Magazine article The Spectator

Work? Nice If You Can Get It

Magazine article The Spectator

Work? Nice If You Can Get It

Article excerpt

It's difficult to keep a job when you have Asperger's, however hard you try

I am not unemployed due to laziness. I have ambitions. I would like to be successful. I would like to have a beautiful, grounded wife, children, and earn a good crust. My grandfather, who died before I was born, was in the Navy during the second world war. In his field he was an important person who gained respect. I would like to gain respect too and to achieve my goals, but I find it very difficult because I have Asperger's Syndrome, a condition on the autistic spectrum that produces impaired social skills, obsessions, high anxiety and, certainly in my case, extreme emotion and passion.

I very much want to have a job, but it has proved trickier than I expected. It's going to be even harder now after the cuts. It's also going to be more difficult to qualify for a disability allowance, but I would like employers and politicians to realise that those of us who have these sorts of conditions need help, because it is often difficult for us to understand how to behave.

There have been many books written and TV programmes made recently featuring characters with Asperger's. There was one on the New York Times bestseller list about a boy with Asperger's who is misunderstood by the police. In my experience, we're misunderstood by more people than just police.

If, at the age of ten, I had been able to look into the future and see myself as I am now, I would have dropped dead. I know that I would make a good father but I feel that there is no chance of my having a family. I don't want to be a jobless nobody, but no matter how hard I try I get fired from every job I do.

It's not that I have a bad attitude. I think I am an honest and reliable employee. But I find it difficult to fit in.

There is an agency near where I live, which finds disabled people paid jobs. I have seen how efficient this agency is, as two residents in my care home (who have ADHD) were both helped to get jobs. But at first the agency refused to take me, as they did not classify Asperger's Syndrome as a learning disability. It is. I should know. Some people might say it is a gift, which makes sufferers original. But though I am highly intelligent in some ways, I can't spell to save my life, I have major problems academically, and I am prone to panicking when things go wrong.

My first official employment, when I was 19, was as a night cleaner in Tesco. This job I found on my own. I went and asked for the manager, and said I wanted work there. The job started at 3 a. m. and ended at 8 a. m . I walked through the small town in the dark to it. Throughout the night, the other workers bitched about me because I was new. …

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