April is Autism Acceptance Month

Aspiritech’s donors allow our nonprofit to provide the essential support and programs that make us a leading provider of meaningful employment for autistic adults. If you can, please support our mission this April.

You Can Never Grow Out of Autism

But You Can Grow in Acceptance and Understanding of Autism
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My name is Alan Stahl, but people call me Mr. “X”. I am the eldest employee at Aspiritech, at 67 years young! I started working at Aspiritech after a long career of working for employers who didn’t understand me or didn’t take the time to understand. Aspiritech is the kind of company that deliberately hires people who have been marginalized because of their status as neurodivergent. In my career, I’ve worked at Fortune 500 insurance companies, small businesses, and everything in between. Aspiritech stands out from them all.

Photo: Alan Stahl

I work on the Bose testing team. When I first started at Aspiritech I volunteered to test a new Bose home theater system that was just being developed. Our CEO, Moshe Weitzberg, taught me how to work with the “X” (I am using “X” because I can’t disclose the real internal code name that Bose gave the home theater system pre-release). The product still had a number of quirks. There were times it would just stop, times it was difficult to connect. I eventually became such an expert on that product that I got a new nickname, Mr. “X”. Even the client was calling me that. I wrote instructions for how to best work with the system and used these instructions as a guide for training others on the product.

This month is Autism Acceptance Month. When I grew up, autism wasn’t even a thing that was discussed. People knew that there was something different about some of the children in school but there was no mention of these same problems when the children grew into adults. It was through my own lived experience as an adult that I realized I didn’t do the same things as others. As a child and as an adult I didn’t react or speak in the same ways that my peers did. A lot of people on the spectrum like me have difficulty communicating and making decisions and keeping jobs at neuronormative organizations. I have been fired from jobs for reasons I never understood.

When I was growing up, there was no such thing as ‘Aspergers.’ It took the world until I was 26 to describe ‘Aspergers’ in English, and until I was 41 to officially diagnose someone. When I learned about Asperger’s Syndrome, I recognized myself in the description and self-diagnosed. I went through the process in my 40’s to receive an official diagnosis and I was told that they were unable to diagnose adults, only children and teens. Finally, I went through the process and was officially diagnosed at 62. It just seemed to validate my lived experience.

You can live for weeks without food, days without water, minutes without air, but you can’t live one second without hope. This place gives me hope. It gives me heartburn too! If I have one wish for Autism Acceptance Month, it is that the world creates more companies that employ people with autism. There are only a handful of other organizations in the world that have a mission to employ the neurodivergent community. We have come a long way in my lifetime when it comes to diagnosing/creating opportunities and I only see it getting better.

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