Speaking of skills, I've recently begun looking for a job. A job search is all about highlighting your skills, at least those that might make a difference in the workplace. I got skillz. I can write (see previous sentence) and speak in front of a group. I am good at making complicated products or topics easy for people to understand. I can organize and prioritize and probably some other izes too.
When I was interviewing for the last job I had, my interviewer asked me a question that threw me a bit. He asked me what I was expert at. I was momentarily stumped. Skill is different than expertise. In technology, someone might be a skilled programmer, but not, say, a security expert. She might be a skilled graphic designer but not expert in user experience.
I am a skilled baker and cook, but I am by no means an expert. If something goes wrong, I can't troubleshoot or adjust. I throw out and start over. Someone might be a skilled trumpet player, able to read music and play with good tone, maybe even improvise a jazz solo. But expertise requires something more, something reserved for that top few who really know the instrument. Who don't just read the music (or follow the recipe, or sew the pattern), but who take it to the next level, responding to shifts in the environment or the subtleties of the instrument or something that I'm not expert enough to even explain.
I don't feature my special needs parenting front and center on my resume, though several pieces about my experience are included as writing samples on my portfolio. It is hard to find a job after being out of the workforce for a while, and I don't want to give an employer any doubts about to my ability to perform a job. It's ironic, because I am confident that being a parent, and especially an autism parent, has made me better equipped to perform at any job. And now, because of this experience, I can say the I am expert in one very important thing:
Getting. Shit. Done.
If you've met an autism parent, you've met a parent who has battled regional centers, school districts, insurance companies and doctors offices. There's no roadblock I can't clear, no phone call I won't make, no schedule I can't maneuver. I cannot be swayed by intimidation or judgement or ignorance. I make critical decisions on a daily basis and multi-task like nobody's business. I have learned sign language, speech and occupational therapy skills, not to mention biology, neurology and law. No bureaucracy is too big, no budget too small.
I'm not sure I'm an autism expert. But if you need something done, trust me: ask an autism mom.
This post was inspired by The Whole Fromage by Kathe Lison, who traveled to France to discover its artisanal cheeses and speak with real cheese experts. Join From Left to Write on August 22 as we discuss The Whole Fromage. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.