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The Hidden Struggle of Working Women with Autism

Autistic women can go for years without diagnosis, and struggle at work as a result. One company is determined to do something about it.

by Sophie Wilkinson
May 9 2017, 6:12pm

Rachael Lucas's "long history of walking out of very good jobs" began in her 20s after she quit her postgraduate degree at the University of Ulster. Working in different fields as a horse trainer, a childcare specialist, teacher trainer, and an advertising salesperson respectively, she would quickly become overwhelmed by the social elements of her job.

"I was good at the job," she says, "but after six months walked out because I just couldn't cope with it." She eventually turned to temping: "I became very good at going into a situation and doing three or four months of very intense work and then being able to take a breather."

After two decades in work, Lucas was diagnosed with autism at the age of 44. She now recognizes that her previous inability to keep a job was down to autism burnout, a colloquial term that describes what happens when people on the autism spectrum become overwhelmed and exhausted by stress. Choosing to work so infrequently was, she says, "my own way of managing the autism."

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