The value of volunteering

Autism and employment can have relationship a little like water and sodium. For some it works out fine, but for others, well… water meet sodium.

After University, I wanted to enter the workforce, but my experience with 9 hour work days on study placement taught me that constant bombardment of stimuli for such long periods at a time tended to reduce me to a quivering, ineffective lump whose nerves could be used as guitar strings. So, like entering an icy cold swimming pool, I decided to ease my way in.

I looked into what volunteer positions were available in my area. Meals on wheels caught my eye; shifts were only 1-2 hours, I wouldn’t have to deal with crowds, and work days were flexible. While it can still be a bit stressful sometimes if I’m delivering to people who are sick, in general I can handle it fairly well.

As it turned out, volunteer work was the best thing to happen to me in years. Its benefits were numerous; it got me out of the house and gave me something productive to do with my time. It gradually acclimatized me to the demands of the workplace. It made me feel useful. It introduced me to many people I now consider good friends. It gave me references to use on my resume.

Like many people on the autism spectrum, I’ve been through the Berty-Botts-Every-Flavoured-Beans buffet of pharmaceuticals over the years. Some were helpful, others not so much. But I’ve never taken any pill that was as effective an anti-depressant as volunteer work.

If you are one of the two thirds of people on the spectrum who are unemployed, I urge you give volunteer work a shot. There’s a wide range of positions, so you should be able to find something that suits your needs, and you might just find it as invaluable as I did.


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