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To Sam

Looking for a job, but with autism

Dear Sam,

I'm 16 years old, and I'm autistic, which for me, means that I have trouble with consistency (like you may see here in my writing), overly pressured situations, loud noises, and many people in general.

I'm currently looking for a few jobs, since I'm saving up money to go to summer camp. Fair and square.

The thing is, I expected to do work, where I wouldn't have to engage with people/strangers. Like delivering newspapers or cleaning up, which I enjoy.

My dad however, found me a job at a DIY store, but they will most likely expect me to sit at the cash registrer, where a lot of people will be coming through.

I tried something similar last year at a grocery store, which after a pressure crisis, resulted in me experiencing a meltdown in front of everyone.

If I flaunt the interview, my dad will think I did it on purpose and accuse me of being lazy.

So I need some advice.

Do I go with whatever the manager wants me to do, with the likelihood of being put in a position alike last year, giving me another bad working experience, or do I tell the manager that I'm autistic and try to set up conditions of me working in the back, cleaning up etc. with the risk of the manager not wanting me to work there because of that, and my dad accusing me of failing the interview on purpose?

Thank you for your time,

Ask Sam

Sam

​​Hi there,

Starting a new job can be scary and leave us with feelings of nervousness. It can be challenging for anybody. Everyone will find things difficult in their own way, but sometimes there may be disabilities or health problems making it more challenging for you. Being honest with your employer means they can help make the workplace better for you.

Everybody has their own challenges to face when it comes to starting a job, so you have to think about what you do and don’t feel comfortable with at work, so that you are supporting and taking care of your own emotional wellbeing.

Autism is included in a law called the Equality Act (or the Disability Discrimination Act if you are in Northern Ireland) and this gives you rights at work. Talking to your employer about your diagnosis of autism and any help you might need is a good first step. If someone has a disability then their employer has to make some reasonable changes in order to make sure they are not at a disadvantage. They are not allowed to deny you the job based on the fact that you have autism.

The more you can understand your condition and how your daily life is affected, the more you can help your employer understand. An employer can only support you, if they are fully aware of your needs.

The National Autistic Society has some really good advice and information about finding a job as well as information for an employer, if you wanted to pass that onto them.

It’s still possible you may not get this job but nobody should make you feel bad if you don’t. It wouldn’t be okay for your dad to call you lazy if you don’t get the job.

Very often there is learning when things don’t work out, so any experience can be of value. An interview is very much to see if the job is right for you as well as if you are right for the job.

Whatever happens and however it makes you feel,  there is always a Childline counsellor who can offer you the support you need and deserve.

Thanks for your letter.

Take care,

Sam

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