Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Flexible Routeways review played on my mind

Last week’s weekly review conversation on the "Flexible Routeways" has really played on my mind for the past week to the extent that I have felt the need to put together a detailed response to address points that are difficult to address in the meetings due to time constraints etc. It is already appreciated at the provider that the main difficulty I have with job searching is the constantly stated requirements in job specifications for “good/excellent communication skills” when I am only ever at best “reasonable” given my disability of Asperger syndrome and consequentially hesitant, softly toned voice (i.e. not “confident” / “assertive” etc).

The caseworker had often told me to “leave previous employers’ criticisms in the past and tell myself I’m good”, I felt this was inappropriate as besides being easier said than done in principle, the implication is that the onus is on me to take a job with such specification, “tell myself I’m good” and learn to do the communication expected of someone with no disability, without any onus on the employer to make reasonable adjustments. I do realise (though that is no “consolation”) that the economic climate is allowing the employers to be more choosy than usual.
- I cannot simply “leave previous employers’ criticisms in the past”, as I concede:
- it was my fault I hadn’t told two of the employers in question that I had any named disability
- their criticisms, whilst undiplomatic (and may have been put more diplomatically if I had stated my named disability), were truthful in that I clearly do not have a normal “good” standard of communication skills and would not be able to do everything expected of someone who did.

I appreciate his positive comment that I compared favourably to people he worked with at another training provider where many less intelligent jobseekers were sent by the jobcentre in that I spoke “understandably” to himself, other staff and a visiting trainee nurse, though these were mainly conversations about my disability and the obstacles it causes with job searching where I am speaking from experience. However the employers in question would have had better communicators to compare me to, therefore I concede I did not compare so favourably to these, unlike for the caseworker considering his previous clients.

On the basis of the conversations referred to in the last paragraph he believed that I’d always be fine at one-to-one or small group communication with internal colleagues, I on occasions said “not all the time every time”, and had begun to quote an example from a period with a previous employer only to be cut off with the “that’s in the past leave it there” line. The example in question was that I'd been in a department with many complicated funding rules to learn which in that full role, I had responsibility for re-iterating to relevant staff when they did anything not compliant these rules. This was a “one-to-one communication” but I didn’t always do it perfectly, I couldn’t always get my head round the rules myself let alone explain to someone else. I do believe I am reasonable at internal communication most of the time, but quote the above to highlight not always. The caseworker is keen to contact prospective employers “to find out precise specifications of jobs” to establish whether references to “communication skills” refer to internal (I’d probably be alright but bear the above in mind) or customers and suppliers (definitely not suitable as I’ve already had proven bad experience).

I printed this out in a feedback letter to him, on the reverse of which I have printed a page of the National Autistic Society’s leaflet “Employee Pack - Looking for a Job” which actually cites a few examples of reasonable adjustments that could be applied to someone with Asperger, which may be helpful to him in contact with employers. In a similar situation to the above I feel that the employer would have to make the adjustment of ensuring that if there were similarly complicated issues that had to be regularly explained to internal staff, if I would find this difficult verbally, then the issues should be written down and perhaps re-iterated verbally by a more assertive natured colleague or supervisor.