What if The Tables were Turned . . .
What would it be like if autistics were the founders, owners, leaders, managers, and supervisors in most businesses in the world.
And we told the non-autistics that we would train them for bottom-level entry jobs but they could work their way up, maybe.
And we told the non-autistics we would provide specialized training just for them, so they might possibly succeed.
And we told them managerial positions were hard to come by because of certain character traits the non-autistics lacked.
And we told them that we decided to choose someone else for the job because they didn’t do well in the interview.
And we told them they needed more experience before we could hire them, even though we recognized no one else would likely give them the experience they needed, based on how poorly they presented themselves in our autistic world.
And we told them we couldn’t help them.
And we told them, No, I don’t know where else you might look. But here’s a book you can read.
And we told them exactly what it was about them that wasn’t a fit or we chose to say nothing, because we just got a general overall feeling they wouldn’t fit in and didn’t seem a good risk with our autistic culture.
And we told them, if hired, they would have to attend emotional IQ seminars. Not the autistics, just the non-autistics.
And we told them to avoid socializing in the break room, to hyper-focus for ten hours straight, to spend some time in solitude for five days, to stay on the same topic for one hour in conversations, and to particularly avoid small talk, because that was our way.
And we told them, most often in indirect ways, that they had to work on themselves, so we could tolerate being around them and they wouldn’t bother us and waste work time. Especially their talking about meaningless topics.
And we had meetings behind closed doors, where autistics taught autistics about non-autistics and how to manage them more effectively. The non-autistics weren’t invited.
And we developed seminars and profiteered off of the non-autistics: How to accommodate non-autistic spectrum disorder in the workplace. Taught by autistics. We charged top dollar. It was urgently needed.
And we invested money in experts, who were autistic, that explained to us, autistics, ways in which the non-autistics commonly fail in normal settings. Or if not “fail,” then ways to avoid failing. We even provided handbooks and guidelines. Some we shared with them.
And we called them “them.”
And we heard about a cure for them. We read the articles. Non-autistics had something akin to a puzzle or a missing piece of something. We liked that we had whatever they were missing.
And we told them, even after they tried hard, and followed the guidelines and suggestions, and sat in on the seminars, and listened to everything that was different about them, that they still needed to try better and to look at their actions. We didn’t hesitate to highlight what they could improve upon during performance reviews. We needed to treat them like everyone else during evaluations. Equality.
And we told them and demonstrated through our readings of books and watching of YouTubes about non-autistics (and note taking), that we were trying our very hardest to make the workplace welcoming to everyone. Though we really hoped they didn’t complain or ask for special services. They could function just fine. After all, we all need to learn to adjust sometime.
And we took liberty to comment on ways they could communicate better, even in short memos or quick email correspondence, just small little remarks to remind them of how to act accordingly. Gentle reminders. Even as we knew, they’d likely do it again, and we shook our heads and laughed some.
And we made sure to give them opportunities to be leaders in meetings, as long as we were the ones that organized the agenda and told everyone what to do. After all, they need our guidance.
And we treated them a little bit less than. Not on purpose.
And then we told them, you know we are all a little bit non-autistic in some ways. I mean, sometimes I have a hard time at the same things you do. I know what it’s like to be non-autistic.
And then we told them, we should celebrate and include everyone. What about me? I have challenges. Let’s celebrate everyone!
And then, we would scoff a bit, when a few of them felt uneasy by their circumstances. Hadn’t they learned, yet?
And then, we’d wonder why they were still struggling, still misinterpreting what we said, still not fitting in after all the work we’d done!
And then, an autistic whispered: “Maybe this isn’t working.”
And someone, in the back room, a non-autistic, raised her hand, and said, “What if the tables were turned?”
Samantha is the author of Everyday Aspergers, a book shattering the myths of autism.