Thursday, June 3, 2010

My disability in my workplace

This week has been a week to start settling into a new routine and with Congress not in session this week, it’s an ideal week to do so. With most, if not all members of Congress back in their home districts for the week, there isn’t nearly as much going on on the Hill, so I’ve been able to transition with much more ease. As someone with an autism spectrum disorder, this is particularly important, as I can feel over stimulated & overwhelmed more easily than others. I’m interning in the office of Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and her office is located at the end of a hallway, so there are fewer voices & other noises to hear. I’m sure volume will increase in the coming weeks, though, as activity in the office increases, and consequently, so does the number of visitors, so this is a good week for me to start feeling comfortable in my new setting. This is the first workplace environment where I’ve been “out” as an individual with a disability to my supervisor and I made sure to mention how I can sometimes feel anxious because of overstimulation, which can especially affect my ability to communicate. Because my disability may not always be noticeable at first glance, whether or not to be open about it in my daily life has been a personal struggle. With so much misinformation about individuals with autism spectrum disorder, I can’t help but fear those around me will apply those myths when interacting with me, that they will wrongly believe they must treat me differently because of my disability. Luckily, everyone has been extremely supportive and I have also been successfully employing my own methods which I find helpful to help me stay centered. There will be four additional interns in Congresswoman Baldwin’s office with me this summer, three of whom either started this week or last week. Each of them is extremely friendly and welcoming. Our intern coordinator, while she certainly expects us to learn fast, has been very patient when I- or any of the other interns for that matter- asks for something to be repeated. As someone who often does need something explained to me more than once considering it takes my mind just a tad longer for things to process at times, I’ve really appreciated her kindness.

I realized that a good way to get some substantive work might be establishing relations through the appropriate legislative aides. This week, I introduced myself to several of the LAs & expressed interest in certain issues they cover. I'll definitely follow up with them soon as well. Also, I spoke to the congresswoman on my first day!....sort of. She called from her district office asking to speak to one of our legislative coordinators and I took the call. Though the call wasn’t for me of course, she offered a very friendly & extremely genuine greeting which made me smile. I'm looking forward to meeting her in-person when she returns to Washington D.C.


  1. Hi Meredith! My name is Zoe and I'm an intern at AAPD HQ. I definitely can identify with the hesitation about disclosing a disability, especially a "hidden" one, in the workplace. I think that's one of the reasons this internship is such a great opportunity. David and I were actually just talking about this today, since one of my projects at HQ has to do with AAPD's Disability Mentoring Day. We talked about how programs like DMD (and the internships, for that matter) make self-disclosure somewhat beside the point. When the disability is what connects you with an employer, there's no question of if or when or how to reveal your disability. Also, it allows your employer to be aware of anything that might come up - like the overstimulation you mentioned or for me, manifestations of a chronic health impairment. Thanks for sharing!!

  2. I know exactly what you mean. I have similar issues and I also am hesitant to disclose my ASD. I want to become a better self advocate but I am just not too sure how I could comfortably go about doing that.


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