Top 5 tips for entrepreneurs on the autistic spectrum

By Rosalind A. Bergemann author of An Asperger’s Guide to Entrepreneurship

For many of us on the autistic spectrum, employment can or has been a challenge. Whilst we may be intellectually capable (if not ideally suited) to do a particular job, the reality is that the workplace is centered around working with and through other people. Even a job that you might perceive as being undertaken in isolation will still require you to be part of a team.  ‘Teamwork’ is a workplace buzzword at the moment, and no matter how much that may be in conflict with the way we might work, this is unlikely to change.  For some of us the lack of required social skills needed for teamwork has resulted in our inability to secure permanent jobs and for others it has meant constant tension in the jobs we hold. It is also true that while we may be extremely Bergemann_Aspergers-Guide_978-1-84905-509-3_colourjpg-printcreative people with great ideas for new markets or products, corporate culture requires this to be presented in a certain way within an organization, and this can end up being extremely frustrating for those of us who can see the potential of something but are unable to directly contribute to its success.

For these reasons (and others) many of us make the decision to start our own businesses and become entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship is a career that I believe suits people with Asperger’s extremely well – provided that we are properly prepared and have developed our coping strategies in advance.

So with that in mind here are the top 5 tips I would give to someone with ASD who wants to start their own business.

 

TIP 1. Ensure that the vision for your product/service and its unique selling point can be shared clearly with others.

Many of us will have a vision of our business in our heads that is very clear and logical to us. Whilst this is great it is important to recognize that when starting a business there will be times that you will be required to share this vision with others. To make sure you can do this, take some time to write down as much detail as possible regarding what your product or service looks like, and exactly what it is that makes your product/service unique. Ask yourself

  • What would make people come to me instead of more established companies?
  • What am I offering that is different to what is already out there?

Writing down or recording answers to these questions will help you put your vision into a format that can be shared with people you will be working with, such as potential investors.

Another thing to consider (particularly if you have experience in a corporate role) is that a plan for a small business does not require the same level of corporate documentation as a larger organization. You certainly need your plan, but it needs to be brief and to the point. A start-up business plan should really only be 4 to 5 pages long.

 

TIP 2: Do an honest assessment of your strengths and weaknesses

Before starting out, do an honest assessment of the strengths you have as a person with ASD, but also an assessment of the weaknesses you have.  This will allow you to develop coping or development strategies for areas where you have some weaknesses. Answer these questions as honestly as you can:

  • How well do I work with other people?
  • How important is it for me to have control of my work?
  • Do I have any sensory issues that may create a problem?
  • How are my written communication skills?
  • What cause me challenges as a person with ASD in the workplace? How could this affect me in my own business?
  • How am I at networking?

 

TIP 3: Consider sharing your diagnosis with those working closest to you

Since you will be working far closer with your own team than you might have as part of someone else’s, it is really important that there is no chance of you creating problems unintentionally due to some social skill problems.  It may be worthwhile considering whether you want to share your diagnosis with your team, possibly as part of a development programme promoting understanding and communication.

 

TIP 4: Don’t allow your new business to take over your life

As people on the autistic spectrum, we do not do things by halves. If we say we are going to do something, we tend to give it all our attention and energy. It is extremely tempting to fall into the trap of making our new business the totality of our lives. Whilst it is expected that we will spend a lot of time on our new project, please make sure that other parts of your life (such as your family and home-life) do not suffer as a result. After all you don’t want to start a new business but lose a family as a result.

 

TIP 5: Be prepared to experience change

Most of us on the spectrum tend to stick with things that have worked in the past, however as the owner of a small business you need to be open to adaptation and change.  If you are a person who struggles with change, I recommend that you spend some time developing coping strategies for change, and practicing when you have the opportunity.  Examples of coping strategies include:

  • Scheduling regular change adaptation breakaways where you can spend some time alone examining the changes that are happening or that need to be made, and coming to terms with them.
  • Developing a change business plan for yourself, where you can highlight areas of your business that may need change in the future so that it does not become sidelined or occur unexpectedly.
  • Assess how you have handled change in the past and highlight the coping strategies you used at that time (eg. at high school, when you first started work, etc). Think about how you can adapt these and write them down. Review these when you are feeling overloaded.

 

Starting your own business can be challenging, but it is also one of the most fulfilling and inspirational things one can do. People on the spectrum can make a huge contribution to the world in this way.

I wish you all the success in your new business!

 

Rosalind A. Bergemann is the Chairperson of Asperger Leaders and the CEO of a global change management consultancy. She is also the author of An Asperger’s Guide to Entrepreneurship and An Asperger Leader’s Guide to Living and Leading Change both of which are available from Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

 

Try out some exercises from the Autism Fitness Handbook

The Autism Fitness Handbook is designed to address specific areas of difficulty for children, teens and young adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Physical fitness – so often overlooked when helping people with autism reach their full potential – provides extended and far-reaching benefits for children of all ages on the spectrum.

Download this extract and follow ‘Coach David’ (Geslak) as he takes you step-by-step through a selection of his most engaging, fun and easy-to-do exercises, such as Frankensteins and Downward Dogs.

To read the full extract CLICK HERE

Frankenstein

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Autism Fitness Handbook by David Geslak is available in paperback from Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Helping a Child with Autism Handle Halloween

Walking around the shops in October it is impossible to escape the ghoulish Halloween theme. The supermarkets are full of masks, deathly hands and creepy cobwebs. A child may shrug this off as you walk them quickly past displays, which are a little too creepy for comfort.

But let’s think about the child with autism. These children often have a different way of processing, heightened or jumbled perception and sensory issues. How might they perceive those costumes, decorations and unexplained changes?

The best way to understand is to try walking in their shoes…

HalloweenPhoto

Shops.

You are now a child with autism entering a supermarket.

The volume has been put up and every individual noise is becoming unbearably loud. The sound of a trolley is like thunder clashing, those sliding doors are nails down a blackboard screeching as they open and close, open and close. Colour is gone and the lighting creates a nightmare strobe effect coupled with a continuous, loud hum, which feels like bees moving about and buzzing inside your ears. Your senses are all muddled. Revolting shop smells of food and body odours, do not stop at your nose, but become sickening tastes. Your mouth is dry. The floor seems to wobble and your clothes begin to grate and chaff and burn into your skin. You anticipate these feelings, but at least you know this shop. You know the routine. You’ve been here before and survived…

But wait!

Suddenly there is an isle of terror where the toys usually are. That piano with the coloured buttons, which is the ONLY reason you’ve ever endured this shop has been replaced by a cauldron full of skeletons and black spiders. That Lego set you’ve been told to “wait for until your birthday” is GONE too! You zoom in and take in every detail – image after image like the ‘click, click, click’ of a camera. It’s fascinating, but also terrifying. You’ll think about it later. It is all too different and uncomfortable right now. Images will be stored for when are home and feel safe – maybe bedtime?

Dressing up.

Maybe you hate dressing up or seeing other people dressed up. Maybe you recognise people by what they wear and the sameness of style makes you feel more secure. Maybe dressing up makes you feel you must become that character. If you are dressed as a tiger then you feel like a tiger. Grown up’s don’t seem to get this and keep telling you off as you leap about roaring and scratching…

Face Paints

Maybe you find face paints frightening – the sad clown with a painted smile. Is it happy or sad? Good or bad? Facial expressions are already confusing, without throwing face paints in to the mix. Maybe someone wants you to wear face paints, but you have a sensory fear or do not realise that those paints are only temporary. Maybe the face paints are okay, but you have a deep, scratchy memory of the face washing after.

Trick or Treat?

Now there are knocks on the door after dark and you see Mum or Dad giving away your sweets to other children. When will it end? Maybe Mum and Dad turn the lights out and neighbours know not to knock on your door. But then there are the neighbours, who still welcome trick or treating. They make this clear with decorations – a friendly pumpkin or a full on fright house…

What can we do to help?

Whether you choose to get involved with Halloween or not it is important to prepare a child with autism for the run up to October 31st.

Here are my top 10 tricks to preparing a child with Autism for Halloween.

top 10 Tricks_small

Click Here to download a poster of the top 10 tricks to prepare a child for Halloween

Adele Devine is the author of Colour Coding for Learners with Autism now available from Jessica Kingsley Publishers 

Why some disabled people might deserve MORE than the minimum wage

Well done Welfare Minister, Lord Freud, for apologising for his recent “foolish and offensive” remarks where he suggested that people with disabilities could potentially be paid less than the minimum wage.  At least he has admitted to being so wrong.  I think forcing his resignation is a bit harsh however.  It seems to me that he was, after all, as many of us still are in our modern society, simply uninterested, unknowledgeable and/or unaware of the various and steadily increasing conditions that are or can be classed as a ‘disability’ today, such as an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or Asperger’s Syndrome. I have a teenage son diagnosed with an ASD who is currently studying at college and the remark left me feeling, as a parent, very concerned, angry and frustrated.  Did this comment mean that my own son could potentially leave college next year to an ever lower wage than the current minimum – just because he has a diagnosis of an ASD?  Was I now to worry that these types of comments would lead to my son being either completely unable to find work in the future or paid less than the neurotypical student sitting next to him in class at college (who is not even as high an achiever as my son)?Obviously Lord Freud has never heard of the condition or bothered to look into ‘autism’, or the ‘autistic spectrum’- if he had I am sure he would never have remarked as he did.

Classed as a disability, autism spectrum disorders usually means diagnosed people will have difficulties in some areas, especially in communicating with others and social interaction, but other skills may develop typically.  Some autistic individuals have special abilities or talents – and I don’t just mean the autistic savants who can, as an example, amazingly recall a phone book from A-Z or count cards in Las Vegas (most of us have watched the fabulous movie Rain Man) – some, for example, especially enjoy and thrive in doing repetitive, or what others would describe as ‘boring’ work or tasks, and many others have amazing, advanced skills and knowledge of modern technology. An accepted fact these days andLonie_Online-Safety-f_978-1-84905-454-6_colourjpg-print a subject that I go into in more detail in my new book is that many people (both children and adults) with an ASD are extremely computer literate and some can show amazing talents in computer programming or even hacking.  I have worked directly with computers for over twenty-five years and my teenage son (with an ASD) is still able to teach me new technology related skills and frequently helps to enhance my knowledge.  In my book Online Safety for Children & Teens on the Autism Spectrum – A Parent’s and Carer’s Guide I explain why some autistic children (and again adults) can actually understand modern technology better than they can other people.

During my eleven year employment (2001-2012) with Autism Concern (a large autism charity based in Northamptonshire, UK) as their IT Specialist & Webmaster, I worked on a project in which we produced a simple interactive guide for employers or potential employers of people with an ASD.  During this research we found that in some cases hiring a person with an ASD was actually more successful than hiring a ‘neurotypical’ person.

Because of their condition, the benefits to the employer can be (but not limited to):

  • Some autistic employees exhibit extreme attention to detail – making sure the job is done right the first time!
  • Some autistic employees become very focused on a task – and enjoy repetitive jobs – meaning a high productivity rate.
  • Most autistic employees will work according to schedules and keep to them – i.e. they are typically never late and will not take more than the allowed time for lunch or breaks.
  • Because autistic people are very literal and often do not know how to ‘lie’, these employees will typically not take unnecessary or unauthorised days off absent.

So what if some need additional support or cannot answer the telephone, or prefer to sit alone during their lunch hour?  As long as the job they are doing is done well and in accordance with their contract of employment – surely we, as a society, are obligated to help these special yet disadvantaged individuals into securing employment and giving them the ‘normalcy’ that comes with working, such as commitment of hours and paying taxes, etc? It seems clear to me that some of these amazing individuals may even deserve more than the minimum wage – not less – after all they have to live with their disability on a daily basis as well as contend with the day to day struggles we all face in our modern society.  Try walking in their shoes for a day and getting £2 an hour for a hard days work while your ‘neurotypical colleague’ (who’s doing exactly the same job, and not as productive or reliable) is getting at least minimum wage. Why are we therefore not, as a society, grabbing at the chance to employ these talented individuals? Why are our computer industry giants, research and government agencies not hiring more autistic employees and developing their natural talents?

With reports worryingly showing figures as high as 1 out of every 68 boys (although not confirmed) are now thought to be on the Autism Spectrum, surely Lord Freud is also not thinking clearly about the future working population.  If we do not provide adequate education, training and work experience for the future generations of autistic children (and unless a cure is found the rate of diagnosis is only set to increase) there is a higher chance that there will be a significant rise in these ‘disabled’ yet fit for work people relying on benefits because they cannot find suitable employment, or no one has helped them to do so. In summary I feel we need to take immediate action as a society together to make sure we can employ these remarkable people in future generations to come – and not simply ignore the increase of diagnosis and hope it will go away, or think of ridiculous ways to save money – such as simply paying them less.

In my humble opinion I feel we need to:

1. Promote and support autism in the workplace – clearly explain to employers the benefits to them and reasons why they should hire that person with an ASD .  Highlight the positive not the negative and possibly initially offer financial help incentives for the employer.

2. Try to secure and offer more training facilities for ASD students, particularly those with high computer literacy levels, focusing on their individual skill set or talents and using these to secure future employment.

3. Demand that large computer companies (such as Microsoft/Apple), who make ridiculously high profits, step in and offer/provide paid (not government funded) apprenticeships/jobs for gifted young autistic individuals – and pay them at least the minimum wage!

4. Request that autism charities and other such important organisations be given more grants and/or funding to help them help people with autism secure employment and give them the financial backing to be more readily available with information/resources for parents and education professionals as well as employers.

5. Provide more free autism awareness training for ministers (before forcing them to resign), GPs, educators, social services and other such professionals.

 

Nicola Lonie is the author of Online Safety for Children and Teens on the Autism Spectrum now available through Jessica Kingsley Publishers

‘Contact with Nature can be immensely healing.’

Caroline Jay founded and runs the Seeds of Hope Children’s Garden, a national charity which aims to promote the use of nature in helping children manage loss. For twelve years she ran a SAND (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Charity) group, supporting families after the death of a baby. We spoke to Caroline about using life cycles to teach children about change, how nature can help us come to terms with loss, and how her own experiences inspired her to write her new book, Seeds of Hope Bereavement and Loss Activity Book.

What inspired you to write the book?Jay_Seeds-of-Hope-B_978-1-84905-546-8_colourjpg-print

A love of Nature and of being outside in the sun and air has been my inspiration for the Seeds of Hope Activity Book – that and the realisation that so much in Nature echoes the changes that happen in life.  None of us can live life without change.  All change implies loss and new beginnings  – and this is a pattern ever present in Nature.

In your book, you use life cycles in Nature as a means of explaining death.  Why did you choose that particular method?

Mainly because life cycles are fun!  How amazing to see frogspawn turn into tadpoles that then turn into frogs!  Or a grub become a caterpillar that disappears into a chrysalis out of which bursts a butterfly!  Also because looking at the lifecycles that happen all the time in Nature can help us understand that change and loss are part of a natural order.  “Death is a part of life is a part of death is a part of life is …” and so on as the circle turns.  A seed becomes a plant that becomes a flower that becomes a fruit that contains the seed from which a new plant will grow.  A baby becomes a child who becomes an adult who becomes an old person who will eventually die as new babies are born.  The 4 stages of the life cycle in Nature reflect the 4 stages of a human life.  The pattern continues: there are 4 seasons in the year, 4 weeks in the month, 4 quarters in the year.

Have you found yourself applying the methods you describe in the book in your own personal life?  Have they been helpful?

When my first child, Laura was stillborn, I found myself completely out of balance.  My hospital notes said I was a mother but I had no child.  The world around me seemed suddenly full of babies and heavily pregnant women.  The pain of grief was palpable.  I took long walks in the woods.  I found contact with Nature and the outside world to be immensely healing and grounding at a time when my world had been turned upside down.  Grief for most people can be a very dark place.  Planting seeds or plants and watching them grow in the Spring after the darkness of Winter can be uplifting and provide some hope of brighter times to come.

Does the grieving process for children and adults differ greatly?

The huge range of emotions we may feel when grieving – sadness, anger, shock, disbelief, fear, guilt, numbness to name a few – are generally speaking the same for children and adults.  One difference is that children are usually only able to stay with their feelings for short periods of time – a bit like jumping in and out of a puddle, they may be very sad one minute and want to go out and play the next.  Adults will generally have easier and clearer access to the information surrounding a death or a loss whereas children will generally be dependent on the adults around them to tell them the facts.  It is a natural instinct to want to protect children from painful life experiences but, in the case of a death, this can lead to confusion.  Children fare better when they are given honest information.

What has your experience with SAND and the Seeds of Hope Children’s Garden taught you about how people deal with loss?

Everybody responds to loss and bereavement in different ways.  There is no right and wrong way to travel the road and there are no shortcuts.  Very generally speaking men and women tend to grieve differently in that women are inclined to want to talk about their feelings for longer while men are more inclined to want to take action to restore the status quo.  Partners, whether male or female, often grieve in different ways and at different speeds.  In the case of a child’s death, the loss is equal and therefore no one person is better able to support the other.  Some seek out a support group while others prefer to grieve privately.

How do you hope your book will make a difference?

The activities in the book serve to provide structure for and clarify the grief process for a child allowing them to see the natural process of the cycle of life in Nature.  The images encourage exploration and observation of creatures, plants, and seasons.  The way in which a child’s journey through grief is handled will fundamentally determine how they manage all future losses in adulthood.  I hope the Seeds of Hope Activity Book will empower children to explore their feelings in ways they can understand – by drawing, playing, exploring and having fun.

You can find our more about Caroline’s book, read reviews or order your copy here.

Request a copy of our latest brochure of books on Dementia.

Our latest catalogue of books on Dementia and Working with Older People is now available. With full information on our new and bestselling dementia titles, our dementia catalogue is a tremendous resource not only for those working with 2014-October---Dementia-Catalogue---COVERpeople affected by dementia, but also for family members, friends and carers. Including practical books for professionals, manuals on how to incorporate creative approaches into dementia care, as well as guides on coping with dementia for friends, family and individuals who are themselves affected.

To receive a free copy of the catalogue, please sign up for our mailing list and we’ll get one out to you right away. You may also request multiple copies to share with friends, family, colleagues and clients–simply note how many copies you would like (up to 20) in the ‘any additional comments’ box on the sign-up form.

We hope you will take advantage of this opportunity to get more information about our outstanding new and upcoming titles such as How We Think About Dementia and Developing Excellent Care for People Living with Dementia in Care Homes. The catalogue also features information on bestselling titles such as Leadership for Person-Centered Dementia Care  and Comforting Touch in Dementia and End of Life Care, as well moving personal accounts of the experience of dementia such as Dancing with Dementia  from Christine Bryden.

Click this link to see a listing of new and recent titles from Jessica Kingsley Publishers’ Dementia list.

To request a copy of the JKP complete catalogue of books on dementia, please click here to fill out our sign-up sheet. Please be sure to click any additional areas of interest as well. You should receive a copy of the catalogue within two – three weeks.

 

 

Browse our latest collection of books for adoptive and foster parents.

Here are our new and bestselling titles for adoptive and foster parents, or those thinking of adopting or fostering. For more information on any of the books inside, simply click the link icon next to the cover image to view the full book page.

On the value of writing with traumatised young people – with Marion Baraitser

Baraitser_Reading-and-Exp_978-1-84905-384-6_colourjpg-printMarion Baraitser demonstrates the power of writing with traumatised children and young people. Marion’s book ‘Reading and Expressive Writing with Traumatised Children, Young Refugees and Asylum Seekers: Unpack My Heart With Words’ is available now from the JKP website.

On the value of writing with traumatised young people:
When disturbed young people have read aloud together a strong text, talked about it with a practiced facilitator in a roomful of trusted community members, discussing characters and subjects that concern their own lives, and then written about it, it can transform their idea of themselves and of their future lives. They are better able to externalize self-hood so they can exist in the world, feeling that their internal being has connected to the outside world through books, in some profound way, a form of ‘being-in-development’, a process of growing and changing the many selves they can uncover by this process. The facilitator brings energy, optimism, warmth and responsiveness, even inspiration, or at least motivation or affirmation, to each session.
Here is Amina on the value of writing in helping her to heal:
Writing is helping me to put down memories, different perspectives, to try to find the line… Talking doesn’t do this. When I write I am having a relationship with my journal. Writing is like having a conversation with yourself. I tend to be more honest… pick up on things that lie deeper. I love myself, in writing… I am lucky to be here… I am lucky to be alive… You must keep going and finding yourself, at the same time staying true to yourself… even though you cannot forget where you started from.

Boy

How reading great books together can change lives:
The Nigerian writer Ben Okri, who holds childhood memories of civil war in Nigeria, of his schooling in Lagos 400 miles from his family and of how, on reaching England, he lived rough, by his wits, homeless and miserable. He went to London because of Dickens and Shakespeare, but he also loved African writers like Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka. ‘Literature doesn’t have a country. Shakespeare is an African writer… Dickens’ characters are Nigerians.’ (Okri, 1992) As the young people read aloud in the company of a facilitator and a like-minded group, they become the writer, they are taken out of themselves, and if the writer is worth his salt, that encompasses a whole new set of dimensions that can change the way they regard life and their place in it.

Marion’s book ‘Reading and Expressive Writing with Traumatised Children, Young Refugees and Asylum Seekers: Unpack My Heart With Words’ is available now from the JKP website.

 

 

 

Tessie Regan – Like Having Six Senses

Tessie Regan‘s new book Shorts is a series of short stories about Alcohol, Asperger Syndrome and God. This short introduction is about the relationship between alcoholism and Asperger Syndrome as viewed from her humorous and unique perspective.

I’m 31 and it has only been in the past year that doctors have used their probes and fancy words to explain what exactly has been going on in my brain. Getting my diagnosis meant everything made more sense. I wasn’t insane! I wasn’t rude or unsympathetic! I wasn’t a loner because I hated people! I wasn’t moody because I was impatient! I wasn’t easily distracted and unfocused because I had ADD! I wasn’t a royal pain in the ass as a child because I was undisciplined! I was operating in a different playing field and had been quieting the confusing and undiagnosed symptoms of Asperger’s by drinking myself to death – self-medication at its very finest.

The drinking washed away the feeling of steel-wool in my temples, removed the square blocks from my sternum and eased the clenching jaw that kept in the screaming because my skin was electric. The drinking made my senses relax and encounter the world at a slower pace. When I was sober some things would be so heightened that it was hard to distinguish which sense was receiving what feeling. It is like being dropped off by the mother-ship to run some experiments on the earthlings, but they’ve forgotten to give me the bone and flesh suit that can withstand the elements. Like sending a football player into the game without pads and a helmet… Oops!

Regan- Shorts - pg 36 - image

But I guess you’re thinking what did it look like, to be a drunk and to have Aspergers?

While I was drinking most of the symptoms were quieted and hidden. I could be so normal, but only when I was in active addiction. Before I began drinking and during seasons of sobriety was the best vantage point to see Asperger’s. It hid in ‘personality’ and easily fooled the people that loved me because to them it was a harmless problem they could chalk up my oddities (or the endless pool of my ‘personality’). For example I loved consistency and routine and any minor change would result in near cataclysmic meltdowns. As a child, it meant becoming physically ill and depressed and eventually hospitalized when we moved from West Virginia to North Carolina. As an adult, it meant drinking myself through changes big and small. From my older sister moving out of the country to the corner grocery store changing the layout of the aisles.

For the most part having Asperger’s means doing life with a little bit of funniness, but there is a darker side. There is a lot of time alone because I enjoy solitude and also because I need to reset. There is a lot of avoiding and making lame excuses because I don’t want to do something and this hurts people’s feelings. They really start to resent the criminal boyfriend that is espoused to my mind. They make wide circles and annoyed groans. They roll their eyes and suspect I didn’t see it because I didn’t look them in the eye. They wonder when I’ll grow up or mature or act my age. Sometimes they earnestly believe this is because I drank for so many years and that I have given myself some sort of permanent brain damage. The more that my cards make sense, the more they seem to offend the others at the table. But the misunderstanding is okay. When sunlight picks up the hairs on my bare skin one at a time and raises the temperature by a miniscule degree; when I can watch and see this miracle happening on my arm, I will remember that some people will not notice the warmth of it at all. I will remember that my bag of tricks is a blessing translated for the earthlings as ‘quirky’, and let it be well to be that too.

Tessie Regan is the author of Shorts, which is available from Jessica Kingsley Publishers. To order your copy go the JKP website.