Francesca Baird: Blogging about Autism. Autism and Work (2)

My second job – Autism: Dealing with Social and Communication Difficulties

(Autism in females is not well understood: possibly because autistic traits manifest themselves differently in girls than they do in males and girls are better as masking their autistic traits. Therefore, it is of no surprise that many females go through their entire lives without a diagnosis. Through the story of my life (and my experience of living with autism), I hope to raise awareness of autism in females and remove some of the mental health stigmas and misconceptions attached to the label.

The following is a short extract from my book.
Label Me: My Journey Towards an Autism Diagnosis)
francesca at computer

My Second Job

My second job was much more of a success. My mum, once again, worked her magic to land me a role as a sales assistant in an awesome little store that sold random rocks, cool experimental science kits, refractor and reflector telescopes and a host of other space and science related toys.

I remember our first staff night out: a Christmas do at an Italian restaurant located within a five minutes’ walk from my work. There were eight of us in total (five and three partners). I had just turned sixteen, an adult by definition, and was excited to participate in a social get together with my newfound friends and mentors. As the night was in full flow, I decided to let my hair down and necked a few vodkas, just enough to make a newbie drinker tipsy. With increased confidence, I had much more to say and I can even recall the group talking about me and laughing on numerous occasions, making me the centre of attention. Frustratingly, I cannot recall what I did or said that was so funny, but I can imagine how I would have come across – reserved and quiet to begin with, simply taking it all in.

Then, as the evening progressed and my confidence increased, I would have thrown in a few comments or asked a direct question, usually something inappropriate but nevertheless, well-received. If my memory serves me well, I think, at one point I said something along the lines of “Your husband is much younger and more attractive that I imagined”. Everyone laughed at such a random and unexpected statement, leading to more in-depth conversations about age and relationships.

I knew what I was doing of course, acting as an instigator to get people talking during the quiet and uneventful moments. Having determined the subject matter, I was then able to sit back and listen to the conversation flow without any further input. For the most part, this strategy seemed to work well; allowing me to engage in a conversation while appearing to spend the rest of my time processing and contemplating the meaning from deeper levels of conversation. In reality I had nothing to say but it was important for me to appear as intelligent and thoughtful young woman. Interestingly, I was so focused on making it an enjoyable night out for everyone involved, that I had complete disregard for my surroundings and was thus free from anxious thoughts linked to the environment.

I was the same at work too. I did not mind interacting with customers due to the precise nature of the conversation. Selling a product was much easier than having neutral conversations that had no real purpose or intent. It was like I had a script and I had learned how to perform, to fulfil my role successfully as a sales assistant; disguising the social and communication difficulties I experienced as a result of autism.’

Of course, my ability and attitude to work did not go unnoticed either, as I was often praised for my dedication and hard work. It is therefore only natural that I wanted to cling on to this particular part of my life (work, the people, the entire context) and the feelings it provoked for as long as possible.

Francesca Baird, 7 March, 2021

Support Francesca by contributing to Kickstarter Fundraiser so that Label Me: My Journey Towards an Autism Diagnosis can be published

Francesca Baird: Autism and relationships. Chapter 5: A Fantasy World
Francesca Baird - on autism - The World of Work

This section: Label Me: Francesca Baird blogging about autism, Writing

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Avatar of PatByrne Publisher of Pat's Guide to Glasgow West End; the community guide to the West End of Glasgow. Fiction and non-fiction writer.

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