My name’s Daniel Share-Strom, and since I was an early teenager, I’ve been an autism advocate, working to educate families, teachers, and medical professionals on what our challenges mean and how we can be better helped and understood. You may have even seen one of my public speaking events throughout Southern Ontario, entitled “Autism Spectrum Disorders: What Doctors Don’t Tell You and Teachers Don’t Know.”
As a recent university graduate with Asperger’s Syndrome, I have become keenly aware of how rough the job search can be for some people with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. That’s why I’m excited to be the new Communications Director for Specialisterne Canada. The process of sending out hundreds of resumes, replete with individualized cover letters, can be a nightmare for my organizational challenges. Have slow processing speed and difficulty with eye contact? Well, have fun at your fast-paced, socially-correct interview. That’s not to mention the instant apprehension uneducated employers display upon finding out about my ‘condition’. Making matters worse is that it is sometimes hard to convey what our difficulties mean to those who want to help us.
To give you an example, I have an Honours degree in Communications. As far as challenges go, I have slow processing speed, Sensory Processing Disorder, poor small motor skills, and problems with proprioception. My fingers just don’t work very well. So I shared all this information with a specialist and emphasized the physical challenges. First job opportunity they found me? Food prep in a busy kitchen. I thanked them for finding me the opening, but reminded them that I was mostly looking for an entry-level job in the Communications field.
The response? “That’s perfect, because you can communicate with the chef.” Having grown quite fond of having my fingers attached to my hands, I respectfully declined. With all of these physical challenges and social misunderstandings, is it any wonder that the job search can escalate our already-high anxiety levels? While it is unfortunate that many employers don’t yet understand what it means to be a person with autism—including the many gifts it brings to the table—it is hardly their fault. In order to change the workplace, we have to start with education: if we can change understanding, we can change how people respond.
That’s where I hope to be able to help. It’s now my job take to the streets and the blogosphere to get our message out to as many people as possible. So, you can expect a consistent flow of updates and articles here on the blog, our social media pages, and through some other initiatives that we’ll be sharing shortly. In addition to content specifically related to Specialisterne, we’ll be posting editorials on current events related to Autism and independence, highlighting some of the day’s most intriguing stories from the ASD world, and even wrangling up a selection of notable guest contributors from around the country. Who knows? If you’re intrigued enough, maybe we can even get together sometime and have a more in-depth chat about how we can help each other. In the long term, it is my hope that we can slowly make businesses more open-minded toward employing people on the spectrum, who often bring a great deal more to the table than they are given credit for.
For now, though, it’s time for me (and us) to get to work.
– Daniel Share-Strom