This blog has been kindly written by a guest blogger, to give advice to others on the spectrum who want to start dating.
The world of online dating can be shallow and ruthless and for some people like us on the spectrum quiet intimidating and scary.
When I decided to create an online dating profile a few years ago it was something I went into with naivety and massive expectations of finding a life partner. Instead it turned out to be a life journey.
It was something I needed to do no matter how scary. In the end it proved beneficial for me in learning how to socialise one on one with people I had never previously met.
Creating a profile
When I created a profile I used just a tiny picture of my face. I was shy and lacked confidence. My profile was uninspiring and didn’t say much.
To push myself I would message a profile of somebody that I thought was interesting. Often times they wouldn’t reply back and I would take it to heart and felt upset about it. Sometimes if I messaged somebody and they didn’t reply back I would send multiple messages in the hope they would end up replying. And sometimes they would actually reply back and when they did I wasn’t sure what to say to them. I would often send replies in quick succession within an hour.
I didn’t have any friends and I hardly ever travelled anywhere unless it was to my job, and that was local. Although I was an adult ‘stranger danger’ was always in the back of my mind due to my inexperience with people, my trusting nature, and having trouble with understanding a persons intentions.
Starting the conversation
I would start out small and ask them their names and what their jobs were, their hobbies, and I would tell them mine. As is usual with online dating they would ask to meet up in person. I did not know how to take trains and I didn’t feel comfortable travelling to other parts of London. Most of all I didn’t know them so I was frightened that they may have ulterior motives to laugh at me or harm me. I decided to compromise; I would meet them local to me and In familiar surroundings and make sure it was crowded. I didn’t want to and was frightened to step out of my comfort zone.
Meeting someone in person
Meeting someone in person after talking with them online was a difficult experience for me. I either spoke too little, or I spoke too much.
I have a passion for film and history and when I spoke about these two subjects I would go into immense detail. I would add in timelines and specific historical dates or talk at length about set pieces and soundtracks used in films. When it was time for the other person to speak about their interests I would have my head down and not say much. I would also find myself agreeing with what ever they said, even if I didn’t agree with it or not share that interest. I was desperate to impress.
I was oblivious about reading body language and understanding chemistry. Often times if I liked the person I would start bombarding them with messages 2 minutes after departing from the date. I would ask them how they found the date, if they liked me, and when they wanted to meet again. It always the same outcome, they wouldn’t.
This scenario kept on repeating itself. It went the same way each time. Sometimes if a date went wrong I would cry once I got home. I couldn’t understand why nobody wanted to date me, why I kept messing it up.
I didn’t want to give up. As awful as I was on these dates nothing would change in life if I just gave up. I decided I had to continue with the online dating. I had to learn to face fears. Although it wasn’t going to be easy I decided to step outside of my comfort zone.
A person I was speaking to online suggested we meet in the centre of London. It was a suggestion that terrified me. I stay in my local area and I never traveled by train but it was something that I needed to do so I said yes. I asked my mum to sit down with me and explain how the train system worked. I then did it; I stepped outside of my comfort zone. It wasn’t easy. It was an unnerving experience as I find places that I do not travel to overwhelming but I had a nice evening. It felt good that I had stepped out and conquered the impossible. Things started to change.
My whole perspective on online dating shifted. I had begun to realise that finding a partner can not be forced, that meeting people that I wouldn’t normally have met and in a one on one setting was beneficial to me learning how to socialise.
I started slowly travelling to places in London to meet people for dates. Finally I had found the confidence and courage to travel on trains and to wider areas in my city. I also began to feel confidence within myself. On dates I was forced to talk about myself, my interests, and my dislikes. I had to force myself to listen and to ask questions to my dates.
If I contacted somebody online and they didn’t reply it started to not bother me. I’m not what they are looking for. It’s a natural part of dating. It happens to everybody. If I messaged somebody and they messaged me back I would no longer bombard them with messages. I took it slow. If I liked someone I met on a date I would no longer message them at the end of the date. I’d leave it a day or two and then send them a message. The pictures on my profile started to appear more confident.
I started to see the benefits of my new found confidence. Some of the people that I was meeting for dates wanted to see me again….on a friendship basis. Throughout my teens and much of my twenties I was a loner and I never had any friends, now I have a group of them. They are very accepting of me and my autism.
I use online dating occasionally now. I see it as a bit of fun, a chance to meet new people and improve my social skills. If I meet a partner then great. If not it’s a chance to make new friends. Me joining the world of online dating was one of the best decisions I ever made. It wasn’t and isn’t easy but It has helped me along in life and helped me to understand that dating is something that happens naturally and is not to be forced. Don’t take it serious. In time things fall in to place and in hindsight I was never ready for a relationship anyway when I first went into online dating. As somebody on the autistic spectrum I overcame a massive hurdle.
Online dating tips for those on the spectrum
1. Disclosing your autism
When you create a profile you don’t need to disclose you are on the spectrum. If you send somebody a message and do not get a reply then leave it and move on, do not keep sending them messages. If you get a reply or somebody messages you do not send them messages every 10 minutes. Take your time and reply when ready and give the other person time to message you.
2. Having no expectations
Always approach a date with no expectations. If you are nervous, they are also nervous. If when you leave the date and you like a person do not send them messages or ask them if they like you. Leave it a day or two and then send them a message, be neutral. Ask them how they are doing and see how they reply. Remember; if they aren’t interested in you it is normal. Don’t take it personal. It’s a hard part of dating and meeting people in general.
3. Talking too much and going into too much detail
When you talk about yourself do not go into too much detail. They don’t need to know specific dates and timelines of your favourite historical event. You don’t need to describe your favourite film and give a reel by reel analysis. I wouldn’t mention things like politics or religion. Keep it light. And do not talk about odd subjects like UFO encounters. Remember to ask your date questions about themselves and their interests. Listen to what they are saying and show an interest.
4. Leaving a bad date
Occasionally you might meet somebody who from the offset is very rude or stand off’ish. If you feel uncomfortable make an excuse and politely excuse yourself from the date. Do not take offence as it is them who have an attitude, or maybe they have had a bad day. Unfortunately things like this can happen when you choose to meet somebody you were talking to online.
5. Staying safe
Stranger danger. Do not overanalyse. People that are online are there for the same reasons you are. Always meet them in a public place and tell somebody where you are going it it makes you feel safer. It’s important to be safe but don’t go overboard with it.
The term neurodiversity was developed by Judy Singer in 1998. However, as we all know, a lot has changed in the two decades since the first research about neurological differences was published.
The neurodiversity movement has made its way throughout the non-profit sector and is gradually making space for itself within government, research and education.
But why hasn’t neurodiversity made space for itself within workplaces? Or instead, why haven’t workplaces made space for neurodiversity?
This article aims to help further your understanding of neurodiversity, help you start embracing neurodiversity within your workplace and create systemic change.
What is neurodiversity?
Neurodiversity refers to the infinite variety of human neurocognitive styles and how everyones brain works differently. While society has often celebrated biodiversity and cultural diversity, neurodiversity and invisible disabilities such as autism, dyslexia and ADHD have often been considered a medical disorder, which the primary objective to ‘solve’ these disabilities and make people better.
The neurodiversity movement focuses on shifting neurodiversity from a medical to a social perspective and aims to help individuals view these natural differences in in the way we think and do as strengths that can truly benefit employers.
Examples of neurodiversity includes:
- Autism and Aspergers Syndrome
- Tourette syndrome
In 2020, the neurodiversity movement is gathering momentum, and is now being used in workplaces to hire and attract talent that have alternative ways of thinking. Neurodivergent individuals can bring a variety of unique strengths to their work – from innovation, creativity, attention to detail, problem-solving and intense focus.
There are now many corporates embracing the neurodiversity movement, from JP Morgan, Microsoft and SAP. All have started programmes aimed at hiring more autistic individuals and realise the exceptional benefits of doing so. However, there is still a long way to go, with many organisations focused on the challenges associated with neurodivergent employees in the workplace rather than their strengths.
What are the reasons causing the neurodiversity movement?
1. Greater awareness of the neurodiverse population
Over the past two decades there has been a greater knowledge of the number of people that are neurodivergent around the world. This has resulted in more people getting diagnosed as well as the production of books, TV series and movies featuring autistic characters. This has highlighted the everyday reality neurodiverse people face as well as educating people about the behaviours and skills they have. UK figures suggest 1 in 10 people are neurodivergent which likely represents a high number of employees, job-seekers and customers.
2. Celebrities have been openly discussing their experiences
Over the past couple of years, many famous people have started openly talking about their neurodivergence. From Greta Thurnberg, Anne Hegarty, Susan Boyle and Richard Branson. In Richard Bransons blog he spoke about his dyslexia and how “dyslexic people can be hugely creative in identifying solutions to problems, and to coming up with new ways to tackle challenges.”… “From my own experience, I know that dyslexic people can achieve great things when they focus on their strengths and get the right support in school.”
3. There has been increased understanding
There has been a key shift from the medical framing of autism, ADHD and other conditions and so now neurodiversity isn’t seen as something to be ‘cured’ but instead celebrated. This has led to an increased appreciation of the unique strengths the neurodiverse population offers but also the challenges posed, when trying to make our neurotypical focused way of life accessible to others.
4. The global search for talent
According to Manpower, 40% of global employers are struggling to find the talent they need. With talent being a much desired but competitive resource, employers are having to diversify their thinking and look outside of their traditional recruitment methods to hire the next generation of talent.
Given the high number of neurodivergent individuals and the high unemployment rates, this represents a huge, untapped talent pool that can really benefit our workforce, bringing new skill sets, innovations and talents.
But how do we embrace neurodiversity in the workplace?
1. Implement reasonable adjustments
We often hear the phrase ‘reasonable adjustments’ floating around when we’re thinking of hiring disabled employees. But what does this actually mean in theory and in practice?
Reasonable adjustments are changes put in place to ensure disabled people can overcome any substantial disadvantages they may have within the recruitment process, doing their job and progressing in work.
Its important to seriously consider making adjustments to ensure you get the best out of each employee and they can utilise their full potential. Most adjustments are simple to make and can even benefit neurotypical employees. These include things like communicating clearly, providing quiet break spaces and considering each persons individual needs.
Examples of reasonable adjustments on the job include:
- Providing them with equipment to support them.
- Giving them a quiet, distraction free area to work so they can focus.
- Altering their working hours so they can avoid stressful rush hours.
- Allowing them to wear noise cancelling earphones or blue light glasses.
- Allowing them to take short, regular breaks to avoid getting overwhelmed or stressed.
- Giving them a clear point of contact or mentor if they need extra support.
- Working together to understand their working style and how a manager can best communicate with them.
2. Make your application process accessible
Making your recruitment processes more accessible is a simple way to attract more neurodiverse candidates. Small changes like making job descriptions structured, clear and concise while avoiding the use of complicated, metaphorical language can make your roles a lot easier to understand. Job descriptions should be split into ‘essential’ and ‘desirable’ skill sets.
As well as this, its useful to have a in depth look at your recruitment processes and get neurodiverse individuals to go through the process to provide insight on how accessible it really is. Examples of things you can do include:
- Providing candidates with an easy way to disclose any disability and making them aware of any support they can get from the beginning.
- Making your application process simple to use and follow.
- Enabling accessibility features, such as enlarged font, contrasting colours and underlined links so its easy to navigate.
- Using clear, concise and structured language.
3. Make your interview methods accessible
A huge part of the recruitment process are interviews. Interviews can be a scary experience for neurotypical candidates, but 10x harder for someone neurodiverse.
Most interview methods focus on accessing candidates in two key areas: confidence and communication. These two areas can often put neurodiverse candidates at a disadvantage, making it difficult for them to be themselves and communicate their skills needed for the role. This means that neurodiverse candidates often miss out on roles they might have been perfect for.
Some neurodiverse candidates may take questions literally (such as what their weaknesses are), get anxious in an environment they do not know, struggle with eye contact and answering ‘left field’ questions.
To make your interview process more accessible to autistic individuals there are several things you can do. These include:
- Providing them with a quiet area they can take breaks and relax.
- Providing them with pictures of the people they will be interacting with. This could be both the interviewers and the reception staff so they know who they’re going to be meeting.
- Providing clear instructions about accessing buildings and directions.
- Providing them with a clear structure of the day including timings so they know what to expect and how to prepare.
- Avoiding open ended questions.
- Allowing them time to think about the questions and process their thoughts.
- Using interview spaces that are free from distractions, loud noises and bright lights.
4. Create an inclusive culture
Its likely that your workforce employs neurodiverse employees already but you don’t know it. Creating a culture that fosters communication about neurodiversity is essential. It enables employees to be who they are, creates neurodiverse representation which will in turn encourage more individuals to apply for your vacancies.
Other ways you can do this is through employee training to increase their understanding about neurodiversity. This can really help peoples perceptions and ‘demystify’ it, as well as being able to ask any questions.
How you can start a neurodiversity movement in your workplace
Start the conversation
Its really important to simply start the conversation. Speak to HR and Diversity and Inclusion to see what they’re doing to employ more neurodiverse employees and understand the diversity of their workforce.
Look at the data
Have a look at the composition of your workforce and see what percentage of the workforce is disabled and neurodiverse.
Get in touch
Stack helps employers to hire more neurodiverse employees. We continuously support job-seekers and employees to help them find the very best roles and recruit the very best talent.
Take a look at our website or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org to see how we can help.
Corona virus has impacted the way that we are all working. With the majority of companies now working from home to limit the risk of spread, we have all had to adapt to how we work.
It is disputed that a lot more companies will now offer remote working even after Corona virus because of how effective and easy it has been to implement and the opportunity that it offers employees such as seeing their families more and saving money by not having to commute.
While working from home has not been the biggest of challenges for us all it has been and continues to be a difficult transition for autistic employees.
This week’s blog will offer 5 tips to help autistic employees develop a new routine and transition to the new normal of working from home.
1. Keeping your morning routine
The first tip that we recommend is keeping your morning routine the same. What we mean by this is keeping your morning schedule running as normal as possible so, waking up at the same time and following your usual daily actives, like showering and eating breakfast. This is so you don’t have to experience more change than necessary and so that you do not need to alter your daily routines any further.
Although working from home has been hard, its particularly hard for those on the spectrum, and can significantly cause anxiety and impact their mental health.
- Waking up an hour later every day can affect your work productivity. For instance, having a lie in will leave you feeling de-energized for work when you do have to get up to join your Monday morning weekly meeting at 9am.
- Or how consistently getting up later each morning may result in you going to bed later each night. Until one morning you miss your alarm and become late for your work meeting which can could have disastrous consequences for your employment.
- Or even how getting up later could also affect your routine and productivity if you had to work from the office one morning. Resulting in you having to alter your routine to get up earlier to commute in; and by the time you are in your have a very unproductive day because your so tired as you had to get up and leave an hour early to arrive on time.
2. Getting dressed
Our second recommendation is to make sure you are getting dressed. It is easy to just sit in our pyjamas all day and I’m sure it is something we are all guilty of doing at least once!
Choosing to not get dressed when working from home can have consequences for out work. It has been proven that not getting dressed decreases our productivity.
For an autistic employee getting dressed for work is another part of their morning routine and altering this as we have already mentioned can result in more barrier for their day to day activity so we recommend for this reason that you continue to follow this part of your routine and get dressed ready for work.
Another reason we recommend this is because sitting in your pyjamas all day everyday can take a toll on ones mental health. Autistic individuals are more likely that neuro-typical individuals to suffer from mental health conditions.
Sitting in one’s pyjamas all day can make you feel sluggish, depressed and affect your motivation. For somebody autistic these feelings are likely to be amplified and come on faster.
To stop this occurring we recommend that you continue to get dressed ready for work as it will help your state of mind, continue your routine meaning less change and is just the more professional thing to do.
3. Space to work
The third tip we want to advise is that you make sure you have somewhere that you can work. This space should be light, clean, quiet, and organised.
Having your own space equipped with all the things you need and may require will allow you to focus and will help increase your productivity as you won’t have to break momentum to go and grab the highlighter you left in your bag in the hallway.
We also recommend laying your desk out the way it is at your work this will again help you with the change and routine as everything will be in the more familiar layout that you are used to.
If you do not have a spare room or an office that you can call your own space I would recommend finding a nook in one of the rooms you do have that you can make sure own such as the kitchen table. I would advise against working from your bed and this is not good for your posture and is not an ideal space for writing and making notes.
4. Scheduling dates
Working from home will result in using a variety of different methods of communication such as zoom and Microsoft teams calls, WhatsApp voice notes, and Whereby video calls. Using a variety of platforms can get confusing therefore, it is best to have a diary to schedule in daily calls and activities. This will help to keep your work-life organised and keep your focus and productivity up.
There are many ways you may choose to schedule your appointments for example you might find that a wall planner is best for you; as everything gets complied on one sheet. Similarly, a diary is another option, you can view a daily or weekly schedule and there is normally a notes section that you can use throughout the day.
Another option is an online calendar such as google calendar this may be more effective if you are constantly using different platforms for calls as you can add the links so it takes you directly to the call. It also notifies you 10 minutes before that you have a call due.
5. Taking breaks…
Autistic employees are often described as hard workers and being at home they will work just as hard as they would in their job. One of the struggles for them being at home is that they will get so focused in what they are doing that they will not realise the time and will forget to take their breaks.
It is easy to forget when working from home to take your allotted breaks. Taking breaks will allow you time to rest and recover, to eat and drink and just do something that has no focus or relevance to your work whatsoever. This is important as it can affect your productivity and can re-energize you for the second half of your day. Taking your much-needed breaks also gets you up and about which as previously stated can impact your mental health. It gets you moving which is one of the contributing factors to ill-mental health.
Taking breaks also decreases your chance of burn-out and can affect your physical health too as it forces you to do something other than look at a computer screen all day which can cause headaches.
Thanks for reading this weeks blog, we hope that we have addressed some of the challenges with transitioning to working from home and that you have found our advice and tips useful. We hope that this blog is useful for you not only now during Corona virus but also if the future should you ever be torn between working remotely or from your job site.
For other useful resources visit our blog.