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.
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
This section: Label Me: Francesca Baird blogging about autism, Writing
- Roy’s West End View: History is bunk …and it ends just outside London
- Aye Write Three Debut Authors (interviewed by Matthew Keeley)
- The Literary Treatment of Racism – Lola Rose
- A Road Runs Through It by Frankie Gault
- The Wanderlust Women – three poems
- Aye Write: Prof Dame Sue Black ‘The Books that Made Me
- Poetry by Maryam Raza
- A Scottish Soldier Foresees His Death by Frankie Gault
- Mary Irvine’s Blog: Interview with debut author Evelyne Lawrie
- A Letter to Prophet Muhammad ( pbuh) – Rizwan Akhtar
- An Evening With Louise Welsh – The Second Cut
- A Valentine’s Day Poem by Rizwan Akhtar
- Home Grown In Glasgow – a poem for International Women’s Day by Ruby McCann
- The Carrbridge Rose – Brian Whittingham
- On the West Highland Line – Linda Jackson
- Poetry for Valentine’s Day by Donna Campbell
- Poetry for Valentine’s Day by Finola Scott
- Flash Fiction for Valentine’s Day – Leela Soma
- Ruby McCann – Glasgow Writer
- a serenade for Lahore’s Rain – Rizwan Akhtar