One of the Sixteen Percent
The journey I have been on since embracing my autism has been defined by two key events. The first came on the morning of Tuesday 22nd May 2012. I had just received the life affirming news that I have Aspergers syndrome, and a beautiful metamorphosis began inside my head. The second came on a drizzly October evening in 2019, as I lay, scrolling through my Twitter feed, on my single bed in my dingily lit flat. I had just battled my way through another day in the NHS admin job I had held full time for nearly 2 years. I was about to see the findings of the National Autistic Society’s report on the autism employment gap. There were three key findings in the report that were emphasised, to the shock of many:
- Just 32% of autistic adults in the UK are in some kind of paid employment (compared with 47% of disabled people and 80% of non-disabled people)
- A meagre 16% of autistic adults are in full time paid employment
- 77% of unemployed autistic adults want employment
Many of the responses to this, came from outraged, neuro-typical public figures.
My gut response, was much more exasperated. The figures were harrowing to me but nothing about them surprised me. I had been going through the same emotions as these well intentioned public figures for decades, and seething anger had dimmed to lukewarm frustration. The well intentioned people musing "How has this happened?" were merely displaying the lack of understanding of autistic people’s lived experiences that exists, even among those who are responsible to nurture us. This ignorance, although forgivable in many cases, is nonetheless deeply damaging both to autistic people, and to wider society.
For generations, Britain has been deprived of the best of a group of people whose strengths can invigorate communities, and the relationships that they’re founded on; and whose weaknesses, in many cases, can be overcome with simple acts of compassion and empathy. With this in mind, I’d like to introduce my blog series "1 of the 16%" an experience of autism in work.
As well as exploring autism through sharing my own thoughts, I’m going to be offering this space up as a place for people on the autistic spectrum, and their allies, to share their experiences, in the hope of educating and inspiring others.
My twenties were a journey through abuse and suicidal depression where, with the help of the people that loved me, I eventually emerged from my childhood bedroom and into the adult world. The three years that have passed, since I became 1 of the 16%, have been extraordinarily tough; but have also allowed me to grow into a life that I never would have previously believed possible. I have withstood, and overcome, some significant obstacles, and begun to enjoy the freedoms, and responsibilities, of an adult in full time employment.
Over the course of this blog series, you will learn how working has liberated me from certain burdens I assumed that I would always face as an autistic person living in a neuro-typical World. One of which, was the dangerous lie that I was not compatible with the rest of humanity. If I can persuade just one person that they world is better off with them in it, then any work this series requires will be worth it. If you’d like to contribute to 1 of the 16% please contact: Oneofsixteen@outlook.com