#workplace

The University of Washington and Microsoft Change the World of Work!

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In the article, “How UW, Microsoft are pitching in to help job-hunters with autism”, author Rachel Lerman introduces her readers to Project Search, a program through the University of Washington and Seattle Public Schools that trains people with ASD in skills that are important in the world of work.  Along with the training opportunity, Project Search also helps individuals on the autism spectrum find great job opportunities.

Lerman discusses the challenges that individuals on the spectrum face when entering the world of work. One such challenge is the spectrum itself.  This wide-ranging spectrum makes structured educational and training programs difficult. 

To resolve this concern, Project Search partners with businesses to provide internships to participants as often as possible, so training may be more personalized.  

Lerman also mentions the challenges that come from traditional recruiting and hiring methods, specifically she discusses the resume and the interview process.  Both of which, as many hiring managers will tell you, do not always present accurate or predictable information.  

To resolve these challenges, Lerman talks about Microsoft’s Hiring Academy, which not only works as a recruiting tool, it also offers training opportunities through classes on communication, tests for technical understanding and ability, and group games and activities.  

Opportunities like Project Search and Microsoft’s Hiring Academy are part of a nationwide movement by businesses to actively recruit individuals on the spectrum.  While, yes, these programs provide individuals with ASD opportunities for independence, they also provide benefits for our communities and our society at large.  But most importantly, and this fact is not lost on our business partners, it makes good business sense.  This is an untapped labor pool of people with skills, talents, and abilities that are of direct benefit to business.

Mind Shift appreciates this perspective.  We want our business partners to work with us because it makes good business sense.  We want to be considered an organization that provides exceptional talent that helps businesses move forward.  As we like to say, we help businesses do good work while doing good.

To read Rachel Lerman’s article, follow this link: https://www.seattletimes.com/pacific-nw-magazine/thinking-differently-about-employment/

And to learn more about how Mind Shift can help your business, visit www.mindshift.works!

What Mind Shift Means to Me

Mind Shift Sign with Hearts

Hope.

Mind Shift means Hope.

By the time I reached adulthood, life on the Spectrum had taught me to be guarded and never  really, fully hope for anything. I grew up in the age where Autism was thought of as an affliction that required institutionalizing, and no one even knew what Asperger’s Syndrome was; the research wasn’t even translated from German until after I’d graduated from High School. My diagnosis didn’t come until I was twenty-nine years old. By then, I had internalized that I was broken, defective, an outsider. I didn’t fit in with others, struggling to understand the non-verbal cues. I’d struggled to get and keep jobs, worked below my education level and agonized over all the daily social interactions. No matter how hard I tried to fit in, at some point I’d see “The Look”.

The Look is a slight narrowing of the eyes and a tilt of the head, always signaling that I’d done something socially incorrect. Sometimes the consequences were a puzzled query from the other party, offering me an opportunity to correct my unintentional blunder; other times it was immediate ostracization from my coworkers and subsequent sidelong glances until the pressure became too great and I’d resign, humiliated and angry with myself for not “getting it”.

This became a repeating pattern, and I came to believe I’d never fit in anywhere. The social pressures were enormous. I’d spent years learning and mentally cataloging non-verbal social cues, so I could superficially pass for “normal” within limited time frames, but it was never enough. Extended periods of social interaction were exhausting as I expended my energy interpreting and making my best guesses to the nuanced meanings behind neuro-typical conversation. As time went on, I found myself avoiding social situations, even when I wanted to participate, because the emotional toll was too great. For each social gathering, there is a price to pay and I need varying amounts to time to recover and become energized again. Imagine being dropped onto another planet with no frame of reference to interpret the native language. The words mean one thing to you, but something different to them and you lack the necessary parts to replicate the “correct” meaning. Every social situation becomes a minefield.

How does any of this relate to Mind Shift and the Hope it gives me? Mind Shift accepts and accommodates my current ability level and encourages me to stretch those boundaries. It provides a place for me to learn of how much I truly am capable, instead of placing unattainable expectations on me from day one. The expectations of a “regular” job, without accommodations, were a guarantee of failure. I’d work so hard to meet them that all else in my life would suffer: home, friendships, nutrition, sleep, everything. There was no balance. Every ounce of my focus was on meeting the work goals and not losing the job. It didn’t take long before I’d start seeing The Look, and people who were previously friendly became distant. I knew my time in that position was limited.

Mind Shift is different. It’s a place of support, encouragement, safety, understanding, and most of all, Hope. Each day I go to work, I know that I’ll be productive, valued, and given the tools I need to excel and grow. My position at Mind Shift accommodates my current abilities and helps me expand those, growing as a person and employee. Mind Shift helps me realize my potential. What does my future hold? I don’t know for sure, but I do know is that what I learn and contribute at Mind Shift makes me a better person and helps me prepare for that future and the challenges and opportunities it will bring.

Each morning as I head to work, it happens. This huge, crazy bubble of Hope rises up inside me and bursts forth into an uncontrollable smile. I finally fit in.