This Woman With Autism Is the Most Valued Employee in Her Company
Many autistic people are unemployed. Claudia Kreis, however, is an example of that things should be done differently. The young woman from Lohne, despite her developmental disability, is a valued member of the plastics processing company, Poppelmann.
Claudia Kreis is autistic. "She has intense visual and auditory detail perception," explains Bärbel Thierau, the director of the Autism Therapy Center in Bersenbrück. She knows Claudia from her regular therapy visits and describes her as a young woman with high concentration and above-average memory. Working with machines is what Theirau would call the "ideal workplace" for an autistic person. It offers "as little teamwork as possible, in an environment that is as stimulus-reduced as possible, with structures and tasks that are as clear as possible."
It is rare for autistic people to get a job. Many are unemployed. A study was conducted by the Regensburg University of Applied Sciences, about 50 percent of those with Asperger’s, who, like Claudia Kreis, are normal to above average intelligent and can adapt to social norms through a learning process over time. Thirty percent of them are housed in workshops for disabled people. And only 20 percent prevail in the general job market.
There is a lot of lost potential, says Bärbel Thierau.
Claudia Kreis would never have gotten her job through a normal application process. It was her mother, Elisabeth Kreis, who got her a job at the Pöppelmann company in Lohne. She has worked for the company for years and used her contacts in the human resources department. Her daughter has been working at Pöppelmann for more than two years. At the end of last year, more precisely, on November 27, she got a permanent contract, Claudia Kreis proudly says.
Ulrich Fortmann sees Kreis as a "normal, fully integrated employee.”
Talking to colleagues was a problem when she started her job at Pöppelmann. They were surprised by her behavior: Kreis speaks unusually fast and monotonous. She is rather reserved. Sometimes she forgets to say goodbye to colleagues after the shift is over, or she interrupts her counterpart in the middle of the sentence.
Claudia's behavior has always been conspicuous, recalls Elisabeth Kreis: "She did not have friends in kindergarten. I tried to set her up with peers and would sent her to judo and music practices. But she always came home alone.”
"She always asked me, 'Why doesn’t anyone want to talk to me?”” her mother recalls. Only when she started researching on the Internet did she come across autism as a possible explanation. For the family, it was "a relief". Finally, there was an explanation for Claudia's behavior, and finally, a therapy could begin.
Eventually, as her mother wishes, Claudia might be able to work in quality assurance for the company. She herself is very happy with her current job. "I make good money," she says. She was even able to buy her own car.
Image by David Ebener (used with reference to the story).