Don’t Underestimate the Quiet Ones

Alis Rowe, a well-known writer about Autism, “the girl with the curly hair”, posted the following statement:

‘Because I do not speak much and because I just get on with things quietly and independently, people can underestimate my abilities and not recognize my potential.’

I relate to many of her postings and this one took me back to a memory of over 40 years ago.  At the time, I was on my very first job working at a Sears catalog department in downtown Dallas.  It was part of my Vocation Education training in my senior high school year.  I went to school half a day and then to work the other half.  The supervisor’s first performance rating was the worst that I would ever receive for the next 40 years.  She gave me the lowest rating that could be given for behavior and productivity.  The worst, mind ya, to a student who was at school an honors student.  My high school vocational teacher was surprised too!  She did say this supervisor was notorious for giving low ratings to vocational students.  She instructed me to ask the supervisor the reason behind these low ratings.

This was the last thing I wanted to do – confront the person who hurt me terribly.  I still remember crying my heart out in my car after work on the day I received the grading.  But I was put on the spot by my teacher and I knew she’d ask me what the supervisor said.

I met with the supervisor and told her that my teacher instructed me to ask.  In other words, this was not my idea!  She said I was slower than she liked me to be with checking catalog orders which back then were done on microfiche.  As far as behavior, I was too quiet!  You’d think someone who got the WORST rating on behavior would be someone close to being tossed out of their job for rudeness, vulgarity, idleness, or other excessive bad behaviors.

I wouldn’t know until some 40 years later that I had Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  I understand looking back with my ASD pair of lenses as to why it was that I was quiet and still am.  I understand why my speed wasn’t top-notch but my accuracy, I was the TOP person on the catalog team. I still to this day don’t think I was slow as molasses and deserved the worst rating for such.  One of the bright sides of my ASD is I have a strong eye for the small details.  This explains why even back then on my first job, my accuracy rate was such that my working supervisor commented that she wished that the speediest person on the team had the same accuracy rate as I did.

Ya know, as a customer, as much as I like my order to be filled sooner rather than later, it’s far more trouble if the speedy order isn’t what I ordered, not the right color, and above all, the size doesn’t fit.  But, oh, well, accuracy wasn’t one of the things I was graded on at the time.

This life episode as sour as it was ended on a fine note.  When my senior year ended, so did my employment with Sears.  I did have a choice in staying.  The supervisor, who was hard on ratings, asked me to stay.  I give her credit for that.  She came to see potential in the quiet one.



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