Personal Stories, Working with me, Autism, Sensory processing disorder, OCD, anxiety

Working with me - autistic nursery worker

Tasha, a young nursery worker, previously shared her story of being autistic, with anxiety, sensory issues, depression, anxiety and OCD. In this post Tasha shares her 10 tips for working with her.

I loved number 6, don't expect me to join in with small talk or gossip. I am completely with her on this one.

I work in a nursery and Pre school which I absolutely love. I’m fascinated by babies and children’s development and I find it amazing and beautiful being able to watch these little people grow and develop into wonderful individuals.

I love having a part in this and being a positive influence in these children’s lives. The best feeling for me is being able to observe a baby or child learn a new skill for the first time: rolling over, sitting unaided, crawling, walking, first words, developing their understanding of basic instructions, solving conflict with peers, forming first friendships, developing self care skills and independence etc. I love interacting with the children physically and intellectually. It amazes me how much children learn in such a short space of time and how it all seems to happen so naturally.

All of the above points are the best parts of my job and the reason I do this for work.

However, the environment for me is very challenging in a number of ways: noisy, hectic, bright and colourful, various smells (as you can imagine!), messy and lots of things to do all at once. I struggle with the differing routines from room to room depending on ages and individual needs. I find it difficult to sit and focus on activities with the children for more than 5/10mins at a time as I become bored easily and distracted by what else is going on around me.

From an autistic persons point of view, the environment I work is is totally overwhelming. It’s everything I struggle with rolled into one. But I love what I do and wouldn’t change it despite the fact it takes its toll on me mentally.

Here are my top 10 tips for working with me.

  1. Don’t bombard me with too much verbal information. If you need me to do something, use concise language, get to the point and be specific. If you don’t then I tend to panic internally, questioning whether what I’m doing is what was asked of me or if I’m doing it wrong/right. Be patient with me when I question everything and don’t get annoyed if I am constantly asking questions, checking before I do things, it’s just my way of reducing my anxiety levels and my way of seeking reassurance that I’m doing a good enough job.
  2. If I’m quiet, check in with me, ask me if I’m ok. Chances are I’m feeling overwhelmed, lost, unsure of what to do next. Just give a little guidance and this will help me massively.
  3. I find it helpful to be given tasks to do but these have to play to my personal strengths otherwise I will panic and be unsure of what it is you expect me to do. By giving me this guidance you are enabling me to have something to focus on and achieve, if left to my own devices to just get on with it, I feel lost and unsure of what to do which makes me feel inadequate and a failure.
  4. Pre warn me of any changes to my day that may occur. For example if I’m scheduled to work in a particular room but for whatever reason you may need me to cover in a different room, tell me as soon as possible to give me the time I need to be able to process this unexpected change to my routine.
  5. Be considerate when saying things to me and how you word them. I may misunderstand what you mean, I will over analyse everything you say to me and therefore this makes me very sensitive and I tend to take things personally. At the end of each day when I am laying in bed, my entire day will play over in my head. I will pick everything apart, each conversation or incident and work out whether I could have or should have done something different.
  6. Don’t expect me to join in with gossip and small talk. Unless it is a subject I am interested in, which I can therefore talk about for hours on end, I am unlikely to feel comfortable joining in. I struggle to know what to say and when and also how.
  7. I have emotions and feelings just like you. I may not show them in the conventional ways that you do, but this does not mean I don’t feel them. I feel things very deeply and intensely but I don’t know what to do with them or how to express them.
  8. I’m a ‘Master Pretender’ I’ve spent my whole life masking and therefore I can come across as more capable than I actually am. Make allowances for me as this helps my anxiety massively and don’t expect too much of me if I am going through a difficult time.
  9. Don’t be offended if I choose not to socialise outside of work with you. It’s not necessarily because I don’t like you, it’s that I can’t cope with the social expectations and I quickly become overwhelmed and can shut down. Social events are my worst nightmare but don’t exclude me either. Invite me but leave it up to me whether I choose to come or not.
  10. I’m painfully shy and everyday I am putting on a ‘mask’, playing a role and trying my best to get through the day. If I struggle to give eye contact or fail to stand close enough for a conversation or if my body language is not matching what I’m saying or how I’m saying it please be patient with me. All I want is to be accepted and to be equal to you as I am worthy.

I’m very intelligent and love to educate myself, therefore I have a great deal of knowledge relating to my job. I have a deep understanding of early childhood development and tend to recognise before others when there may be reasons for concern. This can be a real asset to my setting and is something I know I am good at.

Although I know what I’m doing, I lack self esteem and the confidence to feel at ease in my abilities. I therefore need the reassurance and understanding of others to help me with this. I am so lucky in this respect. I have (mostly) understanding colleagues and my manager has been brilliant and very understanding with regards to my mental health difficulties. She understands that for me to get through the day successfully, it takes a massive toll on me. Without her support, I doubt I would have a job.

If you wish to share your 10 tips for working with you, let me know.

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