Thomas Madar – Involvement Volunteer Experiences of Life and Employment Part 1
I was diagnosed with autism at the age of three in 1960. A mainstream boarding school environment with a class size of no more than fifteen pupils was the most successful strategy for my condition. By late teenage-hood , I was qualified enough to enter university. From the mid-1970s to relatively recently, I progressed through university in stages to acquire a degree and a collection of post-graduate qualifications.
The manifestations of my autistic spectrum condition resulted in a very difficult start to my career life. Eventually, I learned what areas to avoid, and what areas to aim for, and for more than a decade have enjoyed a reasonable degree of success on assignments as a software developer and tester. Beset by the practice of companies to send suitable work offshore to low wage economies, I am once again looking for work.
As a committed Christian, I am involved in supporting my local church and attend activities organised by the church and other Christian based societies. On a more active note, I keep fit by cycle commuting and going regularly to the gym, and like the adventure of long distance hiking and cycle touring.
No Welcome with Other Graduates
A degree of difficulty in attracting conversation and friendship from other people, and in keeping a conversation going has, and still is a major point of upset for me. Scarcely has there been a better illustration of this than in the event which follows.
At the start of 1983, I obtained a job and was eagerly exploring possibilities for social activities outside of work. My attention became drawn to a well known social club for university graduates whose portfolio of activities was very varied, ranging from coffee socials in members’ houses, through cinema trips to walks in the country.
I applied to join. The membership application process included a period of assessment whereby the prospective member attended a range of activities for six weeks and got to know existing members. At the end of this period, there was a committee meeting where amongst other things, the suitability of this person for the club was determined, and his or her application for membership was correspondingly accepted or rejected.
Over the span of this assessment, I had much difficulty in initiating conversations and keeping them going, often trying too hard and creating barriers between myself and others. On occasions, I remember forcing my way into conversations between two partners, often with inappropriate questions such as ‘what type of television have you got?’ My social awkwardness resulted in my application for membership being unanimously rejected. When I telephoned the club secretary to ask the reason why, he refused to give the reason, stating that if he did, I might sue them.
This incident contributed to lasting feelings of social inferiority which were only resolved with the intervention of my church pastor, and later by some counselling sessions with a professional Christian counsellor recommended to me by him.
Part 2 Thomas will share more employment experiences next week.