The Truth Behind the NDIS

All it takes is a quick search on Reddit to get a sense of what the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) can be like for people with a disability.

The truth of the matter is, the NDIS can sometimes do more harm than good, and as a support worker and social work student, I have witnessed this.

As a woman with Autism, I have not personally sought out the assistance of the NDIS. In fact, I probably wouldn’t be eligible. I’ll get to why that is, later. Even though I can’t speak about my own personal experience with the scheme, I still feel I can offer some insight. I have been an advocate in NDIS planning meetings, and I have been required to write letters of support for clients seeking extra funding. I have also done relatively extensive research on the scheme in my studies, so I like to think I’m pretty informed about what is supposedly intended to make the lives of people with disabilities easier.

But after all that, perhaps you are asking questions. You might be wondering why I am prepared to discuss the reasons the NDIS can be harmful. Perhaps you are surprised to hear that such a great idea has become such an underfunded, convoluted mess. Well, allow me to explain why, and outline the issues with the NDIS.

If you look at the NDIS act (2013), you will find that it emphasises the importance of individuals with a disability participating fully in society, economically and socially. It also proposes that it’s sole intention is to function on the idea of granting people with a disability “choice” and “control”. So essentially, it wants people with a disability to be included in society, and treated like valuable citizens. Woo! Now this is all well and good, but when you look beneath the facade of those kind and inclusive words, you’ll see that the scheme is pedalling an agenda fuelled by conservatism. These values include economic ‘growth’, jobs and small business. For this government too, it means that they like to cut down on spending so they can ‘save money’.

Now, you might call me out in saying “Oh but Hectic, you do realise that it was the labour party that came up with the NDIS, right?” Yes, that’s correct, but the NDIS first came into action around 2013, (and it took its sweet time in reaching all parts of Australia). The liberal government also came into power in the same year, and its now 2021. You can imagine how much the NDIS has ‘evolved’ in that time right?

Unsurprisingly, since its birth, NDIS funding has been slashed significantly. In fact only this year has a new taskforce been established, designed specifically for cutting funding to the NDIS. Now if that isn’t a fine nugget of satirical comedy, I don’t know what is. Why is this so hilarious? Because in the 2019 national budget, it was reported that there was a 1.6 billion dollar underspend within the NDIS. Shows how much they value the lives of people with a disability.

Further to this, when you look at how frugal the liberal government is with anything apart from coal and destroying the environment, you can only imagine how much spending they cut to services that don’t appease their agenda. I’m talking about services such as the NDIS, and any kind of social service. They cut the expenses to save money, even though the services being requested by the client could potentially benefit the person in perhaps, having a job!? Maybe even opening up their own small business! Did you know that the founder of Pokemon, Satoshi Tajiri is on the Autism spectrum? He’s a millionaire now!

So despite the la-di-da-boo-wah about jobs and economic growth, by cutting funding for people, the government are inadvertently compromising their own intentions.

Good one Scomo.

Australian PM Scott Morrison flaunting his cone look

Now if you didn’t like my bias-fuelled political rant, then you can move on to the broken down points I’ve established that outline the issues with the NDIS:

  1. The CEO Martin Hoffman has about as much experience with disability as Abraham Lincoln with a Dell XPS 13. In other words, he has no qualification in any relevant field, meaning he would most likely be unable to bring empathy and insight to his role. He has a finance and economics degree. Relevant.This is contrary to other CEO’s for disability organisations, such as Laurie Leigh of the National Disability Service (NDS), who has a background in mental health nursing, health services and social psychology. So basically, Martin Hoffman probably isn’t qualified to be making business decisions that influence the quality of service that participants will receive. Another more qualified CEO is the newly appointed CEO of Amaze, Jim Mullan. According to the Amaze website he has experience with youth and community work and working with people on the Autism spectrum. He may not be an expert, but he still puts Abraham Lincoln’s computer abilities to shame!

2. In order to get the best/most funding, you need to amplify your deficits and basically just explain how shit it is to have a disability. Strengths won’t help you, because that will just give the NDIS a reason to give you less funding. This is ironic given that the NDIA insist that they use a “strengths-based approach” to understanding what participants need. It’s as if they think people with disabilities are either totally hopeless individuals or perfectly capable in every way. They don’t seem to understand that there are nuances to our existence.

3. NDIS goals are not always goals that have been determined by the participants. Yes, fortunately some participants do get to make their own decisions. However, I have worked with many participants with cognitive disabilities who don’t even attend their own NDIS plan meetings. It is usually their parents or carers who make the decisions, in quite a few cases. By the way, I despise the assertion that people need decision makers because they are deemed unable to make ‘important decisions’. What do you deem important? What drove you to that conclusion? Whether the person needs a decision maker or not, I think it’s worth asking those questions. Another thing, what is important to you might be different to what is important to the participant.

4. The support plan meetings feel like a year 12 English exam. Your abilities and eligibility for funding are measured by how well you can answer queries and concerns under the pressured timeframe of about 30 minutes to an hour in a bland office space. You are basically being interrogated into proving how debilitating your disability is. Otherwise it will all be done over the phone, or these days, teams or zoom.Too bad if you have processing challenges. Maybe they will give you more funding for that, or maybe they won’t even notice that as apart of your disability, and just view it as you being unable to adequately justify why you should be eligible for more support.

5. Your plan could be reviewed at any time, at the discretion of the NDIA. This means you will have very little stability and certainty regarding how long your services and supports will last. In other words, you could go from having 12 hours of support per week to two without a reasonable explanation.

6. More isn’t always better. If a person needs 24hr support, giving them a thousand different support workers to work with them during the week could be traumatic and overwhelming. Do you have a thousand friends that you see every week? No. You don’t even need to answer that unless you’re a rambunctious 2008 Cory Worthington.

7. As a person with Autism, you will be ranked in levels 1, 2 or 3. Level 2 is considered to mean ‘requiring substantial support’ and level 3 is “requiring very substantial support’. This means that if you so much as miss the mark for level 2, you can say bye bye to your NDIS funding. You’d think that having a diagnosis in general would be enough to make you eligible for funding. This is not the case. Apparently, diagnoses are ranked in terms of how ‘significant’ they are. As someone who was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome (before that label was scrapped), I would technically come under the category of level 1, meaning no funding for me. That is, unless I exacerbate every one of my ‘afflictions’.

8. The NDIA’s favourite two words are “choice” and “control” in reference to people with a disability. Yet, the requests of people with a disability are more often than not, rejected on the basis that what they are asking for is ‘too expensive’ or impractical. Do they even realise they are literally NOT spending enough money on the scheme?! *Ehem* *1.6 Billion Dollar underspend* I sigh in frustration. Sometimes if a person understands the NDIS lingo, and has a giant support network to back them, they might be more likely to get what they need. So much for choice! This can be difficult for people who do not have a background in healthcare, disability, welfare etc. or from a low socioeconomic group. So much for “control”! When a person’s funding is slashed, they are forced to fight for themselves, and waste the time they could be spending living their lives fulfillingly. They waste this time, arguing with people who claim to ‘understand’ their challenges, without knowing anything about their personal challenges at all.

If the participants of the NDIS are supposed to have choice and control, then explain this contradictory section of the website to me?

https://www.ndis.gov.au/participants/reviewing-your-plan-and-goals#how-we-make-decisions

So, the NDIS decide what is reasonable and necessary for the person and “makes decisions”. Right.

9. NDIS is largely inaccessible to ethnically/culturally diverse families and individuals. Recently in fact, the ABC did a brief report on a Sudanese family from Adelaide. This family had applied for the NDIS multiple times before finally being approved. This child had been diagnosed with non-verbal Autism, and still couldn’t get funding after multiple application attempts. Interestingly, half the population in Australia are either from overseas or had parents born overseas (ABC News, 2021), so it was expected that at least 20% of that population would be accessing the NDIS (ABC News, 2021). However, this is not the case. In fact, only 9.5% have access to the NDIS (ABC News, 2021).

Some of these points may not seem super alarming to you, but trust me, when you live with a disability and breathe the atmosphere of the disability sector, it’s really easy to see the flaws in the system. More concerningly, I imagine there are many neurotypical individuals in the industry who honestly feel they are doing right by people with disability, when in actual fact, they’re not.

I hope this blog, despite its heavy biases, urges you to at least do your own research, and to think critically

Here are some links I used:

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/apr/13/ndis-cost-cutting-taskforce-told-to-reduce-growth-in-participants-and-spending

https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2020C00392

https://www.ndis.gov.au

k https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-08-16/ndis-too-complex-for-people-from-diverse/13498444 – WATCH THIS VIDEO UPLOADED 16/8/21

https://au.linkedin.com/in/laurie-leigh

https://www.ndis.gov.au/participants/using-your-plan/who-can-help-start-your-plan/support-coordination

Amaze announces appointment of new CEO

That’s my rant for the day.

Women with intellectual disability and the pandemic of sexual violence against them

It is likely no secret to most readers, that women are widely reported to be most vulnerable to violence, and usually at the hands of other men. However, sometimes this blanket report can sway us from delving deeper into the trenches of the brutality that afflicts specific demographics of women.

Which brings me to the tragic, ongoing reality of women with a disability and the viciously virulent pandemic of violence affecting them.

While it may not be a surprise to you that women with a disability are more susceptible to violent abuse, the real issue lies in how much society really, truly care.

Many of us, consciously, do care. After all, what person wishes suffering upon people who in many instances don’t get to exercise their human rights independently? Unless you are void of empathy, then most likely, you do not agree with that idea.

However, the concern really lies in the value we place on this global issue in comparison to other, more specific brands of feminist advocacy. For example, the #MeToo movement. This movement essentially broke Twitter when it first surfaced, and for many it was a reassuring, empowering thing to witness. We would hear from the perspectives of (predominantly white) celebrities who had been sexually assaulted or harassed by their male counterparts, urging women to reconsider the way they are treated. For many this was inspiring, but consider the origins of the #MeToo movement.

The #MeToo movement officially started in 2006 when a woman of colour named Tarana Bourke coined the phrase. She too used the soon to become hashtag as a way of standing up for injustice against women, and she remains a rampant activist today. Inspirational stuff, yet #MeToo only expanded across the globe when a white actress Alyssa Milano began to use it too. I think it would be even safe to say, that most people probably assume she came up with it. I am only speculating though.

Tarana Bourke

My point is, this movement took a white woman’s tweet to really take off across the internet. Sure, Tarana Bourke probably made an impact within the United States, but I daresay, the boom was delayed until a wealthy celebrity took the time to state her own case.

Alyssa Milano

Don’t get me wrong, I by no means wish to belittle the experiences of Milano with sexual assault. No woman should ever have to experience that, regardless of how privileged she may be. However, I guess I wanted to shed light on the voices we value most.

You may know that women with a disability (WWD) are most vulnerable to abuse compared to other women, but perhaps you didn’t know that the type of abuse most likely to afflict WWD is sexual abuse. Given that it has been found that sexual crimes come from a place of power play, I think this harrowing statistic provides some interesting commentary on where women with a disability are ranked in terms of value. More alarmingly, women with an intellectual disability in particular, are twice as likely to experience abuse compared to women with a physical disability and women without a disability put together.

This begs the question, if there are some human beings who feel they have the right to sexually assault women with an intellectual disability, thinking it is justifiable, then what do the rest of the non-abusive humans think about WWD?

Even though women with physical disability (PD) remain vulnerable to violent abuse themselves, they still seem to more often be given a platform to voice their experiences. In fact, it was just recently that ABC Australia did a report on a woman in a wheelchair who had escaped an abusive relationship.

Rather startlingly however, just by googling “women with intellectual disability who was abused” I was hard pressed to find an article coming directly from the perspective of a woman with an ID.

This brings me to my next point. Even though most people, I’m sure, would be disgusted upon hearing accounts of abuse against women with an ID I would argue how interested people would be in sincerely listening to the voices of these women.

As someone who has worked directly with women and men who have an intellectual disability, I feel I have at least some license to comment on the perceptions that a lot of support workers, even some social workers, appear to have on the ‘capacity’ of people with an intellectual disability. You hear comments such as “I don’t think they would understand” or “Lets just make it easier for them” . Some professionals will even have the audacity to speak about the person in the presence OF the person.

Not only is this presumptuously rude, I think it is shockingly indicative of the attitudes we hold towards women, women with a disability, women with an intellectual disability and people with a disability overall. They vary in terms of ranking. They are ranked by their ability to speak, the coherency of their speech, their intellect and more broadly, their general capacity to understand.

This is why I think we never hear from women with intellectual disability on the news. This is why some people think its okay to take advantage of them sexually. This is why we need to think long and hard about our perceptions of others.

Heck, the only time I’ve heard from a woman with an ID in the media was when I listened to a podcast about a murder, and it turned out this woman had rather cunningly instigated the whole thing. Her parents had no clue! Obviously I am not condoning murder, or suggesting people with an ID are murderers, but I do think this alludes to how grossly we underestimate people with an ID’s intelligence… a macabre but valid example!

I am just thankful that as a woman with a disability myself, I have the privilege of at least in some way, having some insight into how painful and unfair this must be for these women.

Do yourself a favour, google the stats. Women with an intellectual disability and abuse. You’ll find some easily accessible information on the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and Women with Disabilities Victoria.

That’s my rant for the day.

References

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/mar/16/disabled-young-women-face-double-the-risk-of-sexual-violence

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-08-23/domestic-violence-and-disability-challenges-to-getting-out/100359908

https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/people/crime-and-justice/focus-crime-and-justice-statistics/latest-release

Why is there a monkey used in a symbol for intellectual disability?

This will be a short blog post, but something I’d really like to get off my chest.

So, I’m currently in the process of writing a piece about women with an intellectual disability and abuse, and it occurred to me that I should try and find some appropriate images to include in my post. So i googled “intellectual disability” and I came across this sign:

Can someone tell me what the correlation is between monkeys and people with an intellectual disability? I’m pretty sure most people, disability or not, really enjoy eating fruit and nuts. Especially hazelnuts, because they trick me into thinking I’m eating a healthy version of Nutella!

Also, this sign:

Now if this is supposed to help people with an intellectual disability, then I’m concerned because as someone without an intellectual disability, I can barely associate the relevance of the images with the words. Am I just a silly head or what? Besides why does a person with an intellectual disability need to have an intellectual grasp of what passion is? They should just be able to feel it, and enjoy the feeling!

Okay, I’m done for the evening.

What is ABA Therapy?

#Autism #Autismawareness #Disabilityrights #ABATherapy

I am not an expert on ABA therapy, but I like to think I know enough about it, and have had enough exposure to it, that I can comment on the impact it may have on Autistic people.

ABA Therapy stands for Applied Behavioural Analysis, and it is a psychological intervention believed to have evolved from the now deceased psychologist B.F. Skinner. BF Skinner used operant conditioning with rats and birds to try and teach them to behave ‘correctly’ and eliminate ‘incorrect’ behaviours. That’s right, rats and birds. ABA stemmed from this experimental approach. It was another psychologist (Ole Ivar Lovaas) who took this to the next level, using ABA with children with Autism and other conditions, in an attempt to ‘help’ them become “indistinguishable from their peers”.

Ole Ivar Lovaas thrusting bland normality onto a child

Now, I can acknowledge that ABA therapy has probably evolved since the time it first started being used. For example, for many therapists, I don’t believe their intention would be to force their Autistic clients to become ‘normal’ like other children. However, I think the general premise remains the same, focussing on eliminating and changing perceived negative behaviours with the promise of a reward if there is compliance.

I think it is important to note that this conditioning could be very distressing for an Autistic person. For example, teaching someone to go to the supermarket without having a meltdown by exposing them to the supermarket three times a week is arguably cruel. Autistic people have significant sensory challenges, that we cannot help. So to expose us to those challenges on a regular basis is not only exhausting but has the potential to be very traumatic, affecting our mental health adversely.

Now, I have a couple of issues with this, but before I go into that I want to give a few examples of ABA therapy in action. I didn’t mention before, a common way to encourage a behaviour in ABA is using a rewards-based system. As a support worker I used this exact method with a client, and honestly, I found it so uncomfortable I eventually quit my job.

I would pick my client up from school, and we would go home to do some homework. She had to do her homework, regardless of whether she was tired or not. Part of her homework was also working on conventional social behaviours such as “eye contact” and refraining from engaging in compulsions she had developed to cope with anxiety e.g. drawing dots on paper after practising letters. If she did not comply with the request to make eye contact, the request to concentrate on her homework, she would not receive a token and snack.

When she did something ‘correctly’ I would need to commend her by saying “good job” or “awesome” in a very over the top way. I suspect this could have even overwhelmed her, because I know for a fact that if I had a bunch of tall adults surrounding me and spewing “good job” and “well done” repeatedly in my face I’d tell them to go away, and give me space. The problem was, this client was non-verbal, so she couldn’t say that. She could however, bite her hands and fingers to the point where she would bleed, and engage in other self-injurious behaviours. Also, by the time an Autistic person is feeling overwhelmed after being pushed to do something, then of course they won’t be able to clearly articulate, or sign what they want or don’t want because they’re emotionally unregulated for shit’s sake!

Another thing, Autistic people DO communicate. Particularly with regards to non-verbal Autistic people, they also DO communicate. It’s just that non-verbal Autistics don’t communicate in the conventional way you expect them to. If they don’t want to do something, they might nod “no” and move you out of their way. They might protest vocally, and appear visibly stressed. Is this not communicative? Why do they HAVE to say “I don’t like this”? Why do they HAVE to sign “No”. If its not already clear that they don’t want something, then perhaps it’s you that is the problem.

I would probably need to write a huge essay to fully get my point across properly and explore this type of intervention in more depth. However, I’ll spare you the mundane academic investigation, and just keep it simple. I like to keep blogs fun and informative rather than dry and overwhelming.

What I will say is that although ABA mostly makes me cringe, I have some hope for families and therapists who are willing to make adjustments to the approach for the purpose of making the therapy at least more effective, and perhaps more beneficial to the child/person concerned.

I encourage people to go and watch this amazing Ted Talk: The Problem with Applied Behavioural Analysis| Chloe Everett. She is Autistic herself, and studying psychology, and she does an incredible job at articulating what it could be like to be on the receiving end of potentially harmful therapies such as ABA.

I’d love to hear what your experiences of ABA have been. I’ll keep an open mind, I promise.

References

DeVita-Raeburn, E., 2021. The controversy over autism’s most common therapy | Spectrum | Autism Research News. [online] Spectrum | Autism Research News. Available at: <https://www.spectrumnews.org/features/deep-dive/controversy-autisms-common-therapy/&gt; [Accessed 6 August 2021].

NeuroClastic. 2021. Invisible Abuse: ABA and the things only autistic people can see. [online] Available at: <https://neuroclastic.com/2019/03/28/invisible-abuse-aba-and-the-things-only-autistic-people-can-see/&gt; [Accessed 6 August 2021].

Romanczyk, R. and McEachin, J., 2016. Comprehensive models of autism spectrum disorder treatment. Springer International Publishing.

Treat Autistic Adults like Adults

There is no excuse for speaking to an Autistic person like they’re a popular breed of puppy.

The patronisation can vary from person to person, and based on what ‘degree’ of Autism a person may live with. For example, I was booked for a public speaking session once and was required to travel interstate. Upon meeting the person who had booked me, I was met with a manically wide grin and a stare that I swear, penetrated my skull with gentle sympathy. Of course, she thanked me for coming-very slowly, nodding very slowly, and I left the conversation- rather quickly. I had skipped nausea on the plane, and found it in the presence of this well-meaning woman.

Another example of patronisation, is using language that you would with a toddler. Like, asking an adult autistic client with an ID “do you need to do wee wees?” or referring to the parents (if parents are in the picture) as their “Mummy” and “Daddy”. Hang on, I just need to use the toilet…I’m about to barf.

Sadly, it often isn’t easy to explain to people why addressing a person with Autism at the rate a YouTube video plays with shitty internet , can be very harmful. In fact, I recognise that most people mean no harm and are simply trying to protect the person. However, this is not what they are doing.

We have to remember that adults with Autism are adults just the same as everyone else. They reach the same milestones. We have aspirations, we have certain biological/sexual needs we wish to fulfil. Heck, one of my immediate goals is to have sex in a spa! I hope to achieve this soon.

Of course, some people might be able to come up with several apparent justifications for why they feel it is okay to address an Autistic person like someone with fairy floss for a brain, and the temperament of a telly tubby. So, I’m going to list what some of those justifications might be and then attempt to de-justify them.

I am aware that in raising my concerns about how some parents, carers, randoms etc. might interact with Autistic people, could spark some level of defensiveness. Perhaps you might feel that I am wrong about thinking it is not okay to address an Autistic person ‘differently’. So what might help is if I list a few examples of some ‘justifications’ for interacting with Autistic people ‘differently’, and then I will attempt to de-justify them.

Here goes:

  1. But the person has the mental capacity of a child because they have an intellectual disability OR they act in a ‘childlike’ manner.
  2. If I don’t’ address them that way then they won’t understand what I am saying to them. Note: This experience is especially common for non-verbal individuals.
  3. Its hard not to talk about them in that way because they’re just so adorable and sweet, I can’t help it.
  4. He/she/they are very sensitive and act like a four year old when they are upset, so I treat them as such.
  5. I’ve know this person since they were a child, so its hard for me to change how I talk to them.

Now for the de-justifications:

  1. Firstly, you can’t accurately measure whether someone has a ‘childlike capacity’ without being massively biased, and unaware of your assumptions. I would even argue that whatever bullshit test there is for measuring a person’s intellectual capacity, is inaccurate and based on the unhelpful idea that a person’s worth should be based on how ‘smart’ they are. Tangent over. Also, suppose a person did behave in what was believed to be a conventionally child-like manner, they are still adults. That doesn’t mean you can’t change how you communicate with them at all, it just means don’t patronise them.

There is a difference between: “You’re a big boy, why don’t I show you how to make a cup of tea and then you can tell Mummy”

From

“ I think you’re old enough now that you can learn how to make a cup of tea by yourself. I’ll show you how to do it, and then you can tell people what you learnt. I’m sure people will be really proud of you.”

2. You should never make the assumption that someone doesn’t understand you unless you’ve checked with the person themselves. Even if a person is non-verbal it should not be so challenging that you can’t understand what the person wants at all. From my experience, most non-verbal individuals have good receptive communication, so it will just be a matter of helping them to find a useful way to communicate what they want or need successfully. Here’s a tip, if you hand them a sensory toy and they throw it, then they’re probably pissed off or just don’t want the toy!

3. I understand the tendency to feel that someone is ‘cute’ for displaying behaviours that are not typical to most adults. I remember having to remind myself often how the individual might feel about me calling them cute. Maybe the person would care, maybe they wouldn’t. I just think it’s a safer bet to assume that the person would be offended, in case it did and they acted out in response to that assumption. Just a thought. If you hold feelings of endearment towards a client, perhaps opt for words like “buddy” or “mate”. You can even ask the client how they prefer to be addressed, obviously. I personally refrain from “Sweety” “Poopybum” and “Munchkin”.

4. If people are referring to meltdowns in this instance, then that is very unfair. It’s likely that prior to becoming a support worker you had at least some training on Autism, or at least attended a workshop. However, a lot of support workers don’t receive any training and just rely on their stereotyped perceptions of what Autism is. Take it from me though, when an Autistic individual experiences a meltdown it is a very serious matter. It’s essentially a consequence of severe sensory and emotional overload, leading the person to be unable to cope with their surroundings, and manage their emotions. Meltdowns are mostly avoidable. I say mostly because sometimes shit happens. Alas, it is important to remember that a meltdown can be avoided if the triggers are less, and help reducing those triggers are recommended. Meltdowns are stressful, and can be very overwhelming. Some people harm themselves in that frame of mind in a desperate attempt to comfort themselves sensorily e.g. banging head against a wall. A very serious matter.

5. It doesn’t matter how different a person’s developmental capacity is, everyone is susceptible to change, development and growth. Therefore, you should not be treating a person the same as you did when they were five, if they are now 25. They will have changed, and you need to adapt to that.

Autistic people do not like being treated like toddlers, we like being treated the age that we are. We have wants, needs, goals and aspirations just like everyone else. When that isn’t recognised or acknowledged, it can be super frustrating and have a severe impact on our mental health and self-esteem. If you wouldn’t want to be treated that way, then don’t do the same to us. Have a little insight please.

Autism and Employment

As an Autistic woman with a desire to contribute to social change and to see the humour in things, I present to you this new blog.

This wasn’t just some new idea that sparked that I had previously suppressed, or insisted that I couldn’t do, and then finally caved. I’ve made several blogs in the past, lost interest and then tried again.

So I guess this is yet another attempt at turning one of my many grand ideas into a product.

So here goes.

Right now I’m in a awkward, borderline depressing situation. It feels a bit like purgatory-waiting for what comes next based on what is determined by another party (not God in this case). I am in the process of finalising employment I was granted a few weeks ago, and I am waiting to hear where I will be doing my final social work placement. A lot is happening, and my personal level of patience is not assisting with the situation.

On the flipside, however, I am in a new relationship (five months now) and enjoying spending time with my partner, helping me through this challenging time of waiting for my life to get busy again.

A little annoyingly, this is not the first time I have found myself in this position. The last time this happened, I left a job that was making me miserable. I experienced discrimination for being Autistic, I was coerced into signing a contract I did not wish to commit to, and I was also sexually harassed by a manager. The last time I did this, I had to wait a few months before I found some new employment, which ended up being my workplace for four years. I worked at an Autism advocacy organisation. I was valued there, and I got a tonne of career experience, experimenting with different roles. By the end of the four years, I was beginning to feel like I needed to try something different, so I found employment at a disability centre where I did my first placement.

I was there for two years-until I realised how fucked it was as an organisation. It was then that I decided to loudly resign. By loudly, I mean I emailed the entire staff cohort outlining the reasons I was leaving. Of course, crappy managers being crappy managers, they deflected the blame onto everyone else who had complained and didn’t take any responsibility. Oh well, I tried.

I don’t want to make this blog post any more tangential than it needs to be, so I’ll just use four words to describe why I left the place: Nepotism, wage theft, coercion, intimidation. 

Having had both positive and negative experiences in a few workplaces (11 years of working and five workplaces), those experiences have taught me the following:

My primary facial expression for ‘I’m done with this S*i*’

  • Always read the fine print, and never trust a manager when you are first employed, because you’ll see the best of them. Starting a new job is like starting a new relationship, it can initially feel like fireworks and lovedust is swimming through your insides, until the liquid lust evaporates and converts into just dust. I was in this infatuation period for a good whole year ½ before I began to question things.
  • Also a wise friend once told me to read the first and the last section of a work contract. Any contract for that matter. This is because the more crucial sections of the contract are in these sections.
  • It is not normal for a manager to ask you a series of dental questions, especially if he or she is not a practising dentist. That’s just weird.
  • If your CEO is also the brother in law of the second manager in charge, and the cousin of the admin person, and the admin person is married to the other manager, who so happens to the be second cousin of the CEO-that’s nepotism and it creates a tonne of conflicts of interests in a workplace.
  • You are entitled to a break at work.
  • If your manager calls you after hours to gossip about other staff, that’s a potent red flag.
  • If a manager terminates shifts from you on the basis of your ill mental health, that’s discrimination.
  • If a manager tells you that your concerns are wrong on the basis of your age-based ‘inexperience’, that’s age-based discrimination. That manager is also an age-based arsehole.
  • Familiarise yourself with the Fair Work Act and the Award that you are paid in accordance to. E.g. SCHADS award, otherwise known as The easy-to-take-advantage-of-employees-income-because-the-standards-are-super-vague-and-are-a-distinct-advanatage-to-the-employer Award. But SCHADS is shorter.
  • Be mindful of how transparent you are about things like, being on the spectrum or having mental health issues. This should not be the case, but for the moment I advise it. Why? Because Unconscious discrimination exists, and if the organisation have either a stereotyped perception of Autism or know nothing about Autism, you are likely to receive a negative response. Be careful. 
  • If nearly ten other staff have the same concerns you have, then its not just a you problem.

I hope that what I have outlined is helpful for any individual who feels unsure about their workplace. Maybe you’ve just got an off vibe, maybe you don’t want to admit that something is wrong. These are all normal feelings when you are working in an unfair, unhealthy workplace. Maybe you work somewhere great though, and your managers are receptive to feedback. If that’s you, then I’m happy for you. Solid work landing that place.