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Overlooked and Unwanted

A man looking out to a body of water at sunset

By Chris

This article is part of My Plan Manager’s guest blogger series.

This is a difficult topic because extreme focus, or hyper-focusing, can be both good and bad, it just depends on the intensity and what the focus is on. On the good side, becoming focused with something can result in many positives effects such as innovative thinking, creativity and problem solving. Hyper-focusing on something creative lets us create breath taking works of art, music, poetry and prose. Autistic hyper focus also results in solving problems that non neurodivergent minds don’t have the stamina to handle.

Another aspect of hyper-focus is something called orthogonal thinking. This is the ability to take seemingly unrelated facts, ideas, situations, etc., and find connections between them. This is not the same as lateral thinking, which is also a common trait of neurodivergent minds, but more on that later.

For most people, the world is like trying to solve a puzzle with no idea of how big it is or what the picture looks like. Orthogonal thinkers, depending on how strong their trait is, can see some of the picture some of the time and can put pieces together that nobody else would ever even consider. This is what makes us such excellent problem solvers and innovators, not to mention valuable members of any team.

Lateral thinking is a similar concept but is thought of as ‘out of the box’ thinking. That is not the same as orthogonal thinking; it is thinking of innovative ideas but ideas that are still related to the subject being considered. This is also a valuable asset and someone who possesses both orthogonal and lateral thinking can be the most valuable member of any team or company. Many Autistic people have both these traits.

In spite of these valuable skills and abilities, the Australian Government estimates that approximately 70% of all Autistic people who can and are willing to work are unemployed. This is not due to a lack of our trying, there are other reasons behind our lack of employment and they aren’t pretty. The blatant truth is that we are largely discriminated against because of our lack of neurotypical social skills and our inability to ‘fit in’ with a neurotypical workplace.

I can recall an interview in which I did not get the job because I did not smile. That was the only reason they gave my friend (who was also going for the same position, unknown to the company). They gave him no other reason. So while I was the better qualified candidate to do the actual work, I was turned away. So instead of getting a job where I would’ve been able to hyper-focus and do well, and thoroughly enjoy doing it, I was denied over something that had nothing to do with the job, smiling.

Consider how many Autistic people are treated the same every day. Then ask yourselves how many fantastic new inventions, works of art and other wonders our society is missing out on because of employer bias against those with disabilities?

Hi I’m Chris. I’m a 46 year old Autistic Person. Originally from California, I ran away to Australia as soon as I could. Raised in the country, life wasn’t easy with an invisible neurological difference especially when that difference wasn’t even widely known about. On top of that I didn’t even get a diagnosis until I was 39 years old. Looking back I now realise how miserable I was and how badly I was being treated by everyone. Looking forward I want to leave behind some small piece of myself that maybe, if I’m lucky, might make a positive impact.




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