Hi, I am looking for some Aspergers-career advice! — Scope | Disability forum
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Hi, I am looking for some Aspergers-career advice!

Potatoboy Community member Posts: 5 Listener
edited March 2021 in Autism and neurodiversity
Hello, I came here because I have ASD (formerly aspergers). I am 21 and I still live with my parents. At the moment i'm in my final year of university, studying Art & Technology. My main interests are art, design and animation. I've always had the question how I am supposed to live my life after college, and how to spend my workdays, knowing that my mind works differently.

Fortunately, I learned to socialize and collaborate which has really opened the world for me. My weakest point, however, is that I can not filter out thoughts by priority. I get distracted very easily, not by sounds or the environment but by my own imagination. Memories and cool ideas create a chain-reaction of random thoughts, making my mind going on a "trip" whenever I need to do things that don't fascinate me as much like homework or client-work.

However, this "filterless" trait is also a bless; it boosts my creativity and lets me hyperfocus (if I focus on what I love). This is why my personal projects have been wayyy better than my school projects. Therefore I am so passionate about art: it allows me to follow my own interests, letting my mind go in its own direction.

My question: what are your personal experiences in work- and life? You can share me anything you think is relevant. Maybe some of you are creatives, or even have ASD as well. Any tips, do's and don'ts?

Thanks by advance!


  • Geoark
    Geoark Community member Posts: 1,462 Disability Gamechanger
    Hello @Potatoboy and welcome to the community.

    One of my greatest strengths is to be able to bring together different ideas and offer solutions that are often unique. I also have had a lot of frustration when they are simply turned down by others because they don't see it the same way. I have also had it pointed out to me, sometimes more than a decade later, that ideas I had in the past are becoming mainstream.

    I would like to share one of my experiences with you. I approached a local university to see if they had any students who would like to work with us on creating ideas for the estate. They came back with a proposal for allowing some of the students to do research on the estate and to come up with different ideas, to gain extra credits.

    One of the students rejected the idea saying that they would feel uncomfortable foisting their artistic ideas onto a council estate. In a way it was a shame, as they had made assumptions on what a potential client might be interested in. 

    At the end of the project the students presented their ideas to the residents of the estate and we invited some of our councillors to come along and look at the projects as well. One particular project caught everyone's eye and the councillor who turned up was swamped by residents talking about this one project. It was an A3 Poster with the words, 165 homes, 165 trees and 165 dog poop counted in one hour. The rest of the poster contained 165 pictures of dog poop they had counted. As this has been a major issue we did use it along with some other ideas borrowed from elsewhere, like flagging dog poop with bright flags. It also gave me the leverage I needed to persuade the committee to install dog bins on the estate. 

    Some of the real gold nuggets however were not on display, but rather hidden in notebooks.

    My favorite however came from a student who had a completely different idea. She wanted to use different shapes and get the children on the estate to create pictures from them. These were recreated on wire meshing on the estate so that residents could write down their own ideas about what was important to them. On each design was recognition who had come up with the design and their age. It was something that the community took too and was a huge success.

    It also helped me to become more creative in some of the things we were doing. We introduced 'street art' into our open day. This was just coloured chalk and used paving stones as the canvas. It was largely ignored until I persuaded some of the students on the estate to kick it off by doing something but fairly soon we had elderly residents and children as young as 3 working together on their creative ideas.

    We also introduced community justice, where volunteers were put in stocks for their 'crimes' and had wet sponges thrown at them. We had a councillor, someone high up in the council who was responsible for major works, a single mum, even a traffic warden who volunteered. I didn't count on residents being creative, so was surprised when the bar came down on me to hear a thud next to my ears and then realised they were throwing tomatoes at me. One of the hidden golden nuggets was an idea to recreate scenes from Pilgrims Progress on the sides of our buildings. An idea that got rejected by the committee, but was one of a number of ideas I came across from very different areas that using this old favourite and labeling it 'community justice' went down well.

    What I would say though is that in most areas not being able to concentrate on a clients brief is going to be a huge drawback and you would need to find a way to control those thoughts. Often it is the 'boring' stuff that pays the bills and allow us to indulge in what we really want to do. A good 80% of what I do is on spreadsheets, though if you ask my daughter I get paid a ridiculous amount to copy and paste all day. Even so it also helped me to solve a big problem. We do a satisfaction survey every two years which involves a lot of work for me. So a few years ago I was able to put together a workbook where the user puts in the responses and the workbook automatically gives all the answers I used to spend hours working out. Work rarely allows me to be creative like this with Excel.

    Another thing to consider is if your artwork would allow you to work for yourself and make a living out of it? 

    As an individual I stood alone.
    As a member of a group I did things.
    As part of a community I helped to create change!

  • Tori_Scope
    Tori_Scope Scope Campaigns Posts: 12,487 Disability Gamechanger
    Welcome to the community @Potatoboy :) Nice username.

    Just so you know, I've moved your post into our autism and Asperger's category so that other members can find it more easily. 

    I don't have ASD so I don't want to encroach on this discussion too much, and I can see Geoark has already left you a fantastic comment, but I did want to direct you towards Scope's employment services in case that would be of interest to you. Here are two of them:
    I also wanted to remind you that you should be entitled to reasonable adjustments at work if you feel as though you need them. 

    Best of luck with your final year of university, and with the job search! Let us know if you need anything.
    National Campaigns Officer, she/her

    Join our call for an equal future.
  • Potatoboy
    Potatoboy Community member Posts: 5 Listener
    edited March 2021
    Wow, I really appreciate you sharing this whole experience with me, @Geoark

    It's quite interesting because these kinds of projects are very similar to what we do at school. It always starts with a briefing where a company is looking for creative expertise, in order to solve a certain problem they are facing. Those solutions need to be interactive, similar to your example of kids drawing on shapes!

    I am definitely aware of the reality that most well-paid jobs aren't that fun. I am also not expecting to have the most glamorous starters-job right after school. Yet I won't hold back from researching as many possibilities and being picky with them, because I simply can! At least, that's for the time being: there is no rush to make a living and pay bills for a while after school, so I can take some time to practice and specialize in anything I want. What that specific thing could be, is the big question for me right now.

    Of course, I could also just get a job right away and it sure has its pros. There is a big "creatives-caveat" however: Boring projects lead to boring portfolio items, which leads to only more boring projects. It's a vicious circle of mediocrity, a result of making too many compromises. The statement "Keep doing what they love, and someday you get to work for what YOU love." is a lie.  At least, that's what I learned from the people in specifically the creative field. It has been pointed out by books, podcasts, interviews, and even some of my idols I've met in real-life. "Keep doing what YOU love, and someday you get to work for it" they told me instead.

    That statement helps me comparing the opportunities that lay in front of me: If I take this job or project, how much of the time in a week can I devote to things I love? The more, the better. "Staying passionate" might be the most important value I carry with me, coming right after "not dying of hunger". The fun thing is that most circumstances and conditions aren't even affecting you when entering hyperfocus. It's technically a "happyfocus"!

    So the road to creative independence is a long and heavy journey but I'm willing to take it. Knowing that I'm making steps in the right direction keeps me warm, even if there isn't really a finish ahead. I might even be happier being a poor fine-artist, suffering for what he loves, instead of a well-paid designer at a top agency, suffering for what he hates. (fun fact, at the moment I'm interning at my dream-company and I'm making notes about it!)

    None of my thoughts are set in stone, though. The reason I'm still here is for new insights and second-guesses; I'm still doing research after all. So let me know what you think! 

  • Potatoboy
    Potatoboy Community member Posts: 5 Listener
    edited March 2021
    @Geoark Oh, and about your suggestion of making a whole living out of my personal work: That is very hard and can take you years, but it's definitely the thing I dream of. It's just a matter of figuring out how to get there. Everyone has their own work and style, so there is no specific roadmap on how to get there.

    So I started making one myself, because the more concrete a goal is, the easier I can act upon it. It's still kinda W.I.P.
    I do make some revenue with my work already, so I hope I'm on the good track. 

  • Geoark
    Geoark Community member Posts: 1,462 Disability Gamechanger
    @Potatoboy yes I know the road is hard, and takes time and commitment. 

    Of course you will still have to find a way to over come your inability to filter your thoughts. Finances is one area I struggled a lot, I found it dry and at time downright boring, but it was a skill I needed to develop as part of my voluntary work as a chair of a non profit organisation. 

    You mentioned that boring work creates a boring portfolio, but this does not have to be the case.  I joined my present company through a scheme to help disabled people into the type of work I am doing. When I looked at the type of candidates that they attracted I knew I was in trouble. If I tried to compete on their strengths I would have lost easily. Instead I decided to concentrate on my own strengths, in what I was doing in my voluntary work. I had a lot of achievements and shared some of them, plus I had taken examples and photos to support what I was saying.

    I was asked what my proudest achievement was on the voluntary side. I had taken our satisfaction rate from around 65% to between 95 and 100%, won funding of over £90,000 to put in an outdoor gym, a community garden and a rockery. Our newsletters had gone from going from the mailbox to the bin to one with articles that people were talking about months later. I had gone from having no qualifications to having qualifications in teaching, funding, and even a level 4 qualification. The board was far more representative of the community it served. My proudest moment? finding a hairdresser for an elderly resident in a body frame who could not get her hair done. To  be clear, a woman's hair is important to her, and with everything going on in her life it was not getting her hair down which was depressing her the most. So without question this was my proudest achievement, making a significant change for one individual to her life and self esteem. 

    Paid working experience zero, most of my examples came from that one area of volunteering, I also used some experiences in other voluntary work. I was told what really came across was my passion for what I do and compassion for others and the final decision was not difficult for them.

    I love what I do now, though often it is stressful and with tight deadlines. What I don't get is the level of satisfaction that I got from my voluntary work. Sadly I had to step down in September as my own health and work pressures meant I could not offer the support and time needed during a very uncertain year. Now it is unlikely by the end of April I will have my job any more as they are restructuring and I do not really see a place for myself in the restructure. 

    I wish you good luck in all that you do, but above all keep up your passion and don't let it die. It might mean a little compromise from time to time, but never let it be too long.

    As an individual I stood alone.
    As a member of a group I did things.
    As part of a community I helped to create change!

  • Potatoboy
    Potatoboy Community member Posts: 5 Listener
    edited March 2021
    Thanks @Geoark , I will definitely keep my passion alive.

    For whatever I'm gonna do, I hope I can save some time at least every day or week to work on passion projects. At the moment I am learning to manage my time in order to do that.
    I believe I will gradually learn to cooperate with my unfiltered mind. Part of it will be practicing, planning ahead and setting timers and such. The other part will be -just as you mentioned- a matter of keeping the focus on my own strengths, rather than trying to fulfill a role I will never excel in. For that, I hope I will find a good place in society!

  • Potatoboy
    Potatoboy Community member Posts: 5 Listener
    Also, here is some of the work I do if you're curious!
  • Ross_Alumni
    Ross_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 7,652 Disability Gamechanger
    If you're applying for a job, unless they say "guaranteed interview for the disabled", DON'T declare your ASD, and even if they do the guaranteed interview thing, I'd still advise against declaring, trust me I've applied to Tesco 5 times and ASDA twice under the guaranteed interview scheme and they keep saying I don't meet the criteria! I wouldn't mind but I live 5 minutes from the local Tesco so I could literally walk to work!

    I think the wording is that disabled people who meet the minimum criteria for the job will be guaranteed an interview, not that all disabled people will get an interview regardless.
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