Show Me Your Superpowers!

superman_autism_by_sircle-d5zm8k8.png

This blog was originally published by Cortnee Jensen on October 2, 2016:

"I saw an episode of “The Big Bang Theory” where Sheldon and Raj were looking at data to identify anomalies that would indicate an object in space. Sheldon looked at the computer screen for about 3 seconds and said “Found one!” Raj told him that was impossible, but sure enough he had. Raj asked how he found it so quickly. Sheldon: “You know how when you see prime numbers they appear red but when they're twin primes they're pink and smell like gasoline?” Raj: “No?” Sheldon: “Huh, I guess I'm a special boy.”

While this may be an extreme version of pattern recognition, it is common for critical information to jump off the screen for some of our folks on the autism spectrum. Exceptional pattern recognition makes those individuals particularly efficient and accurate in data management tasks like data entry or data scrubbing. Likewise, user experience testing for apps and websites brings out their best. Identifying the errors or inconsistencies on a page or from page to page is engaging and even invigorating for them. Catching the thing that nobody else noticed gives them a chance to show off their super powers. Superman may have x-ray vision, but an eye for detail can be just as revealing." 

Mind Shift would like to wish everybody a happy and safe Independence Day.  We'll be closed on July 4th, and then back at it again on the 5th.  If you want to learn more about how leveraging the strengths of the autism spectrum can benefit your business, email info@mindshift.works.  You can do good work while doing good.

 

THEORY OF MIND (or, Remember Other People Have Thoughts and Feelings Too), Part 3 of 3

06-26-2018 - Image.jpg

By Kate Bringe

“By not understanding that other people think differently than themselves, many autistic individuals may have problems relating socially and communicating to other people. That is, they may not be able to anticipate what others will say or do in various situations. In addition, they may have difficulty understanding that their peers or classmates even have thoughts and emotions, and may thus appear to be self-centered, eccentric, or uncaring.

Although this is an egocentric view of the world, there is nothing in the theory of mind to imply that autistic individuals feel superior to others.” *

 

In fifth grade I wanted to grow up to be a Vulcan. Unencumbered by emotion and impervious to the desire to fit in, I would instead rely on pure logic to govern my life. These awful things called “Feelings”? Didn’t need ‘em! Didn’t want them. I practiced raising one eyebrow and saying, “fascinating” when people told me things. I always stood, unsmiling, with my hands behind my back, which made for wonderful class photos. I’m pretty sure I drove my mother bonkers.

I was bullied all the way through school. I was consumed by anxiety and dread every school morning, knowing that I’d only make it through the day by sheer force of will. I remember the cruel words, the shoves, the hard-packed snowballs to the back of my head. I remember the looks, the laughter, and the acid vitriol from a girl who first pretended to be my friend for five months before viciously turning on me. I endured her poison from seventh grade through my first year of college.

That thing adults tell you about bullies? The one about ignoring them so they’ll stop? It doesn’t work. Once you’re their target, ignoring them only makes it worse. They want a reaction. They want the power to make you react. I continued to follow the advice of the adults and ignore it, being a model Vulcan, and the bullysphere grew larger. Other kids started to join in, emboldened by the Head Bully.

By my own logic, without the benefit of Theory of Mind, I must be doing something to cause the bullying. I began to believe them when they told me I was stupid, fat, and ugly. I wouldn’t lie to them, so they wouldn’t lie to me, right? Their words cut me to the bone, but Vulcans don’t have emotions, so I did what any Vulcan would do and showed no emotion. It made no difference.

I don’t understand bullying. I don’t understand why anyone would want to crush the light out of someone else. Hurting someone else does not take away the pain in your own heart. It is completely illogical.

By the time middle school rolled around, my efforts to become Vulcan had finally paid off. My daily interactions with other people were emotionless. My feelings were carefully boxed up and buried deeply within an internal “warehouse” of sorts. Each morning, I donned a metaphorical suit of armor before leaving the safety of my world. My warehouse of emotions was like the final scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, with boxes and boxes stretching on forever, only much tidier. My boxes were sorted neatly upon shelves. It’s a strange sensation, memories without feelings and feelings without memories. I could clearly remember the girl that pretended to be my friend. I remember the vicious delight in her blue eyes as she stood in the hallway and ground me under her heel with words carefully chosen to pierce my heart. I know she hurt me deeply, my joy at having a new friend shattered. Though I could see that moment clearly in my mind, I could feel nothing as I watched the memory play. The feelings would come later, when I was alone. Tears streaking down my face as I cried myself to sleep. Grief, loss, and anger at myself for being so stupid as to trust her, yet knowing I’d probably do it all again for the chance to make a new friend and feel like a regular kid. In that moment in the hallway, however, I simply stood there and took her abuse. Her words washed over me, but I gave no reaction. It was as if I didn’t care, my face carefully blank. She finished and awaited my reaction.

I raised one eyebrow at her and replied, “Fascinating”.

Her face flushed dark red. Before she could unleash a blistering retort, the class bell rang. I turned on my heel and strode off, seemingly impervious to her words. To the world, I looked completely uncaring. In reality, the feelings inside me were too huge to cope with. I didn’t even look at them. I stuffed them all into a box and locked the whole works in my warehouse.

The “feelings warehouse” is not a viable long-term solution. Feelings need to be worked through and understood. Other people’s points of view need to be talked about and put into terms we can understand. We need to experience, name, and work through emotions. Leaving them festering only hurts us.

I never understood what drove the bullies in my class. I still don’t. I’ve been told that putting other people down gives them a sense of power and control. How miserable must they have been? Probably as miserable as I was, but for different reasons. I don’t understand how hurting me would’ve made them feel better. I bear the scars of their misery, but I shouldn’t. No one deserves that kind of malevolence.

I never felt superior to other people. As a Vulcan-in-training, I acted superior to others because I was going to be a Vulcan. Cool logic and rationality are always superior to knee-jerk reactions and gut feelings, right? But acting superior and feeling superior are two very different things. Acting superior is armor against a world that is often baffling, painful, and frustrating. How could anyone feel superior when we endure bullying, discrimination, and repeatedly hearing the message that we need to be “cured”?

Our most vulnerable need us to guide them. We need our parents and family members to make a safe place for us to talk about what’s happening inside us. Emotions swirl so quickly that they’re here and gone before we can even identify what they are. We need someone we can trust to help us make sense of what we feel so we don’t need to put on armor and bury our feelings. We need acceptance for who we are right now and encouragement to become our best selves.

As I entered adulthood, I worked my way through the dreck in my warehouse. Left untouched in the dark, the boxes had started to seep. I slogged through them, pinning feelings to memories and working through them. Anger was named for what it really was: fear or disappointment. Getting to the core emotion makes it so much easier to deal with. It’s an ongoing process, this emotional integration I now have. Sometimes I need more processing time to really figure out what I’m feeling, and sometimes I don’t. I experience more stress than I used to, but I believe it’s for the better. I can only control myself and that’s all the control anyone really needs. I control how I react to situations. I control what feelings I choose to dwell on or not. It’s a conscious choice, action instead of reaction. I spent so long reacting that I never realized that I could choose to act instead. Once I embraced that, life became so much more manageable. It’s not perfect, because nothing ever is, but I’m more present in my life instead of lost in my own head. I’m not responsible for anyone but myself. I care about other people and want them to be happy, but I’m not ultimately responsible for their emotional well-being. I’m responsible for mine, and that is enough.

Live Long and Prosper.

 

*Quote from Stephen M. Edelson, Ph.D.

- As always, the thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are my own and do not necessarily reflect the experiences or opinions of others on the Autism Spectrum and/or Mind Shift.

 

 

 

 

The University of Washington and Microsoft Change the World of Work!

autism-world-work.png

In the article, “How UW, Microsoft are pitching in to help job-hunters with autism”, author Rachel Lerman introduces her readers to Project Search, a program through the University of Washington and Seattle Public Schools that trains people with ASD in skills that are important in the world of work.  Along with the training opportunity, Project Search also helps individuals on the autism spectrum find great job opportunities.

Lerman discusses the challenges that individuals on the spectrum face when entering the world of work. One such challenge is the spectrum itself.  This wide-ranging spectrum makes structured educational and training programs difficult. 

To resolve this concern, Project Search partners with businesses to provide internships to participants as often as possible, so training may be more personalized.  

Lerman also mentions the challenges that come from traditional recruiting and hiring methods, specifically she discusses the resume and the interview process.  Both of which, as many hiring managers will tell you, do not always present accurate or predictable information.  

To resolve these challenges, Lerman talks about Microsoft’s Hiring Academy, which not only works as a recruiting tool, it also offers training opportunities through classes on communication, tests for technical understanding and ability, and group games and activities.  

Opportunities like Project Search and Microsoft’s Hiring Academy are part of a nationwide movement by businesses to actively recruit individuals on the spectrum.  While, yes, these programs provide individuals with ASD opportunities for independence, they also provide benefits for our communities and our society at large.  But most importantly, and this fact is not lost on our business partners, it makes good business sense.  This is an untapped labor pool of people with skills, talents, and abilities that are of direct benefit to business.

Mind Shift appreciates this perspective.  We want our business partners to work with us because it makes good business sense.  We want to be considered an organization that provides exceptional talent that helps businesses move forward.  As we like to say, we help businesses do good work while doing good.

To read Rachel Lerman’s article, follow this link: https://www.seattletimes.com/pacific-nw-magazine/thinking-differently-about-employment/

And to learn more about how Mind Shift can help your business, visit www.mindshift.works!

THEORY OF MIND (or, Remember Other People Have Thoughts and Feelings Too), Part 2 of 3

06-12-2018 - Image.jpg

By Kate Bringe

 “Interestingly, people with autism have difficulty comprehending when others don't know something…” *

I am frequently baffled by how people can not know things. Don’t they want to know everything? How can they not hunger to learn? I want to know all the information, so I’m prepared. I do not want to wing it. I want to be able to make plans A through G for upcoming events. Not knowing all the available information for an event, like a holiday or trip, causes anxiety. I’m not trying to be nosy; I’m trying to compensate.

When I was around four years old, my great aunt and uncle gave me a teddy bear for Christmas. I already had a teddy bear though. His name was Teddy, and he wore blue overalls with red trim over his short, matted fur. I loved him very much. This new teddy bear was naked with long, silky fur. It was a nice bear, sure, but I already had Teddy. Why would they give me this bear when I had Teddy? I stood there, a four-year-old in her frilly Christmas dress, suddenly thrust into a conundrum for which I was unprepared.

In my mind, I’d just received this brand-new bear and maybe he was meant to replace my very best friend, Teddy. Fancy Bear’s fur was clean and fluffy; his eyes were large and shiny. Teddy, my beloved, had matted fur and smaller eyes. Would he feel dingy next to this glamourous new bear? Would he worry that I wouldn’t love him anymore? Would he be afraid of being shunted aside for this flashy upstart? What if he thought I thought he was trash now? Was my mom going to throw away my ratty, old bear? Teddy was my first and most cherished friend. This newcomer would never unseat him in my heart! My four-year-old mind couldn’t process all these feelings quickly enough. Given enough time, I may have figured out that these two bears could be friends, and everything would’ve been fine.

My gears were stuck, though. Thoughts and feelings were storming through me and everyone’s eyes were on me. I knew what response was expected of me but how could I accept this new bear when I didn’t know what was to become of Teddy? I couldn't lose my best friend. I had to protect him! I struggled for a few moments, trying to figure out what to do or say and finally looked up, right into my great aunt’s blue eyes, and blurted, “I already have a teddy!” I hurled the new bear back into the box for emphasis.

It goes without saying my mother was mortified. My great aunt was generous in heart, but she also had very rigid expectations of proper behavior and I’d totally blown it. In their minds, I was simply not being grateful for the lovely gift of a new teddy bear. My mother immediately apologized to everyone for my outburst and excused us from the room. She took me into the kitchen and spoke sternly to me about the importance of being grateful and how nice it was of Auntie B and Uncle E to buy me this lovely bear. She told me I should graciously accept the gift and thank them for it.

I was confused, heartbroken, and humiliated. Everyone knew I was being scolded. I hadn’t intended to offend anyone, but I couldn’t express what was going on inside me either. I didn’t have the vocabulary yet to convey my thoughts and feelings. Mom marched me back into the living room and everyone turned to look at me. I felt such a deep sense of shame, but I did what was required of me and thanked them for the bear. I was angry that no one understood how I felt. I was angry that I was unable to express myself. I was angry that they’d given me a bear when I already had one. I was afraid that I was going to lose Teddy. I was afraid to open any more gifts in case they were also things I already had. It was the first time in my life that I felt like I didn’t belong. It was the first time that I considered I might be different than everyone else. It was the first time in my life that I felt like I couldn’t trust my family. I had discovered that I was blindfolded and in the social equivalent of an undocumented minefield.

For the next 33 years, I would search the house for my gifts (or I’d open them with an Xacto knife once they were wrapped) so that I’d never be surprised again. I’d know what they were, and I’d have time to prepare myself to react in a socially appropriate manner. Even when the gifts were something I wasn’t thrilled about, I would be ready and able to graciously thank the giver and make a nice comment about the gift. If there were any last-minute gifts, I always smiled and kept my gaze on the packages as I opened them so that I wouldn’t inadvertently make any inappropriate faces. Again, I would say something nice about the gift and how thoughtful the giver was. My efforts paid off. I never received a gift-related reprimand again. Knowing what I was receiving alleviated the greatest amount of anxiety I felt each time Christmas, or my birthday, came around. There was always the social piece that I struggled with, but at least I never had to worry about what I might find inside one of those brightly wrapped boxes.

Time and experience have brought intellectual understanding. I understand that no one knew what I was thinking and feeling about Teddy and the new bear. Auntie B and Uncle E were not frequent visitors and probably thought a teddy bear would be a splendid surprise for a four-year-old. At the time, it never even occurred to me that they wouldn’t know I had a bear. The Teddy Bear Incident was never brought up again, so I kept all my confusion and anger inside. Years later, my mom and I talked about it and she was surprised that it had made such an impact on me. Apparently, no one else thought it that big of a deal since I was only four years old. She explained that Auntie B and Uncle E didn’t know I had Teddy and had picked out the bear on their own, which was a revelation to me. Even after all those years, it still hadn’t occurred to me that they hadn’t known about Teddy.

The feelings, though, have never gone away. That experience is seared into my emotional memory. It was the first of many scars and a defining moment in my life. What seemed like no big deal to the neurotypicals in my family was enormous to me.

Again, time and experience have brought me perspective and understanding. I’m autistic and the way I process events and emotions is different from the way my family processes them. I learned that as an adult. I sometimes wonder now how that Christmas would’ve been different if they’d known I had autism. Would they have been more patient with me, aware that I processed differently and needed more time to work out The Bear Situation? Would Auntie B and Uncle E consulted with my mom on a good gift idea? Would my family have helped me work through what was bothering me when I displayed distress? I’d like to think all of the above, because even though our family had a lot of rocky patches, I know they loved me, then and now.

Whatever became of the new bear? I don’t know. I have no memory of him beyond that night. Teddy, though, “greets” me every day from his place of honor on my bookshelves, still my first and oldest friend.

 

To be concluded in Part 3, arriving in two weeks.

*Quote from Stephen M. Edelson, Ph.D. 

- As always, the thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are my own and do not necessarily reflect the experiences or opinions of others on the Autism Spectrum and/or Mind Shift.

Do Your Recruiting Methods Disqualify Great Job Candidates?

recruitpic.jpg

In her article, “The Tricky Path to Employment Is Trickier When You’re Autistic”, Sarah Carr addresses a topic that is obviously close to Mind Shift’s heart, the challenges to employment faced by adults on the autism spectrum.

The author talks about a 39 years-old gentleman named Leigh.  Leigh has a master’s degree in Library Science, he has years of experience with a Boston library, and a 145 IQ.  In spite of this, Leigh has spent the past eight years working a minimum wage job in a position for which he is overqualified.

The article explores the challenges that present themselves through our traditional (and some would say antiquated) means of recruiting and hiring.  Resume writing, interpreting job descriptions, and the job interview each complicate the application process in such a way that often highly qualified individuals disqualify themselves.

Carr discusses the societal challenges that come with milder forms of autism.  As Leigh states, “I’m so high-functioning that I don’t really register as disabled, but I’m not high-functioning enough that I can easily utilize anything social.”  This is a reality we often see at Mind Shift.  People who are high functioning don’t always qualify for the support or assistance they need.  These are the individuals that fall through the cracks.  

But they are also individuals that have an abundance of skill, talent, and intelligence.  They are often the most qualified fit for high-demand jobs. And by simply taking into consideration the challenges that come with high-functioning autism, they can bring a substantial amount of value to the workplace.

Carr goes on to discuss how changes to our dated recruiting and hiring methodology, along with greater understanding of autism spectrum disorder, not only brings valuable skill and intelligence to the workplace, it allows high functioning adults on the spectrum the independence and integrity they want and deserve.

You can read Carr’s article on the slate.com website by following the link below:

http://www.slate.com/articles/business/moneybox/2017/09/how_autism_complicates_the_path_to_employment.html

And to learn more about autism spectrum disorder, and how those on the spectrum are using their talents to benefit business, contact Mind Shift at info@mindshift.works.

Theory of Mind (or, Remember Other People Have Thoughts and Feelings Too), Part 1

Theory of Mind kb.jpg

By Kate Bringe

 “Theory of mind refers to the notion that many autistic individuals do not understand that other people have their own plans, thoughts, and points of view. Furthermore, it appears that they have difficulty understanding other people's beliefs, attitudes, and emotions…” *

My internal life is frenetic. A million thoughts, feelings, and sensory registrations happening every waking moment leave little time to consciously dwell on other people’s thoughts and feelings. The way my mind processes information is like a machine. Input comes in and is analyzed, collated, categorized, and filed for later reference. Things like someone being unhappy because the shirt they wanted was sold out in their size are considered frivolous garbage-data. Their shirt sob-story has zero do to with my current task or the twenty-three other things currently pending in my internal queue. My initial reaction is to dismiss them and move on, but I need to catch myself. I have learned how important it is to acknowledge them and show empathy, even if I don’t understand what the big deal is about a shirt. I mean, can’t they just order it online and move on? Problem solved, right?

Their problem, in my mind, equates to:

Right shirt not available at store = order shirt online = problem solved.

Their problem, in their mind, equates to:

… ?? …um…give me a sec…uhhhhh …

Nope, I’ve got nothing. I have no idea what their problem is with this shirt. I don’t get it. I mean, it’s a shirt! It’s not like that time I went to buy pink, frosted, six-sided dice and they didn’t have any so now I have to wait four whole days for them to come in the mail! I really wanted them today and now I’m so disappointed because I was really excited and…oh…wait a minute … their shirt thing is EXACTLY like that time with my dice.

Suddenly, I can relate to their shirt boggle. I understand now! I may not be emotionally invested in their disappointment, but understanding why they feel that way makes it easier to take time away from my task and interact with them without frustration.

This is very much a learned skill. I’m certain that I have appeared cold and uncaring because I couldn’t comprehend why someone was telling me something or displaying an emotion. While I usually understand the words, I often don’t understand the emotion behind them.

If you’re angry, tell me with words. Don’t just tell me something while making an angry face. I might miss the angry face or mistake it for something else. Tell me straight out that you’re angry with me and why. Tell me when something is bothering you. If you don’t say anything, I consider everything to be going fine and will be surprised and confused when you come to me with a long-standing issue.

Being able to relate to others on an emotional level is critical to the success of autistics in the working world. If we do not learn, and practice daily, the skill of relating to others as unique beings, then we will fail in our efforts to develop and maintain social relationships and fulfilling employment.

To be continued in Part 2, arriving in two weeks.

*Quote from Stephen M. Edelson, Ph.D. 

- As always, the thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are my own and do not necessarily reflect the experiences or opinions of others on the Autism Spectrum and/or Mind Shift.

It's True! You can do good for your business while also doing good!

Mind Shift helps businesses accomplish great things through the employment of high-functioning adults on the autism spectrum.  If you are looking for employees with high attention to detail, an eye for accuracy, a strong work ethic and drive to contribute to a great organization and culture, Mind Shift can help!

We have partnered with great businesses like General Electric, Eide Bailly, Target, Anthem Healthcare, and Appareo Systems to leverage the strengths of the autism spectrum in their organizations.  

If you want to learn more about how Mind Shift can help your business do great things while doing good for your community and your neighbors, write info@mindshift.works.  

Team Acai helps Mind Shift Move the Needle!

IMG_20180511_105218.jpg

Last week Mind Shift was privileged to be joined by a team of MBA students from the University of Michigan. The team is participating in the Center for Social Impact’s Ross Open Road Program.

As their website, http://socialimpact.umich.edu/programs/ross-open-road/, explains, “teams embark on their own journeys of impact in an effort to scale support for visionary entrepreneurs in communities far and wide.”  

We were joined by Team Acai. Courtney, Apoorva, Alexis, and Ian spent the week analyzing our program and our systems, having conversations with Specialists, employees, and business partners, and strategizing ways to move Mind Shift forward.  The team provided us with a number of tools and ideas that will allow us to better serve our customers, our Specialists, and the community.

If you’ve read our previous blogs, you know that we believe that differing point of views inspire innovation and have real value for businesses.  Team Acai brought a different point of view.  And Mind Shift is already benefiting from it.  

Courtney, Apoorva, Alexis, and Ian, you are always welcome at Mind Shift.  Good luck in your travels.  Hopefully we’ll see you soon.

If you want to learn how different points of view, like Autism Spectrum Disorder, can benefit your business, or if you want to learn about the value Team Acai brought to Mind Shift, please reach out to us via our website: www.mindshift.works.

What Mind Shift Means to Me

Mind Shift Sign with Hearts

Hope.

Mind Shift means Hope.

By the time I reached adulthood, life on the Spectrum had taught me to be guarded and never  really, fully hope for anything. I grew up in the age where Autism was thought of as an affliction that required institutionalizing, and no one even knew what Asperger’s Syndrome was; the research wasn’t even translated from German until after I’d graduated from High School. My diagnosis didn’t come until I was twenty-nine years old. By then, I had internalized that I was broken, defective, an outsider. I didn’t fit in with others, struggling to understand the non-verbal cues. I’d struggled to get and keep jobs, worked below my education level and agonized over all the daily social interactions. No matter how hard I tried to fit in, at some point I’d see “The Look”.

The Look is a slight narrowing of the eyes and a tilt of the head, always signaling that I’d done something socially incorrect. Sometimes the consequences were a puzzled query from the other party, offering me an opportunity to correct my unintentional blunder; other times it was immediate ostracization from my coworkers and subsequent sidelong glances until the pressure became too great and I’d resign, humiliated and angry with myself for not “getting it”.

This became a repeating pattern, and I came to believe I’d never fit in anywhere. The social pressures were enormous. I’d spent years learning and mentally cataloging non-verbal social cues, so I could superficially pass for “normal” within limited time frames, but it was never enough. Extended periods of social interaction were exhausting as I expended my energy interpreting and making my best guesses to the nuanced meanings behind neuro-typical conversation. As time went on, I found myself avoiding social situations, even when I wanted to participate, because the emotional toll was too great. For each social gathering, there is a price to pay and I need varying amounts to time to recover and become energized again. Imagine being dropped onto another planet with no frame of reference to interpret the native language. The words mean one thing to you, but something different to them and you lack the necessary parts to replicate the “correct” meaning. Every social situation becomes a minefield.

How does any of this relate to Mind Shift and the Hope it gives me? Mind Shift accepts and accommodates my current ability level and encourages me to stretch those boundaries. It provides a place for me to learn of how much I truly am capable, instead of placing unattainable expectations on me from day one. The expectations of a “regular” job, without accommodations, were a guarantee of failure. I’d work so hard to meet them that all else in my life would suffer: home, friendships, nutrition, sleep, everything. There was no balance. Every ounce of my focus was on meeting the work goals and not losing the job. It didn’t take long before I’d start seeing The Look, and people who were previously friendly became distant. I knew my time in that position was limited.

Mind Shift is different. It’s a place of support, encouragement, safety, understanding, and most of all, Hope. Each day I go to work, I know that I’ll be productive, valued, and given the tools I need to excel and grow. My position at Mind Shift accommodates my current abilities and helps me expand those, growing as a person and employee. Mind Shift helps me realize my potential. What does my future hold? I don’t know for sure, but I do know is that what I learn and contribute at Mind Shift makes me a better person and helps me prepare for that future and the challenges and opportunities it will bring.

Each morning as I head to work, it happens. This huge, crazy bubble of Hope rises up inside me and bursts forth into an uncontrollable smile. I finally fit in.

Culture Fit is a Qualification

CulturalFit.png

When recruiting, employers typically focus on a particular role or position.  They ask: ‘Can the new employee take over the tasks of the old employee?”  But cultural and organizational fit is also important.  In fact, a popular saying is “hire for organizational fit, train for skill.” Or, “hire for attitude, not aptitude.” 

It is a known fact that individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder present a particular set of skills, talents, and abilities that bring value to an organization.  And that these skills, talents, and abilities may not be found to the same degree within neurotypical individuals.  But people with autism also bring characteristics to a business that contribute to a healthy and sustainable culture.

Here are 6 ways that individuals with autism can benefit business culture:

1.      Integrity and honesty: Individuals with autism often are characterized as having black and white thinking. They “tell it like they see it.” While this honesty can be surprising, it is also effective in getting to the heart of issues that are often disguised behind niceties and office politics. This allows issues to be resolved long before they reach a boiling point.

2.     Focus: Individuals with ASD often excel at tasks that can seem repetitive and overly complex.  Their ability to focus for extended periods of time allow them to efficiently engage in the task at hand, often surpassing expected deadlines and falling well below acceptable margins of error.

3.     Detail Orientation: Specialists are often able to process and work with complex sets of data effectively and over long periods of time. They are able to find differences and changes in patterns that might typically be overlooked.  They will not only find the needle in the haystack, they will enjoy the search.

4.     Process Optimization: Often, with their eye for detail, individuals with autism will recognize steps that aren’t necessary to complete the objective and won’t hesitate to communicate these inefficiencies. This can lead to a fresh perspective on old systems, which can lead to time and money saving changes that will benefit the organization.  

5.     Loyalty and commitment:  There is a saying about individuals with ASD: they don’t dig many holes, they dig one hole deep.  Individuals with autism aren’t typically jockeying for that next promotion or great business to jump to. They want to be valued and appreciated for the skills and ability they bring to the job and want the opportunity to contribute in a meaningful way.   

6.  A different way of thinking:  Mind Shift doesn’t see autism is a disability.  It is a different ability.  It is a different way of seeing the world.  Visionaries will tell you that one needs to see differently to come up with new methods, solutions, and ideas.  It’s this unique way of seeing the world that can bring game-changing innovation and inspiration to an organization.

Because of the way they process information, and the unique way they see the world, individuals with autism excel at particular tasks and roles, but they also present a positive influence the organization as a whole.  

To learn more about how autism employment will benefit your business and your culture, contact Mind Shift at info@mindshift.works.

Mind Shift Opens New Office in Moorhead

New Space.png

Mind Shift has exciting news.  The Fargo office is moving!  

We will be officially opening our new office on April 30th on the 7th floor of the U.S. Bank Building in Moorhead.  The official address is 403 Center Ave Suite 702, Moorhead, MN 56560.

From this new location we will continue our mission to make the world of work a place where all people are valued for their unique way of thinking.  

Come visit us.  Take in the amazing view.  Check out the early modernist architecture.  

And of course, to learn more about how Mind Shift can help you find employees who excel at detail-rich tasks, contact us at info@mindshift.works

Thank You, Temple Grandin

grandin pic.jpg

“I am different, not less.”  -  Temple Grandin

This week we continue our focus on World Autism Awareness Month by talking about a hero within the autism community and beyond.  We are talking about Temple Grandin.  

Mary Temple Grandin was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1947.  She was diagnosed with ASD at an early age and barely spoke before the age of four.  In spite of challenges growing up, she inevitably graduated with a doctoral degree in animal science from the University of Illinois in 1989.

Here are some more interesting facts about this amazing woman:

  • Temple Grandin invented the “hug machine” (also called the “squeeze box” and “hug box”) at the age of 18.  It was a device used to calm hypersensitive people.  
  • Temple works closely with the livestock industry, consulting on topics such as animal behavior and ethical treatment.  
  • In 2010, Temple Grandin was listed as one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world in the category of “Hero.”  
  • The Center-Track restraint system she invented is currently used to handle almost half of all the cattle in North America.  It helps reduce stress and injuries.
  • Temple has authored or co-authored a dozen books, and over 60 peer reviewed scientific papers.
  • She won the 2011 Double Helix medal for positively impacting human health by raising awareness.  In 2009, Temple was named a fellow of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers.
  • She received a Meritorious Achievement Award from the World Organization for Animal Health in 2015, she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2016, and was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2017.
  • Temple is a big Science Fiction fan, especially Star Trek.

Temple shows us that autism should not be considered a disability.  It’s a different ability, a way of thinking that has value.  It’s this different ability that allows those with ASD an opportunity to contribute something unique, to see something from a new angle, and to shake up stagnant and antiquated ideas with inventiveness and innovation.  

Temple once said “If I could snap my fingers and be nonautistic, I would not.  Autism is part of what I am.”   The world is more knowing and caring and less painful and scary because of what you are.  Thank you Temple Grandin.  We hope you have a great day.

                                                                             

Happy World Autism Awareness Day

autism.jpg

“The most interesting people you’ll find are ones that don’t fit into your average cardboard box. They’ll make what they need, they’ll make their own boxes.”  - Dr. Temple Grandin

 

April is World Autism Awareness Day.  It was started by the United Nations to inspire member states to raise awareness about people with autism.

Every year’s World Autism Awareness Day has focused on a particular theme or topic.  This year the theme is “Empowering Women and Girls with Autism.”

Males are up to four times more likely than females to be diagnosed with the condition.  This has led to a lack of female participation and inclusion in autism studies and research.  Which, because of the very different social experiences between the sexes during adolescence, creates a remarkable gap in our understanding of the spectrum, and how it affects all people.

For example, a 2012 survey conducted by The National Autistic Society found only 20% of girls with autism who responded to the survey were diagnosed by the age of 11.  While 50% of boys with autism were diagnosed with ASD at the same age. 

The same survey suggested that 42% of females may have been misdiagnosed.  The number is 30% when it comes to males.

Individuals diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder are our neighbors, our friends, or family.  ASD does not play favorites.  What society needs to do is not classify individuals on the spectrum as disabled.  We need to recognize the value that comes with seeing the world differently.  We need to embrace the strengths of those on the spectrum.  We need to recognize the valuable contributions people with ASD make every day.  And we need to be thankful for that contribution.

Autism is not a disability.  It is a different ability.  Happy World Autism Awareness Day.  

“Autism … offers a chance for us to glimpse an awe-filled vision of the world that might otherwise pass us by.”   -  Dr. Colin Zimbleman, Ph.D.

Autism Employment Presents a Wide Range of Opportunity

success-2985673_640.png

The secret is out.  Businesses from a wide range of industries and locations are recognizing the opportunities that come with employing individuals with autism.  Words such as accuracy, innovation, optimization, and loyalty are often mentioned when organizations speak of their experiences with autism employment.

The value brought to businesses through autism employment is unquestionable.  Just ask Microsoft, HP, or SAP.  Autism employment is good for business.

Below is a list of roles that Mind Shift Specialists currently hold.  This list is not complete, and certainly does not exhaust the types of work an individual with autism would excel in.  Hopefully it gives a snapshot of the wide range of work being performed, and the opportunities that are available to organizations that employ individuals on the spectrum.

 

·      Lab Tech

·      Document Processing

·      Document Imaging

·      Engineering Support

·      Inventory Specialist

·      High Tech Manufacturing

·      Laser Engraver Operation

·      Payroll Support

·      Shipping and Fulfillment Services

·      Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable

·      Data Analytics

 

Autism brings with it a unique set of strengths and attributes.  It’s not a disability.  It’s a unique way of looking at the world and processing information that brings real value to organizations.

To learn more about how autism employment benefits business, email Mind Shift at info@mindshift.works.  We’re ready to help you leverage the strengths of autism to bring value to your business.

Individuals on the Autism Spectrum bring Value to Businesses

concept-2959606_640.png

Have you heard? The secret is out! More and more organizations are recognizing that employing individuals on the autism spectrum is a smart business move!

Individuals with ASD have particular skills and talents that you don’t always find in neurotypical individuals (those not on the spectrum).  And by employing people on the spectrum for particular roles and tasks, businesses have the opportunity to bring real value and opportunity to their organizations. 

Some of these particular skills and talents are high levels of concentration, high attention to detail, skill with complex data sets, an eye for process optimization, and efficiency. Individuals on the spectrum are gifted with abilities in visual thinking, systematic information processing and are able to perform technical work with great precision (Baldwin, Costley, & Warren, 2014, p2440-2441).

Individual on the spectrum also have greater “reliability, lower levels of absenteeism, [and greater] trustworthiness” (Jacob, Scott, Falkmer & Falkmer, 2015, p. 4). 

Some of the world’s most successful businesses are recognizing the opportunity that comes with employing adults on the autism spectrum.  Below is a list of such businesses, just to name a few:

 

·      Microsoft

·      SAP

·      Salesforce

·      Google

·      Hewlett Packard

·      Cable Labs

·      CollabNet

·      EY (formerly known as Ernst & Young)

·      AT&T

·      Ford

·      JP Morgan Chase

 

As we move further into 2018, more and more businesses are going to recognize the competitive advantage that comes with employing individuals on the autism spectrum, and more and more people are going to recognize that autism should not be seen as a disability.  Instead, it should be seen as a different ability. 

Mind Shift is a non-profit that works to find meaningful careers for high functioning adults on the spectrum.  To learn more about how employing individuals on the autism spectrum will benefit your business, write to info@mindshift.works

 

Baldwin, Susanna, Costley, Debra, & Warren, Anthony (2014). Employment Activities and Experiences of Adults with High Functioning Autism and Asperger’s Disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 44(10), 2440-2449.

Jacob, Andrew, Scott, Melissa, Falkmer, Marita, & Falkmer, Torbjorn (2015). The Costs and Benefits of Employing an Adult with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Systematic Review. PLoS ONE, 10(10), 1-15.

 

 

Mind Shift Welcomes Drew Erickson

FB_IMG_1521038669534.jpg

Mind Shift is growing!  We are extremely happy to welcome Andrew Erickson to the Mind Shift family. 

Originally from Fargo, Drew is married with three children.  Sophi is nine, Jude is seven, and Nora is two.

Jude, diagnosed as high functioning on the spectrum, drives Drew’s passion for wanting to improve life for individuals with ASD.  Drew wants to leave a legacy of pulling potential out of people.

Currently, Drew coaches varsity football at Park Christian School in Moorhead, and is a big Kentucky Wildcats Basketball Fan.  He also volunteers with the Prairie Heights Community Church Youth Group.

Drew has been working with people on the spectrum for over eight years, starting as an early childhood teacher, and then joining the team at Prairie St. Johns, who he calls “the best of the best.”  Drew spent six years working with youth on the spectrum at Prairie, mostly with children in crisis.  Drew has also organized summer camps for children with ASD.

Drew will be overseeing our in-house project team and will be managing the Specialists that are currently placed in businesses around our community. 

We’re very happy to have Drew on our team and look forward to working with him to find great careers for adults on the autism spectrum.

Yesterday I received a text from a Specialist, “Is this Drew guy legit?”

The answer is yes.  Yes, he is.

To learn how Drew can help your business find amazing employees, contact Mind Shift today. 

Myths about Autism are Bad for Business

puzzle-1152794_640.jpg

As an organization that works diligently to find meaningful careers for adults on the autism spectrum, Mind Shift often has to dispel myths and misconceptions about the diagnosis.  This is an important part of our mission.  If we are going to change the world of work, we need to address those incorrect ideas that can get in the way of an organization hiring individuals on the spectrum. 

Below are 7 more myths regarding Autism Spectrum Disorder:

1.      Individuals with autism don’t feel emotion.  Actually, individuals with autism just express their emotions in different ways.

2.     Individuals with autism don’t understand other people’s emotions.  The truth is that people with autism often have difficulty interpreting facial cues, tone of voice, and body language, which makes understanding how somebody is feeling in the moment especially difficult.

3.     People with autism are antisocial and don’t want friends.  Because of the difficulty interpreting emotional cues, and higher than average anxiety, people on the spectrum may avoid social situations and come across as aloof.  The truth is people on the spectrum want to have meaningful and deep interpersonal connections just like anybody else. 

4.     Autism is caused by bad parenting.  This is absolutely untrue.  In the 50’s, autism was said to be caused by mothers who were cold and unemotional.  This has been proven FALSE!

5.     Autism is a mental illness.  This is not true.  Autism is a neurological condition.  People on the spectrum process information differently, but it is not an “illness.”

6.     Autism is curable.  Actually, there is no known cause for autism, and there is no known “cure.”  That being said, should we be trying to “cure” it in the first place?  Autism offers a unique way of seeing the world.  And those with autism should be valued because of this perspective. 

7.     People with autism are all alike.  Absolutely not true!  There’s a saying: If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.  No two people are alike, and that goes for people with autism too! 

It’s important that myths such as these are dispelled, especially since some of these inaccuracies might prevent great businesses from hiring individuals on the spectrum, even when those individuals might be the most qualified fit for roles that need to be filled. 

Mind Shift will continue to speak honestly about autism and autism employment.  And we will continue to advocate for adults with autism.  If you want to learn more about autism, and about leveraging the strengths of individuals on the spectrum, reach out to Mind Shift.  We work with some unique, talented, and amazing people who are ready to work with you.

Office Sign Company Continues to Do Good in Fargo

OSC.jpg

A little over a month ago, Mind Shift started a partnership with Office Sign Company.  The business started making signs in 2008, and has been growing ever since.

Not only is Office Sign Company a supplier and manufacturer of high quality and unique office signs, they are also a business that invests in their community.  One of the organization’s core values is Service, and the OSC team can be seen living this value in their service to the Fargo-Moorhead community.

Here is a list of JUST A FEW of the organizations and events that Office Sign Company has sponsored, volunteered for, or donated to:

  • American Diabetes Association
  • Fargo South High School Volleyball
  • FM United Soccer
  • Longspur Prairie Fund
  • March of Dimes
  • Moorhead Crush Softball
  • Nature of the North
  • Operation Thank You
  • RDO Caters Taters for Charity
  • Red River Market
  • Rourke Art Museum
  • Silver Goat Media
  • Tech Tailgate
  • TEDxConcordia
  • Theatre B
  • Tri City Soccer Club
  • Trollwood School for Performing Arts
  • Unseen
  • Village Family Services

And this list doesn’t include the work OSC has done for The Alzheimer’s Association of Minnesota-North Dakota, The United Way, Ronald McDonald House, TedX Fargo, The Arts Partnership, Habitat for Humanity, Prairie Public Radio, and The Salvation Army. 

We are so happy and proud to partner with Office Sign Company.  They are truly a force for good in our community.  We look forward to seeing them around town so we can say, “we work with them!”  Thanks for the opportunity, OSC.

We Remember Dale Vitalis, an Exceptional Man

loving-1207568_640.jpg

Mind Shift would like to take this opportunity to remember The Reverend Dale Vitalis, who passed away on Sunday, February 18th, at the age of 89.

The Reverend was an advocate for individuals on the autism spectrum, and one of the early supporters of Mind Shift in Fargo. 

Mr. Tim Hanson, Founder and Chairman of Mind Shift, wrote a letter honoring Reverend Vitalis, which was published in The Fargo Forum’s Opinion Section.  It sums up beautifully how we felt for this remarkable and kind individual.

Mr. Hanson’s letter in its entirety can be read by following the link below:

https://www.inforum.com/opinion/letters/4406244-letter-dale-vitalis-will-also-be-remembered-advocate-those-autism

Reverend Vitalis, thank you for your support, and thank you for your commitment to our community and our neighbors.  You will be missed.

Thank You. Thank You. Thank you.

thank-you-490606_640.png

Last Thursday was Giving Hearts Day 2018.  Where were you on that day?  What will you say you did?

If you were one of the generous individuals who gave to Mind Shift, you can say many things.

You can say that you helped a non-profit meet its $25,000 match.

You can say that you made an impact on your community and your region.

You can say that you were one of the individuals that made Giving Hearts Day 2018 a record-breaking event.

And you can say you helped find meaningful careers for adults on the autism spectrum. 

Thank you to everybody who generously gave to Mind Shift.  We are excited to continue our mission to help individuals with ASD find independence, integrity, and an opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to their community.

Thank you to the Impact Foundation and the Giving Hearts Day team for making this wonderful day a reality.  Because of you this day is a tradition.  And because of this day we can continue to make our communities and region a better place.

Thank you to Veronica Michael who took the time to educate the Mind Shift team on how it all works.  You are kind, and patient.  And thanks to Amanda Sayre for the weekly emails, you reminded us that we’re not on our own. 

Thank you to Be More Colorful, Abovo, and Office Sign Company for organizing the Giving Hearts Day event downtown.  We were honored and humbled to be included with The Arts Partnership, CHARISM, FFA, The F5 Project, CCRI, and TNT Kid’s Fitness and Gymnastics.  Thanks for spending the day with us.  And thanks to Thunder Coffee for fueling the fun!

This is going to be a wonderful year.  Thanks again. 

"There are only two ways to live your life.  One is as though nothing is a miracle.  The other is as though everything is a miracle."  - Albert Einstein