A number of people within the Autistic community and indeed elsewhere have been putting pressure on me to get back into the work force over the last few months. Some have attempted to call it a massive negative on my character and one person even tried to tell Centrelink I was a bludger and should be forced into work instead of receiving the Disability Support Pension. This is wrong and I have said time and time again that the situation is not what it seems – especially given my demands for more money. Aside from the recognised fact in general that the DSP isn’t covering life needs. It hasn’t done that since the GST was introduced.
Here are the reasons why I can’t work. And don’t forget – I don’t like this situation, and I am doing my best to fix it up where I can. Also note that this list not in order of importance;
1. Past Employment: An Aspie is reliant on life experience. When it is negative the automatic desire is to avoid bad things. And that is important when it comes to one’s mental health. Australia Post did a lot of damage to my workability. They forced me to stay in an environment that I knew I wasn’t coping with – even before I was diagnosed as an Aspie. A factory floor atmosphere is not Aspie friendly. And when they refused to budge and I couldn’t make them change through a legal action in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal – I nearly had a nervous breakdown. I avoided it only because I took a retirement package. I couldn’t cope – and they didn’t care. They still don’t – refusing to acknowledge my Aspergers DX.
Then there’s the Defence Department. Now that environment was the right one, and yet they applied rules that didn’t apply to that job – and they got away with it. More legal action resulted in me having to file for bankruptcy. It is because of this that I don’t trust employers enough to do the right thing by me. Especially when my special interests aren’t involved. Where they are – there is no employment beyond umpiring football and technically that’s not employment as such. One can’t live off that anyway. There is no money for pro wrestling in Australia – unless you are a promoter and even then it’s a struggle.
2. Employment atmosphere: It is well known that certain atmospheres in the work place are bad for Aspies, because of a lack of base routine and relative autonomy. In recent years the work place in general has shifted towards ad-hoc tasking as a part of a team. This is afflicting environments that used to be safe havens for Aspies, dating back 100 years – like office work and the like. Customer intensive jobs have always been bad for Aspies and that’s why you never saw Aspies in such jobs. Now, such jobs that have routine and autonomy require managerial style qualifications and even then there’s no guarantee of getting that spot. The point is that employment options have been severely restricted to the point of being inaccessible – especially for us adults on the Spectrum.
Labouring jobs are also bad for Aspies, due to an Aspies desire for perfection (get it right). That takes time – time an employer would not have. Then there’s the issue of union controlled environments. They always look after the group first – not the individual. And that is also a bad thing for an Aspie.
3. Commonwealth Medical Officer (CMO): Because of problem 2, the only realistic option for me is the public service. At least until private enterprise reverse their attitude and start providing jobs that are more appropriate for us to take advantage of our skills – and we do have them. And I can’t see that happening in my lifetime although the current GFC might help. But I am cut off from the public service by the CMO. Not only is that a lock off for the public service – it’s also a lock off for private enterprise who use the CMO to decide if a potential employee is fit for employment. My CMO file contains four reports that prevent this – in particular that last one. The one that cost me my job with the Defence Department. It specifically paints Aspergers as a negative in the work place when it’s not when looked after correctly – and specified that I was “unfit for appointment”. That meant the whole public service – and as long as that report stays there I will never be able to get a position in the public service. That – along with three other reports from my time with Australia Post – needs to be removed from my CMO file. Not quashed or over ruled (I’ve already tried that) – just removed.
4. Lifestyle: I last worked full time in 1997. To do nothing for such a long time is just as dangerous to one’s mental health as staying in an environment that threatens one’s mental health. So I have made efforts to keep busy. The result of this is that I’ve developed a lifestyle that suits me. There is one negative as a result though – I don’t have room in my life at the moment for a full time job. Changing that is not something I can do overnight. I have to close off the things that I am doing – and that does NOT mean just dropping it. That’s a bad thing and I would not be able to cope with that. Yet another mental health threat. So I have to get them out of the way as quickly as possible. That’s the main reason why I need more money – so I can do that. The big one over the years has been the football project. That’s been constant since 1992 when I took it up after leaving Australia Post. Other things have been added over the years, especially since I lost the Defence Department job, and my website is the big one there. Along with the commitments of marriage and the time it takes to achieve the rights that Aspies deserve and battling for same – which adds even more work. Not to mention what I do with the wrestling.
5. Legal recognition of the Spectrum: Along with problems 2 and 3, there is also the precedent the Federal Magistrate’s Court set in April 2004 (the one that bankrupted me) that makes it legal to not recognise Aspergers as a factor in employment – removing the protection of the Disability Discrimination Act. Particularly when it came to interfering with one’s routine and autonomy – and using irrelevant factors as an excuse to justify it (AKA inherent requirements of the job). That aspect was clearly being abused, and to this day that is recognised as perfectly legal. That has to change, and the way to change it is to specifically recognise the Spectrum when it comes to employment within the disability structure (that’s the only way it can be done) and subsequently restrict access to the convenient interpretation of what constitutes inherent requirements. That’s what I was a victim of. Until I have that, taking any employment is too much of a mental health risk – again unless it’s within a special interest.
6. Back to school: Another option to address – a return to school or a TAFE college to get the qualifications that are mentioned as a restriction in problem 2. Now aside from the fact that TAFE college qualifications are not recognised as such by employers (only universities do that) it will require me to return to a team atmosphere again. I had enough trouble at school with that, and I’ve found it can be very easy to become a target in any sort of similar seminar style atmosphere. That’s yet another mental health threat. Schools and colleges in that regard don’t provide one on one education which is the only way I could do it. I can’t do it from home because there are too many distractions per problem 4. I have to go to them.
7. Self employment: Talking of not being able to do education things from home, the same also applies to self employment. But there are other factors preventing that as well – in particular the complete lack of routine. When one is self employed, you are at the mercy of your clients. I’ve seen it with another family member, and I want nothing to do with it. There is also the additional issue of the bankruptcy. That will prevent me from borrowing the capital to start a business even if I could cope with it. In Australia you can not do little things like walk dogs or mow lawns for a living – unless you are running a business.
As I said above – I don’t like this situation, and I am doing my best to fix it up where I can. Here is what I am doing;
1. Past Employment: Getting closure here will not be easy. The ideal solution is obviously an apology from both Australia Post and the Defence Department – but I doubt I’ll get that. I guess the only way is to get other work experience that counters what has happened. But it will take a lot of adjustment and it will need a very tolerant employer. Does one exist? In private enterprise I don’t think so. The public service requires a solution to problem 3.
2. Employment atmosphere: The only way this can be fixed is with changes in Disability Discrimination law. That’s why I contributed to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission enquiry into employment of those who are recognised as having a disability. Whether or not I can do anything about this in a large way remains to be seen. The enquiry into the issues of Autistic Spectrum Disorders should play a role in this.
3. Commonwealth Medical Officer (CMO): As indicated above, the key here is to get the reports out of my file. I’m still investigating how to go about that one, but maybe the enquiry could lead to something. Meanwhile at state level, the local Health Department are being prodded about the matter in the hope that maybe they can push a few proverbial buttons. It’s not going well at present though, as the changes made as a result of the Autism State Plan haven’t gone far enough. I’m not giving up though.
Note: This situation has an update here.
4. Lifestyle: Really – there is no solution here. It all boils down to doing whatever I need to away from home. This really shouldn’t be a problem. As far as the major distractions go (ie the project) I need money – or support. This is something that is also lined up for the enquiry – and I’ve already brought it to the attention of the state government through my contribution to the Autism State Plan. Along with the prodding I spoke of in problem 3.
5. Legal recognition of the Spectrum: See problem number 2.
6. Back to school: Unless one of the universities has a one on one program as such, I don’t think anything can be done here. And even if there is, problem 4 has to be resolved first.
7. Self employment: No solution to this one.
These are the facts – along with the unconfirmed assertion that I’m on a black list when it comes to employment agencies. So if anyone wants to call me a bludger, be prepared for a charge of slander. You’ve been warned and told so don’t try and claim verifiable fact because all your so called facts have been destroyed by this update. If there are any options that I have missed I’ll add them below.
And anyone who wants me to ignore my mental health and just go for it doesn’t know what it’s like to narrowly avoid a nervous breakdown, and narrowly avoid death (Christmas 1984). They also don’t know what is required to adjust to life as an Aspie, which I rightly claim the right to do for the highest level of functioning I can get. I don’t act. I am a real person and I will not play the role of a character under any circumstances (except the wrestling of course!).