Word reaches me that yet another young Asperger has been sent along that false but winding yellow brick road towards a sunlit city on a hill proclaiming the golden words:
Only to find, upon arrival at the gates of Oz, that there is no job at the end of the rainbow but instead a shifty little character mouthing meaningless phrases like, say, "economic downturn", "next financial year", "there's no work" (said once to me) or, more likely:
"You've impressed us a great deal during your work trial, you show great potential and promise, we will keep your details on file until something comes up."
But still, despite the aid of several agencies, placements and progress reports courtesy of (God help me...) quality assurance frameworks (QAF), there is no actual job at the end of all that effort.
We live in an age of smooth phraseology and soundbites that makes any requirement for black and white cause and effect or a Yes or a No answer seem almost Neanderthally crude (you used to turn a TV on or off, now it stops somewhere in the middle at standby), but looking back over my so-called career, what I most regret is not insisting more bluntly that the word if was not acceptable, jumping through hoops while smooth HR people ticked off QAF boxes, labouring through badly-run, home-grown and humiliating "training" courses with a possible job dangled like a carrot at the end of them or (in a couple of cases) traineeships lasting six to nine months.
It was not always someone else's fault - on occasion I was not suitable for the posts supposedly on offer - but in the end I think I'd far rather have just tried out the job itself for a week or so to see if I had the right stuff instead of being stuffed through a quasi-educational traineeship, work trial or placement.
But that would have to mean there was an actual, solid, real job to try out. A genuine, black and white, no-nonsense job. Not possible or probable but actual, to be all no-nonsense and Neanderthal about it.
And such a job would truly be a holy grail for a high-functioning Autist, enabling him or her to achieve some independence, save for the future, buy groceries, avoid isolation and gain self-esteem in the real world, where you can't just put your mortgage on standby with a smooth phrase...
According to the National Autistic Society employment service, "only 15% of people with autism are in full time employment" (which admittedly makes my twenty-seven-year car crash of a career sound a little better) but a 2009 Guardian article showed that, in the case of Asperger Robyn Steward, "the lack of understanding of her needs ... has meant she feels unable to contemplate applying for jobs."
So it's quite a trial for an Asperger to go on a work trial, but you would think it only fair that there at least be a job at the end of it, and no nonsense about it.
That'll be the day.
In a meeting recently, not long after I'd laboured through a twelve week trial for my own holy grail of a library job, only to indeed be told by some muppet of a manager on the very last day that there was no work; I met a young man with Aspergers who summed the whole thing up perfectly:
"You do a job placement and then there's no job!"
Employers demand much from their employees. Perhaps it is time employees and agencies demanded Yes or No answers from employers to questions like:
"No if, but or maybe! Is there or is there not a job at the end of all this?"
And if you don't get a clear answer, don't budge a blinking inch!
James Christie is the author of Dear Miss Landau. He was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, a mild form of autism, at the age of 37 in 2002. He lives in the Scottish Borders.Suggest a correction