Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Challenges of the Workplace

Blog neglect! Mea culpa.

Back to work after Christmas break means being gone most of the day, and being tired when I get home. By the end of the week I fall asleep on the couch very early in the evening. It's not because I have bad health, or that the job is all that physically hard. I just don't have much energy to think about blogging, although I enjoy writing.

I think the challenges of the workplace for an Aspie takes a lot of energy. For starters, I have to cope with a level of noise and lighting that everyone else seems to enjoy. On top of all the chatter going on in the special education classroom, my coworkers enjoy listening to the radio. They crank it up to hear it above all the other noise. I don't know how they can even think! Fortunately, they have cleared out a room adjacent to the main room, and I have set up to work with my students in there. By the end of the day, I'm not interested in hearing any music, even my own favorites.

And the lighting...old home movies show me squinting and putting my arms up over my eyes and turning in circles to block the rack of lights they used back then to make filming possible. Bright lights 'hurt' somehow. If I'm the first into the room at work, I only turn on half the overhead lights. When everyone leaves for the day, because I'm the last one to go, I turn off the radio and the lights and let the sun illuminate the room for me.

I haven't even mentioned the social aspect. I get along okay with my coworkers. Some of them even know about my Asperger's. I can't say I'm friends with any of them, at least in the sense that I have anything to do with them outside work hours, or that if any of them were to leave, we'd stay in contact. Just trying to make sure I understand what they mean when they talk to me is tiring.

My student is autistic, and I understand him. Some might say it's like the blind leading the blind, but I think it's an advantage. Everyone thinks he needs to socialize, socialize, socialize, and hold and maintain eye contact. I think he needs a little social time, with a lot of time in between to have some down time. Some outside our room are offended when he walks right by them without acknowledging them. I try to explain he's not trying to be offensive, but that he probably didn't even see them. I find myself being the child's advocate, and finding out a lot of people out there are blazingly ignorant. They think he can just 'snap out of it'. I have to bite my tongue, because I've thought of a lot of untactful retorts. I get no where when I try to explain when I'm in a calmer mood.

My student has a routine, and I have my routine around his routine, and we're both happy that way. I don't know why people all the time seem to think they need to change it. I call it 'rocking our boat.' Once they wanted my student to go on an outing at the last minute. I knew he wanted to stay and go to his classes. They insisted, he reacted. They expected me to intervene. I tried to explain in sign language, he still resisted. At that point, I told everyone I wasn't going to be the one to force him, and walked out of the room. It might have been unprofessional, but I couldn't handle what they were trying to do.

Days like that are especially draining. Sometimes I can't tell the difference between when I'm getting a virus and when I'm just tired from the challenges. I recently failed to recognize I was coming down with a GI bug until it hit me because of that.

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