when to back off, and I build those into what I can take. Most ND adults are the same. We’re good. Believe us. It’s part of negotiating our spoons budget. Hyperfocusing a task for me is a low cost way of working. I can do a lot of focused work and spend less energy. Let’s say it’s like getting on the freeway – I can zoom away without having to stop and start. But everytime someone interrupts to save me from working to hard I have to get off the freeway and stop – and it costs me more energy. And starting again to get back on the freeway is intense. What it effectively does is blow out our energy budget and can lead to burnout, frustration and meltdowns. All because someone wanted to save me from overwork with their funny tiktok dance.
  2. I don’t work for the same reason as neurotypicals. I don’t do it to earn credit or as a badge of station (sorry Vu). I do it because it is a task that has to get done and it holds my interest. Of course I deserve acknowledgement and I deserve to be respected, but that has nothing to do with a Martyr Complex. Mainly because as an outsider to the social hierarchy there is nothing to gain there. The work gets done because the work needs to get done.
  3. Burnout looks like Martyrdom. So ND folk tend to work different hours to NTs. We work when the flow demands it but hyperfocus doesn’t discriminate. When you are on you are ON. We don’t get halfway through a task and go off to work with the team and pick it up later. HOWEVER we also feel an incredible pressure to conform to what the status quo demands. This is called masking, and many an autistic has written articles about the dangers of masking. So you’ll often find us showing up 9-5 (or in my case 7:30-6 to avoid the public transport peak hour sensory overload) and then also working till midnight while I hyperfocus on a task. In fact working outside of the hours of NTs in open office environments is less energy due to the interruptions and sensory overload being absent. All this masking and extended hours lead to burnout.
  4. Autistic superpowers. Ugh this is hard. The toxic positivity and the need for us to prove ourselves leads to overwork. There is a burden for us to appear infallible as a reaction to the tragedy narrative, and it’s a pressure that leads to overwork and burnout. Dr Nancy Doyle puts it better than I here.
  5. Our Spikey Skill Profiles. A friend reminded me that we get resentment often (and sometimes irrelevant praise) for being great at stuff. Riffing off Nancy Doyle again “Whilst everyone has strengths and difficulties, for neurodiverse people the difference between them is significant.” Of course that depends on what you attribute to the normal that you are different from, what does occur is that we can really shine at some things. This is the superpowers at work. In this case though they can create a friction with colleagues when this is looked at as competition. Us being good at something, and sacrificing ourselves to be good at it, can leave them feeling inadequate. They don’t understand we’re not competing with them, we’re competing with ourselves.
  6. Work social functions are a nightmare! I get panic attacks at staff BBQs and social functions. There are too many conversations to focus on, incredible amounts of sensory overload and social games that I’ll never be able to understand. The amount of focus that requires is incredible and I hate it. But not attending these functions can have serious implications on promotion and advancement, as has been documented by the feminist and BIPOC movements in detail. Also not attending tends to attract Martyr labels.
  7. Personal time. What I do with it is my business. What neurodivergent people do with their time is their own business. If I have a special interest in (for example) organising mental health forums for in arts and culture and that gives me energy and satisfaction then that is great. I’ve been told that I’m hopeless and that I can’t help myself [being a work addict] because I follow my special interests rather than “go out with friends”. This is just gaslighting. One might not understand a person’s interests but there is no need to minimise them because one doesn’t get it.

So can we agree not to do this? Using the Martyr slur against neurodivergent and autistic folk is gaslighting. No one is wanting you to feel bad. By and large that wouldn’t even occur to us. The more you can help us shake off masking and stop gaslighting the easier it’ll be for us all.

Special thanks to Carrie Beesley and Mel Granchi for their input

Foxtel - Cold Blooded
Foxtel – Cold Blooded

“I never consider myself in competition with anyone, and I’m not saying that from an arrogant standpoint, it’s just that my journey started so, so long ago, and I’m still on it and I won’t stand still.”

idris elba

ANZTRUC

Proof (for my boss) that I actually did do some work at ANZTRUC 😀

Stay classy San Diego!

So I’m off home. Post trip I had a few meetings and said farewell to my SDC/STC/CRH/ACM pals. Went to a groovy little breakfast place in the Gaslamp called Broken yolk with a crowd. I went back again this morning. One thing that is really apparent is the size of food. I’m surprised every time I come to the US. Food is massive! I’ve tried to stick to two meals a day and some fruit. No matter how much exercise I’ve done here I think I’ve added 10kg 😮

After the gang left I took a trip up to Balboa park. I’ve been humongously home sick and I really needed to distract myself now that it was just me. I’d been there twice before but Friday is After Dark which is a festival of food trucks and late night museums.

Most interesting thing was that it was my first Uber!! Yeah hello 2017! All the cool kids were doing it at the conference so I thought I’d give it a go. Also what’s app. That was the group chat of choice at #TLCC2017 and with free wi-fi all over the place it was worth it. It’s almost like I work in IT or something?!

I got a burrito and went to the Nat (aka San Diego Natural History Museum) to see the dinosaurs. Main thing for me was how much I impressed myself with my hilarious Instagram feed.

I mean really. I’m hilarious 😐

Next point of business was to see the ball game. Padres we’re playing the Washington Nationals (of whom I’d never heard) and were soundly thrashed. Not that I cared as I got the late bought the cheapest ticket and spent the night watching the game from the best spots in the house. I was happy to buy a Simone a hat (and add a cunning disguise) and stand behind the floor seats. Once that was over I went back to the hotel to Skype home (told you I was into IT!)

So today was check out and logistics anxiety. Anxiety for me means I should keep moving and on schedule. After breakfast (and a Superman comic) at Broken Yolk I checked out of the hotel, had them hold my bags and then took the ferry to Coronado. After wandering around in circles for a while I found a bike hire and followed the 1hr leisure loop suggested by the guy at the desk … until I passed the unmarked turnoff and rode halfway to Mexico. Thank God Australians are good at Olympic cycling because I think I broke a third or two on the way back trying to make the ferry. I made it though, with enough time to buy some more gifts like socks with cats on them and a cute Coronado T-shirt (cause she keeps running out of those things and wearing mine).

With only a couple of hours left I hung out at Seaport Village, bought myself a less sweaty and more touristy shirt, ate a final taco and went back to pick up my bags and Uber to the airport. Got her in plenty of time with a feeling of incredible joy to be traveling home.

I can’t wait to get back even jet lagged and straight to work. Oh well it was pretty great all anxiety considered.

Stay classy San Diego!

TLCC2017 day 2

A couple great things I’ve learnt from TLCC that really helped me out.

Before going – do your research

There are questions you are going to want to solve.  Have a list.

  1. Some will require testing with the Devs.
  2. Some will be pestering the Vendors/Sponsors.
  3. Some will require bugging Tessitura Staff

Stalk people (responsibly)

Remember that list?  Look up the people who likely have the same issue and meet up with them.  In my case it’s about emailing and finding a time to catch up or say “hi” at an event.  It’s less creepy than it sounds.  We are there to network and solve problems after all.

The Meetup

Best things to have when I need a hand from someone …

  1. A value add.  Sometimes a collaboration is enough.  Sometimes you can intro someone to someone else.  It’s always good to be able to exchange help though and mutually grow from the experience.
  2. A two way conversation.  Listen and learn as well as talking about your own issue.  Listening is a great way of solving your problem and follow up with an open ended question to dig deeper.
  3. Keep it short.  We all have many things to see and do.  When you have an ask try to not monopolise someones time and catch up for more later.  You will bump into the same people about 100 times over the week.
  4. Speaking on bumping into people – I’ll often find myself introducing people to other people that have like interests. Two people are a conversation.  Three people are a network.
  5. More business cards.  I ran out on the first day when chatting to people about my presentation.  They are great to have and a good way to keep the conversation going.
  6. Follow up.  A thanks is always nice and also you can expand your network with Linkedin invites or whatever works for you.
  7. Thanks cost nothing.  If your moved or excited about something a quick thanks can really make everyones day.

The thing with Tessitura is that people are incredibly keen to share.  It’s a great community.  Keeping these things in mind really help with my anxiety and occasional bouts of impostor syndrome.

Tessitura learning & community conference 2017

TLCC2017

So this is my first work conference overseas for Sydney dance company and I’m in San Diego California. We got in a day early and spent some time seeing the sites, mostly the San Diego Museum of Art and the Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. The Globe is a Tessitura Network member so I’m going to call that work, tax deductible work.

First day of the conference is today. Lots to take in. Also lots of faking it. Not the skills. I have some of those and am happy to ask for help where I need it. Mainly the social aspect. My anxiety has been swinging wildly in and out. When it’s in it’s hard to focus on tasks or make decisions and the world feels like there is an ugly after taste that I can’t quite work out. When it’s not there I can get a little over the top like I’ve finished a gruelling test. Modulation is tricky.

People in SD are very nice. I’ve heard that tourists say that a lot about wherever they visit. Drowning in a foreign culture can leave you appreciative of the smallest things and less likely to be demanding. But regardless people here have been great.

I’ve reached out too a couple of people to talk about things I need help with or to give a hand in return. I’m going to see how that goes. Anyway of to see how it goes. Wish me luck.

San-Diego-Skyline

Givers, Matchers and Takers

I recently listened to a wonderful Ted talk by Adam Grant on Givers, Takers and Matchers and how people described by this metric fare in the workplace and how successful they and their businesses are. Yes it’s a metric, tedand yes that’s something to do with why I like what at first look reads like self-help/HR fuzz, ie: it’s well thought out and supported in evidence, rather than just being opinion masquerading as metaphor used literally.

Givers are the kinds of people who pitch in to help with others work, are generous with advice and open to sharing. Takers are the kinds who are self first and will collaborate only if it benefits their advancement. Matchers are the majority who will tailor their behaviour to the situation, balance their behaviour to the situation and/or share conservatively with their resources.

Intriguingly the statistics point out that the way to increase the success in your team is not to hire more givers but to weed out the takers. A single giver in a team will inspire collaboration in matchers. Conversely a single taker will create an environment of distrust and reluctance to share. Sharing in a taker environment leads to a feeling of idea theft and burnout for givers who end up doing the work of others rather than their own making them unproductive. It’s in these environments that givers rate as the most unproductive members of a team.

What was especially interesting was adding the agreeableness metric. I won’t regurgitate what Adam says much better than I can. However in listening to this really gave me cause to rethink my many work places that I’ve worked in over the years and how I and my teams have functioned.

I truly believe that it’s the responsibility of management to manage the dynamic of their team to achieve results. It’s also true that often middle management is promoted without any supportive training. I do find it difficult to support the opting out that management does with regards to team dynamics. My thought is that it is created by

  1. Senior management regarding managing as either a reactive task or a logistical one
  2. Middle management not having the opportunity to prioritise team dynamics and falling back on solo projects and reactive leadership

Of course I’ve encountered many managers over the years who were very team orientated and it’s been a dream for similar reasons.  I also think this applies to corporate, amateur and government organisations alike.

Anyway Adam Grant’s lectures are short fun and evocative and well worth a listen. Enjoy!

Marketing for performing artists

I was chatting with a pal yesterday about the relevance of performing arts in the contemporary landscape and so when I came to work today with a little extra time to spare I started researching.  Firstly I was thinking about my 9-5 job at one of the biggest not-for-profit theatre organisations in the world, but as I went along I realised that a lot if not all of the digital practices used globally by arts organisations are applicable to individual artists and small performing arts collectives.

I’ll start first my linking Aaron Bisman’s (Director, Audience Development for Jazz at Lincoln Center) talk about digital engagement and what it’s worth to us.  The goal here is connecting with your audience, engaging with them and of course converting them to your product (buying stuff essentially).  Some of the key take homes is to be platform agnostic – don’t just instagram or facebook but go out to all platforms appropriately and allow people to share and trend your work.

Where I started with my research was Kevin Giglinto (Vice President for Strategy and Special Initiatives, Chicago Symphony Orchestra) on leveraging New Media.  What the really means is how the CSO used live streaming to engage with audiences.  The message here is clear again – be platform agnostic.  You only help yourself be shared.

The good thing about all of this is not only that your work gets out there to be consumed and talked about but you are also allowing people to be swayed by your work and convert.  That means more bookings for you and it can come in many forms. For a jobbing actor that can be anything from more ticket sales to your gig or bookings by producers to do their gigs.  The former is better for your soul and the latter is better for your bank account.

I’ll finish with a quote from Aaron Bisman

“Your content should be niche, Your community should be inclusive”