I’m an autistic software engineer. Here are the work accommodations I’m sometimes too afraid to ask for.

This is about work. If you want to know a little more about the human and how it actually feels to be autistic, I’ve also written about that here. It’s worth a read if you want to get to know us a little better!

That said, here’s the list!

I do my best to default to action, but an extra one-on-one to go over ticket requirements can make a huge difference for me.

I also don’t need a lot of justification for why something is important to the company mission. I just need you to cut to the chase and tell me exactly what you want, and — provided it’s not unethical or against my personal values — I’ll do it as if it’s my passion.

Open offices are great, but ambient people keep my mind in a running process of low-grade discomfort at all times. This one isn’t too relevant for me now, since I work remotely as a default. But for any future office gig, a corner off the side would probably increase my productivity tenfold (or prevent it from being decreased tenfold).

And when we travel for a conference? I’d rather end up paying for a solo hotel room myself (even an exorbitant amount, if need be) than share with a colleague on the company’s dime.

At the end of the day, if I can’t be freed from the subtle buzz of unsettling energy from another human presence — no matter who they are, how well we get along, how quiet they are, or how little they interact with me — I simply can’t function. Safe, guaranteed access to solitude is absolutely essential.

This one makes me feel the most guilty of all, because being on the pager rotation is pretty universal in tech these days.

But I have to say it:

I’ve tried, for my entire career, to make this non-horrific for me, and to just handle it like a goddamned normal person.

…Hourly checks, instead of constant e-mail and Slack refreshes (this depends on the expected response time of your particular team, though).

Bringing it up with my therapist, and working it into my CBT practice.


Committing to absolutely nothing outside of work hours, for fear of how it might change.

Waking up at 5 AM on weekends to get my autistic routines in at times when my pager is least likely to go off.

Changing the ringtone of my pager each rotation because I’ve become terrified of the particular sound.

More meditation.

Pretending I’m not on call, and the getting even more acutely distressed when an incident actually happens.

A̶b̶s̶o̶l̶u̶t̶e̶l̶y̶ ̶n̶o̶t̶ ̶r̶e̶l̶a̶p̶s̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶i̶n̶t̶o̶ ̶d̶i̶s̶o̶r̶d̶e̶r̶e̶d̶ ̶e̶a̶t̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶b̶e̶h̶a̶v̶i̶o̶r̶s̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶a̶n̶y̶ ̶k̶i̶n̶d̶

Continuing to feel pathetic about how on-edge it gets me each week, despite being a conscientious, dedicated, and pretty normal employee in most other regards. Like, it’s that one thing irreparably wrong with me — that I can’t do surprises.


Especially as all the other parts of my career and personal growth happen at a reasonable pace, I’ve come to accept that maybe this guide isn’t an exaggeration after all:

“Reality to an autistic person is a confusing, interacting mass of events, people, places, sounds and sights… Set routines, times, particular routes and rituals all help to get order into an unbearably chaotic life. Trying to keep everything the same reduces some of the terrible fear.

Jolliffe (1992) in Howlin (2004), p.137.

Many years into doing it, I still have a terrible fear of being on call.

Not knowing when something will happen, how bad it will be, how long it will take to make it go away, or what it even is feels beyond nightmarish to a mind dependent on these set routines and rituals to mitigate the ordinary chaos already bombarding it on a daily basis. Exposure hasn’t made it any better.

My brain is not wired for surprises, and I can’t fix it.

I think it would be a reasonable accommodation for me to not be on call.

There, I said it.

…a ‘safe timebox’ built into my pager schedule — maybe a known block of 2, 3, or even 4 hours — that I am allowed to escalate any issues, no questions asked.

This is when I would schedule and perform my autistic routines — the ones that keep me stable, happy, and generally okay on a daily basis.

(I can’t promise that I won’t prioritize searching for a pager-free job behind the scenes in this case. But I still feel pretty guilty about this situation in general.)

Here’s another one that remote work takes care of for me. Yay!

At the office, though, I’m that asshole who begs you not to eat lunch at your desk, lest the scents of your french fries completely fry my brain from the opposite side of the room.

I’ll generally just take my laptop into the hallway or take the opportunity for a little outdoor break myself, but hey — if you need an excuse for a proper and relaxing meal away from the grind, everyone wins!

I love you, and I will work my butt off for you. But I don’t have the bandwidth for much else at the end of the day (or during the day, especially if I don’t have a few days notice to re-arrange my routine and mentally prepare). Words like “company retreat” or “hack night” tend to spark visceral fear and dread.

My brain is really decent at some things, but really, head-scratchingly, sometimes bafflingly bad at others.

Your understanding in those low spots — whether I’m trying to learn something new for a project, or just trying to get this wonky brain through the day’s motions after a routine interrupt — means the world to me.

This goes for my social differences, too. Whether I need to turn the Zoom camera off, take your demo question offline (for the love of the gods, please!), or have my unintentionally incorrect resting face be taken with a grain of salt, please know that the last thing I ever want to do is be a bother.



Software developer, Texpat, lover of multicolored things and sunflower seed butter

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Norm Julian

Software developer, Texpat, lover of multicolored things and sunflower seed butter