Who here likes lunch? Anyone? Well, I have to admit I’m something of a lunch-a-holic. It’s one of those meals where, reliving my college years, I always looked forward to. Waking up at 11:30 a.m. every day, I would skip the cereal and sweet rolls most days and go straight for the lunch foods—homemade macaroni and cheese, chicken fingers, deli sandwiches, etc. Those were my go-to foods and I LOVED IT!
Now, that I’m getting into the whole full-time job rhythm though, I’m realizing how even more important lunch has become to me. Working an eight-hour day, I look EXTREMELY forward to those 30 minutes each day not only for my food love but also to relax and give myself time to unwind.
This realization day after day has made me want to explore just how huge this topic must be for the typical autistic adult in the workplace. If you are in a full-time job like me there can be a long list of variables involved with this process. If there was ever a toolkit made about this I think you would have the consider the following topic:
Never Skip Breakfast: This is the most important consideration. You never really know when a curveball can be thrown into your daily schedule so eating to put something in your stomach is key.
Time of Lunch: Is the time of your lunch consistent every single day? If not, does it throw you off your schedule to have to eat at different times? Scheduling will always be key here. Something that helps me is to write a to-do list every evening for the day ahead. Having that type of list handy always makes a huge difference in knowing how to address each day.
Of course, things will pop up during those days so it’s also important to be mindful of that by remembering to take short breaks during the work day in case you are feeling overwhelmed.
Inside/Outside Lunches: This is one of the harder areas I’ve seen with adults in general. Many people are very comfortable with just eating at the same place—usually in a lunchroom or at their desk every single day. But what about those times when that individual wants to venture out? What about at other times when a co-worker offers to take you out for lunch/buy lunch for the office?
One thing I’ve always enjoyed is using Google Maps  to check out the area around me. I did this before I actually started my job. It was an important tool to help with processing everything from what cross streets were nearby and how I would get to work from the train to nearby places for lunch.
Asking People to Lunch: I’ve always found there are some dos and don’ts to this. For one, I think it’s absolutely important to network and reach out. At the same time though, it’s also important to do your homework when it comes to approaching people. The best thing to do is to bring a back-up lunch on the first couple of days and then to possibly ask your co-workers before you reach out to people in other departments. Initiating lunch invitations should be based on your comfort level in the situation while also making an effort to expand your work relationships.
An appropriate person to ask out to lunch will always be someone who you are on the same level with in terms of a job position. (For example, if you are both interns, working in a marketing department, working under the same boss, etc.) Once you make this first connection you can judge for yourself whether or not a similar approach with someone else may work as well.
All of these things considered, I really do think this topic should be addressed in lessons for adults with autism. It took me until now to really grasp the impact it can have on a day and why it should be discussed within our community.