04/22/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 04/22/2021 14:51
Creating connections with autism
AT&T's Laura Cain, service representative, also understands the challenges of living with an invisible disability. Laura, who has Asperger's syndrome (a term historically used to indicate high-functioning autism), was not diagnosed until age 38.
'Throughout life, I always seemed to keep one friend at a time,' Laura said. 'I tended to pour everything I had into a friendship, and things usually went south after a few months.'
Laura explained that challenges reading facial expressions and body language can lead her to say the wrong thing in the moment and offend people. She forces herself to smile or imitate facial expressions of people she's talking with to help indicate she is paying attention and interested in the conversation. This behavior, or 'masking,' (not to be confused with face masks worn during the pandemic) is a social survival skill neurodiverse people sometimes employ to conceal the behaviors they feel make them different.
Laura has built many friendships online, outside the pressures of needing to mask, including one very important relationship.
'I was lucky to meet my spouse over the internet in the late '90s,' she said. 'Communicating via online chat messages was the way we fell in love. Conversing on the phone was even better, even at 8 cents a minute. That 300-minute block of time from SBC Long Distance was just what we needed in the early 2000s.'
'Thank you, AT&T,' she added with a smile.
Laura has thrived while working virtually - with no need for masking ― during the pandemic. Masking is an exhausting activity, one that often required a 10-minute nap in her car before driving home after work, she said.
'The work-from-home option has eliminated almost all my stress during the workday,' Laura said. 'For the first time in over 30 years, I'm no longer grinding my teeth at night!'