An Autistic Perspective: Work meetings, events, training, and group work.

Following on from my last post about work. I thought I’d write a bit about my experiences in meetings, training and group work in community services.

A big part of social work and other related community services jobs is networking. If you have had the fortune or misfortune of attending an interagency meeting you will quickly find that it becomes really hard to hear things clearly when you have auditory processing issues. This is especially so when you have several groups of people talking at the same time; networking. Sharing information about themselves, their service, their programs and other gobbly-gook. Most workers have already established connections with each other from previous and other events, so you notice that they move off into their own separate bubbles during tea-break. I think that as I am relatively new to this job I can initially get away with coming across as “shy” to others.

I usually spend the better part of these meetings trying to figure out what is expected of people at these gatherings, as well as keeping my interactions limited to the people sitting right next to me.  I notice that I do feel quite bored at these meetings and this is probably due to personal expectations. My strategy going forward, only attend meetings that are really relevant to my current role.

Training is fun, but it becomes a challenge when people start to whisper because of the aforementioned auditory issues. The whispers compete with the instructor’s voice and I can’t tune them out. It also becomes a bit annoying when people start eating. To get through training I tend to take a long walk on breaks or sit under a tree. I don’t consider socialising at training to be pertinent because I don’t ever see most of these coworkers again, for the reason that they work in different regions of Sydney or NSW. So, socialising for the sake of it is usually just draining. At training, I make sure I sit relatively close to the front of the room so that if there is a lot of competing noise I can hear the instructor. Noise is something you just have to learn to bear. You also need to remain self-aware and manage your stress levels.

I have encountered similar experiences with noise when I have gone with a client to noisy shopping centres or cafes, or when I am in their home and their windows are open and the street has a lot of traffic.  It is something you just have to learn to work with. To manage, I tend to find the quietest spot in the room and get the person to repeat themselves if I can’t catch what they have said. To refresh/recover from client meetings, I usually space appointments out so there is time to process what has happened.

I don’t particularly like group-work, as people don’t seem too engaged in group activities. It can also be hard in the sense that non-autistics intuitively know when they can insert themselves into conversations. I have not mastered this skill yet, I try to wait for pauses but sometimes accidentally talk at the same time as someone else. You also need to respect the hierarchies at team meetings, but sometimes this is hard to do when you know the other person has made an error. So, learning tactful and persuasive forms of communication is helpful when dealing with these situations.

One site I particularly like for communication skills is
Skills You Need:
Another is the Art of Charm:

That’s it for now.
Thanks for reading!

What observations or issues have you had in groups, events and meetings?
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