Hello All, I am a female civil engineering technician from the East Midlands with over 16 years experience of highways, rail, drainage etc. and I have recently been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) aged 39.
My journey began when I was signed off work with anxiety and depression in the summer. Things hadn’t been going well with the job. There had been a number of fall-outs with others, misunderstandings and so on. In fact, I have struggled to keep a job all my working life.
While I was off, one of the associate directors where I work suggested that I use the time to reflect on what triggers my stress/anxiety. Instantaneously, I said ‘noise’ in reply and mentioned that my desk neighbour’s constant, vibrating, push notifications were reverberating through my arms and driving me to despair.
Anyway, I began to research online and as one of the many things that I have been criticised about by my managers is being overly sensitive, eventually I came across some research by Elaine N. Aron concerning the use of fMRI scans to measure empathy and her theories concerning “highly sensitive persons” “affected by sensory processing sensitivity that makes them more emotional” in the Daily Mail.
I completed the questionnaire on her website and scored very highly and then when reading the FAQ section afterwards, I came across this question: How does sensitivity differ from Autistic spectrum disorders (Asperger’s Syndrome, etc.)?
In the meantime, my employer wasn’t satisfied with the two occupational health professional’s reports they had previously commissioned so they arranged for me to see a neuropsychiatrist who eventually diagnosed me after an appointment that I made privately as my employers didn’t want to pursue it any further once told after their initial probe that ASD was more than probable.
Once ASD had been alluded to, my employer attempted reductionism by means of soliciting the advice of an ergonomist, someone who would normally deal with display screen assessments and seated posture, interestingly, also behavioural safety in relation to the design of nuclear plant control panels and software interfaces - just not autism.
I am grateful to my employer in that I now know why I am a serial leg bouncer and chair rocker. In fact, my earliest memory is looking down on a pair of socks pulled right up to my knees and the obligatory pair of 1970’s t-bar shoes and having my legs smacked by a well-meaning aunt who insisted that I must behave and keep still!
However, I have encountered an awful lot of ignorance and prejudice at work having been accused of trying to use my disability to my advantage in order to see the psychiatrists reasonable adjustments concerning a quiet working environment implemented.
I have engaged with ACAS to try and get my employer to compromise over my environment but they say that letting me work out of one of their 4 x quiet rooms which are empty 99% of the time would be too disruptive to the business.
Also, I made a business case for flexible working from home by means of a statutory request following the Stevenson and Farmer review of mental health at work on the basis that I wouldn’t need time off with anxiety and depression if I were allowed to work in an environment conducive to my needs but to no avail.
I am currently signed off by my GP researching employment law precedents and waiting for the employer to conclude its deliberations and inform me of their decision in writing.
It sounds to me that you are lucky that your employer is trying to make reasonable adjustments to your working environment.
As for the leg bouncer and chair rocker that looks like socially acceptable stimming. Keep it up.
Thank you very kindly for replying Robert123! My employer won't make any adjustments and they have ignored all the advice from occupational health and the psychiatrist thus so far in terms of phased returns to work and the like so please don't think that I am behaving like a spoilt child who can't get it's own way here - I have really worked hard to mount a successful return to work without the prospect of any further time off that would damage the business and cost more overheads. I shall take your advice and keep on loving the stimming! It is in my family - my late father leg bounced no end and he was a brilliant engineer. My Cousin on Dad's side spent the first 5 years of life mute and in hospital. Kindest wishes,
Making reasonable adjustments is an open subject and often difficult to quantify. You know a good environment when you're in it. And vice versa.
Back in 1984, before autism was recognised I was on a six month student working placement where the office I was in was just impossible to work in.
I just found it difficult/impossible to concentrate. A few weeks later the ajar window blew out in an overnight storm. And for three days I was moved into a different office, down the corridor and on the opposite side of the building. What a difference!!! It was like heaven, I was relaxed, productive and happy. Then I was told to move back after the window was replaced. My protests were ignored and back I went to the nightmare office.
So if you know what environment is good for you. Stick to your guns and don't be pushed about.
Thank you so much for sharing and being so kind to me Robert123!