SAP – Autism at Work Summit: Part 1

“Autistic lady, frustrated with the new experience of navigating professional conventions, decides to Livestream the event instead…”

(I imagine this as an Onion style parody…)

April 12, 2017 SAP kicks off its “Autism at Work” summit with a panel composed of authors John Elder Robison, Stephen Shore – both autistic – and Steve Silberman (“Neurotribes”, which I get about halfway into; reading theories of the autistic experience just doesn’t do it for me; perhaps as I am living that experience constantly and would rather focus my attention on living a rewarding and interesting life. No offense intended, Steve…

 The panel discussion is titled “How Neurodiversity Drives Innovation”.

I was invited to this summit by the VP of the European division of SAP and listed my profession as “writer and webmaster” – after all, this is a summit about autism in the tech field. I did not initially mention I am autistic.

That doesn’t last – I am so frustrated by the unfamiliar experience of navigating details – such as the daily schedule of events – I emailed the contact and told them I needed help as I am autistic. I am grateful and impressed by the program director’s prompt reply.

 So with their help and my persistence and troubleshooting skills  I procure said schedule AND print it.

I am also attending to bring a proposal to the event’s organizer from another organization I am a team member of, but receive no response from this individual. I realize he must be a very busy executive and am willing to try again, but was reluctant to “bug” him. (Note: he does respond before event, inviting me to text him when I am on campus. Turns out, I didn’t need to – I spot him and introduce myself shortly after arriving. Then, having nothing to say, I duck into a quiet space and call Sallie to ask how to proceed. She said the introduction is sufficient for now, so, relieved, I orbit off to get photos. Which I do – see them @screenshotaut (Twitter) and Buddhabluetooth (Instagram).

 The other team member attending SAP is autistic himself and we do not mesh well; I, being hyper – organized, rather obsessed with timeliness, punctuality and details and he – well, suffice it to say, is not. I am the one who takes screenshots of the venue and memorizes the map, provides navigation en route, prints AND carries a screenshot of the schedule, records as much as allowed via camera and notes (in multiple apps) – you get the picture.

I also think I embarrass him: I just read autistic girls may be diagnosed less because they are less hyperactive, impulsive and engage in less of the hand flapping, self – stimulating behaviors. I must be an exception, because I have obvious levels of all. He seems to be trying to “pass” as normal – something I cannot do – I have tried – and being around me reminds him of the autism he doesn’t want to acknowledge in himself. Just a theory…

I also have an extremely low frustration tolerance, especially with people.  Machines are a different story – my diligence and persistence with them is legendary, but that is not the subject here…

I actually lose sleep over all of this, which leads to an epic decomp at Autistry where, after some excellent bodywork, I break down crying and hitting my face and head, something I haven’t done in many months.

The staff handle it very skillfully and soon have me working on my sensory regulating weighted vest design. Unlike the old days where I would be restrained for hours screaming and medicated. It would take hours to recover, and sometimes I had many episodes a day!

I require 9 to 10 hours of quality sleep each night or the regression is severe. Someone said recently,

“I wish I could get that much sleep”, to which I replied,

“With me, it’s not an option”.

Example: Later in the day –

 I am crying in the computer room, alone, instead of working on my numbered list of questions for the SAP Autism at Work Summit.

After about 15 minutes, L. comes and asks if she can sit with me as she heard me crying and felt bad. If I wanted her to leave, it was OK, too. Literally speechless, I type:

  1. I am too upset to form speech right now, but it’s OK.

(She then asks if there is anything she can do)

  1. It will pass. I’m not going to hit myself or anything.
  2. I am having a really hard time dealing with this conference coming up and now Jim, who was going to drive me home, says I have to take the bus, I haven’t slept much lately and this is how I get…
  3.  (S. comes in and sits. L., who is new to Autistry, and autism in general – which I rather prefer; professionals in the field can be constricted by preconceived conceptions which limit their ability to respond naturally and freely – comments on the current communication method, noting she has never seen such a thing before).

That breaks my mute spell – laughing, I say, “I just made it up”!

Well, not completely- there ARE assisted communication apps and devices…

My Autistry team and I have a conference of our own and decide I would only attend Friday, a partial, and final day.

I became more relaxed about the entire event and, by Wednesday, am inspired to attend the opening.

Turns out, that was a mistake.

Next: SAP : Autism at Work Summit – Part 2









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