I sorta wonder whether I could hold down a job...

2011-05-22 17:48

Yeah, I know. I have one. It works out, they seem happy, I’m happy.

But… My job is a bit weird. They know me. They’ve known me for a while, and they know about the autism stuff, and they know what kind of thing I can do. They put up with my need to not go to the office most of the time. They are okay with the fact that some days I don’t do much of anything, and other days I put in 14 hours of Doing Magic that solves problems.

If I were trying to get a job, I don’t know that I could pull it off.

The problem is not all autism; some of it is the interaction between autism and ADHD. ADHD people are, characteristically, good at hard things and bad at easy things. Note, I don’t mean “not as good, relatively speaking, at easy things”. I’m pretty bright. I can do all sorts of interesting math stuff in my head well enough to be useful. I can’t, however, reliably add single-digit numbers. I just sometimes get the wrong answers to that kind of thing.

I can do some pretty cool stuff. I wrote a program called pseudo which is pretty interesting. A lot of programmers couldn’t write it. I don’t mean it would take them a long time; I mean they couldn’t do it. I am a champion debugger.

But the way the world works, usually you have to demonstrate the ability to fit in and do easy tasks before you get a shot at hard tasks that you don’t have to fit in for. And that means that, without some good luck in getting started, I probably couldn’t get to a job I could do. I’m not qualified. Heck, I just can’t do it. I am not sure I could actually handle a regular office job with lots of face-to-face contact. I certainly wouldn’t do very good work under those circumstances.

I know some people who are, variously, “disabled”, meaning they couldn’t do a job. In a couple of cases, I can describe for you a thing which they could do, which would be worth more than it would cost to pay them more than the disability money they could get… But the people to whom it would be worth that may not have a corporate structure which allows them to pay that money for that task.

Part of what makes the difference between a disability and a superpower is how you use it. Another part is how other people handle it. I have a lot of very interesting and significant blind spots when it comes to interpersonal relationships. Some people react to that by regarding me as dysfunctional and not useful. Other people react by asking me questions about events, because I was experiencing the event while everyone else was experiencing the emotional and political overtones of the event. I don’t remember “he insulted her”, I remember the words he said, and that she took offense. Sometimes that distinction matters.

I’ve been thinking about blogging more about autism-related things, because the fact is, there’s a whole lot of autistic people who have a hard time talking at all, and a lot of misunderstandings out there. The nice thing about autistic people and social skills is that, in many cases, simply hearing a social skill explained in plain language is enough to provide at least a good approximation of it.

So as someone who apparently gets along with a spouse (the spouse so informs me, and I accept the claim because of corroborating evidence) and holds down a job and such, I think I’ll put some time into talking about how I do it.

This will almost certainly make up for being unable to help my mom with errands yesterday on the grounds that the space outside my house was a large space with poorly defined borders…

No, really. It totally was. It also still is now, but for some reason it bothers me less today. I walked outside. I successfully obtained a prescription from the pharmacy, and answered questions as they were asked rather than reciting the answers all at once before being asked. I had a burger for lunch. This may not sound like an accomplishment, but it’s probably the first time in six months that I’ve ordered anything but the same exact sandwich every time there, and I wanted the variety. So I got the burger I always get when I get a burger. So far as I know, I smiled and made eye contact; at the very least, I didn’t fail to do so in ways that resulted in people being upset in ways I could detect. This is, pretty much, a Good Day.

Peter Seebach

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Comment

  1. You were charming. Derpy, but cute and nice. Also, you talked to me even while you had a computer fidget. Sometimes you appear to think you’ve interacted with me but you actually ignored me a lot, but this time we conversed, so that was cool.

    Also, you had opinions about the thing I was working on. I like it when you do that. Not only does it make me feel like you’re interested in what I’m doing, it’s also helpful to get your POV on stuff.

    — Jesse · 2011-05-22 20:22 · #

 
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