Asperger’s ‘Survival Guide’ discusses workplace challenges

By A Contributor

You have seen them in your workplace. They are a little bit different. They are not very social, may not understand what you say, may get immersed in a project and become oblivious to their surroundings,.

They can be bothered or distracted by ambient sights, sounds, and smells.

Do they just choose to be a little odd, or are they truly different?

Actually, they are different, but not of their own choosing.  They are born that way—their brains are wired differently from most people.

They have Asperger’s Syndrome, a psychological disorder related to autism which affects perhaps 1 in 88 people, three-quarters of them being men.

They may have difficulty finding and fitting into a job, and so need help and accommodation from their employers and co-workers who are “normal,” or, to use the technical term, “neurotypical,” or “NT.”

Bissonnette has written a self-help book for Aspergians—and the rest of us—to deal with their different natures and not just to survive, but to do well, even to prosper, in the workplace.

It is a survival manual and a must read for Aspergians.  However, much of the book is good advice for everyone because it also helps NT’s to understand and deal with people — for not every NT understands and deals well with them either.

People generally can benefit from reading it.

“Asperger’s Syndrome Workplace Survival Guide” discusses the importance of non-verbal communication, which can be a mystery for Aspergians.

It explains the importance of, and how to make, the right first impression on a would-be employer and co-workers which, while directed at Aspergians, is good for everyone to know.

We learn of the need to develop people skills, including office politics and basic good manners. Aspergians, in addition to not understanding people, often have grown up without having learned the importance of little things like saying “Hello,” “Good to meet you,”  “Goodbye,” “Please,” and “Thank you.”(Which can alienate people when not done.)

Bissonnette says, and brain scans have shown,  that Aspergians have trouble with the executive functions of their brains, including coping with difficult people such as persons who harass and bully them. It also makes living with sensory problems affecting sight, sound, taste, touch, balance, and coordination difficult.

She tells readers how to manage their careers including becoming aware of, and building on, their strengths and limitations. 

While Aspergians have special strengths and limitations which NT’s do not have, a lot of this is good advice for anyone.

She considers one issue of particular concern, not to just Aspergians, but to all people with some sort of problem, difference, or disability:  Who at the workplace to tell what about their disorder, and when.

An Aspergian may be entitled to accommodation under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), but she warns that asking for it could cause troubles then and in the future. It is not simply a matter of self-acceptance:  It is also a matter of social-acceptance, of what others can handle. She tells the reader of things to consider before opening his or her mouth.

Having said all of this, the “Guide” is mostly written for Aspergian office workers and college graduates —  particularly professionals.

It makes almost no mention of other types of working people and their needs, though they face many of the same problems.

A good feature is that the last nine pages are photocopy-ready to form a pamphlet which summarizes the findings and recommendations of the book, and which may be used for training workers and handed out to them to read.

Bissonnette writes in an easy to read style which is enhanced by following specific recommendations and activities with short case histories which illustrate her points, as well as occasional “NT Tips” to emphasize certain key ideas.

As with all self-help books, a person needs to keep a copy at hand and to look at it from time to time as different needs or problems present themselves-nobody can remember it all.

The Table of Contents is excellent, for it tells the reader the titles of going to the index.

Barbara Bissonnette is a career coach and consultant in private practice who helps both individuals and businesses to deal with problems related to Asperger’s.

Unlike so many self-help books, “Asperger’s Syndrome Workplace Survival Guide: A Neurotypical’s Secrets for Success” is offered by a respected international publisher, Jessica Kingsley Publishers. For 27 years,  Kingsley has specialized in books dealing with various personal issues and therapies.

It is a welcome change from so many Aspergian books from vanity publishers.









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