So as I mentioned previously I’ve had a lot going on. Last time I posted I mentioned I was applying for an internal post. Update: I got an interview. The job is to work within a provision for students with autism in a mainstream school. I was so glad because I just wanted the opportunity to prove myself and how much I know about my field. My obsession with autism was being put to test by professionals at my work place. I have gone on and on about how much I know so now’s the time to prove it.
The interview was yesterday and was split into 3 parts; conducting a lesson that I had to prepare and come up with, a written task and the interview itself. Now interviews are challenging for everyone. But I can only express how it was challenging for me as an autistic and that’s what I hope to do through this post. So I turn up to work in the morning knowing that I have to get through until 12:20 (when the interview process began). I went to my timetabled lessons as normal thinking in the back of my mind about my impending doom. With a constant shortness of breath feeling and a hotness in my chest I powered on through those lessons.
Okay 12:20 hits and I have to change my persona. I have to get into professional mode. I put on my blazer as a physical indicator to myself that this is now serious time. I enter the room and it feels like everything is slightly out of focus, not severe like they show it in movies but just a tad. Still with this shortness of breath I had to set everything up; put my PowerPoint lesson up, take out my resources, arrange the student’s tables and I’m done. Behind the students I have my 3 panellists with paper in hand observing me like a hawk. My lack of social skills rears its ugly head as I ask whether I can begin. Obviously I was supposed to. Now I begin my lesson. I can’t remember too much about it. I delivered my lesson to the best of my ability. I had students who had very significant language, behavioural and cognitive difficulties though I knew these students so I had a social script in my head for how I would interact with each one. I knew who to tailor my questions more directly for and who would be challenged by one aspect. My lesson was about getting them to make ‘prompt cards’. I found it on the internet under the Autism Education Trust toolkit. They basically are supposed to help you in a specific scenario giving you strategies on how to deal with it. My thoughts were that these students would find almost every aspect of my lesson difficult. However, they didn’t they did what I asked and they verbally contributed. I was aspecting them to be silent the whole time but they weren’t I asked the a question and low and behold they answered. By the end of the lesson I got through it with the students being engaged, cooperative and having produced a prompt card. I dealt with the negative behaviour of one student like water off a duck’s back and managed to get them to follow instructions practically first time which is a huge achievement for this student. I felt like I’d done my best. I left the room ready to tackle the written task.
I entered HR headquarters to complete my written task. I had 30 minutes to complete 2 tasks. I felt like I was back in school with exams. I took the sheet of paper and the two tasks were to prioritise a list of things to be done in the morning and to mark a student’s work. I was sitting there jumping from task to task not knowing fully what to do. I had an idea but I had just come from the lesson with all the adrenaline pumping through my body, my head felt empty and on fire. I used my time up to its fullest leaving only 30 seconds to spare. Not much to say about it, I did it and was just like well it’s done I think I’ve done it right we will have to see.
I had to wait through lunch until the interview stage, face to face with three colleagues. Now this is going to sound quite unusual coming from an autistic; I didn’t prepare interview answers. So let me explain why this is unusual. Autistics tend to plan obsessively, I am one of those who will plan exactly what I’m going to say just when going into a shop. I like knowing what’s going to happen and have a series of scripts stored in my brain for most scenarios I face. However, when I have an interview this is the last thing I want to do. I don’t want to do this because I feel practicing at home will throw me off and also I don’t know what they are going to ask me. And if the question slightly alters from one I’ve practiced I won’t be able to answer. So I go into my interview not knowing what is going to happen or what I’m going to say. Obviously I’m nervous as hell. The panellists say at the beginning if you want any questions repeated please ask. I milked this until the cows came home. Because every question was a two part question which really meant it wasn’t just one question which literally isn’t correct but I wasn’t about to go stating that in the middle of my interview. Anyway so I use the repeating of the question to process my answer. Now I have difficultly processing language always have and always will. Words are just an accumulation of sounds and really don’t have that much significance for me so when I hear them it’s more like noise. I begin to speak and say my points giving as much detail as possible talking for as long as possible so that at least something I say is right. As the interview goes on I develop a few stims/twitches, most of my stims were typical stims like clasping my hands and tapping my foot which neurotypicals do anyway. However one of the stims I began to do was highly noticeable and unusual I began to rub my forehead/face with one hand in one harsh stroke. It’s only until after the interview I realised how much I did it. I couldn’t help it though I had been so nervous and still felt short of breath and been holding my stims in for like hours. I couldn’t last any longer masquerading as someone not autistic. The thing is my colleagues know I’m autistic but in an interview you want to come across professional and rubbing your face just doesn’t quite exude professionalism. So I get through the interview with pauses and stuttering along the way but overall I had done myself proud. After the interview I went to stim like mad doing some weird lunges, pacing, fist pumping the air, hitting the air, etc. Literally just going mad with stims all trying to get that adrenaline energy out that I don’t know how to process in any other way but physically.
So my lovely readers I won’t keep you in suspense but as the title kind of gives away I did not get it this time. They went for the person who was already working there and doing the job temporarily. My boss called and had nothing but praise for me and said I was ‘appoint-able’ however the candidate had been doing the job already. As an school you’d want to make your life easier and go for the person who is already doing it. I knew I’d done well and I was incredibly proud of myself, I pushed myself into an uncomfortable situation for anyone and came out of it alive and actually thriving. This is a massive moment for me in my life. It is my first interview rejection and I really did want it. So I was disappointed at first but now I do see all the good things about not getting it. The biggest thing for me was doing the process. Facing all the things I find difficult as an autistic, speaking, processing language, spontaneity, dealing with my emotions. All of this I dealt with to a high standard. The negative feeling I’m left with now is what to do next. I am so bored with my job currently but will not leave unless I get another one. I don’t like change and can see myself being at this job for a while however, I don’t like being bored even more. So I have really achieved something and I can’t help that the other candidate was already doing the job and if that’s really the only thing that separated us then I have done superb and I’m not trying to be arrogant in saying that.
I never thought this is where I’d be in my life. I didn’t even know if I’d make it here so for that I am grateful. I thought I wouldn’t be able to handle my autism in a workplace or get a job in the first place. So though I’m at a cross roads now I am onto appreciative of the interview experience I just had. Though I need a bit of a break from that.
Thanks for reading. Hope you liked it. Peace out!