A Key to Success: Self Advocacy

When autistic people hear the term “self awareness” it’s often in being reprimanded for not mirroring neurotypical behavior. In Autism Advantage, we emphasize the actual meaning of the term: understanding who you are and how you operate in this world. If the X-Men has taught us anything, it is that unique traits are needed and necessary. Accepting and understanding who you are as an autistic person allows you to find ways to leverage your autistic traits as an advantage throughout your career.

Understanding who you are as an autistic person also equips you to confidently operate as a self advocate. If you aren’t familiar with the term, self advocacy means that all humans hold the right to speak, and make decisions, for themselves.  Organizations like the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and The Autistic Women’s Network, and publications like NOS Magazine and The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism offer connections to great resources in which you can learn more about self advoacy.

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This week, our Autism Advantage data analytics class welcomed Jessie Wusthoff who helped our participants understand the term more deeply. As a leading thinker in Silicon Valley on workforce planning, organizational development, and disability advocacy, Wusthoff was able to share best practices on how to effectively utilize self advocacy in the workplace.

During her time with our Autism Advantage class, Wusthoff detailed how self advocacy could be applied to secure workplace accommodations that would allow the employee and their employer to succeed. Asking for workplace accommodations can often be difficult for individuals, as the uncertainty of how their request will impact their position in the workplace can produce anxiety. Wusthoff shared that such requests can be anxious for managers as well due to knowledge gaps or inexperience with accommodation requests. By showing our students how accommodations help all parties, and how accommodation requests can be effectively framed, Wusthoff helped prepared our students to be the best employees that can be.

When it comes to accommodations, the truth is that all humans utilize them. It’s just that our society has gotten pretty good at providing them for certain groups of people and not others. Those our society does not consider disabled often don’t realize how society accommodates them over others in their everyday lives. Providing them accommodations (even if unknown) is great. All humans should have the accommodations they need to succeed.  If society has failed to build accommodations for you, it is your right to speak up. We can’t expect others to speak for us. We must speak for ourselves. Be self aware of who you are, including your talents and accommodation needs. Then advocate for them. Self advocacy will only help you and your employer succeed.

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Hey! Our friend Kenneth is riding his bike this July for 100 miles from Washington, DC to the Atlantic Ocean. He decided to do this on his own to raise awareness and funds to train autistic adults through Autism Advantage. We think that’s awesome and hope you do to. You can support his effort by clicking here. Check it out!