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What's it Like for a Foreigner to Teach English and Live in Japan with Asperger's Syndrome?

Jonothon

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Hi,

I am considering moving to Japan as an English teacher (I take this job seriously, it's not a holiday or an excuse to travel) and I have Asperger's Syndrome. I am trying to weigh up all the pros and cons to make an informed decision on whether to pursue Japan, or to go to another place I have in mind.

I am aware that Japan is a very reserved in terms of its societal structure, so being different or non-conforming results in 出る杭は打たれる。Obviously with Asperger's there's a degree of not being able to exactly fit in (whether you are Japanese or a foreigner) but that wouldn't result in me not trying to make an effort in living in Japanese society, or it would defeat the purpose of living in Japan altogether.

How do Japanese people feel about Asperger's Syndrome? Are they aware or educated about this Syndrome? I would like to try and make Japanese friends when in Japan, so I'd like to know whether I stand a chance of having some form of social life in Japan, even if it would only be with other foreigners.

In terms of work, how much freedom does an English teacher get in teaching in a classroom? My ideal teaching position would be to use my own teaching materials, PPT, games and or techniques to teach English, even if I can just my own methods alongside a teaching curriculum. I would look into teaching in 英会話学校 over being an ALT, although I would be prepared to comprise and be an ALT for a year or so before I find a teaching position in 英会話学校。

Will Japanese schools be accommodating, or at least aware of Asperger's or Autism? As much as I'd be willing to satisfy my job description to the fullest, there could be things that would need to be negotiated. I can't list the specifics as many schools may have different teaching systems, so the meticulous stuff isn't the issue, it's whether or not the school I am teaching at will be willing to negotiate in the first place. Would this be at all possible, or will I not find employment because of this?

To start out, I would be joining an agency such as English First or HESS. I can make them aware of my Asperger's to see if they have schools that can be aware of autism/Asperger's which would help. This can help me to built a support network with fellow foreigners as well as beginning to make Japanese friends where possible. but eventually I'd want to break away from the agencies and work directly for a school.

Finally, are there any cities/towns in Japan that are more open-minded about autism/Asperger's or that may not be so rigid about 出る杭は打たれる?

I really would love to come to Japan, but I need to know that I can find support for my Asperger's if and when I need it, inside and outside of work. I'd probably be spoken about behind my back, like anywhere in the world, but I just don't want any direct prejudice or discrimination against me when I'm just trying to live my life.

Hearing from anyone who as Asperger's living in Japan would be awesome.

Many Thanks,
ジョノスケ
 

Lothor

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Hi,

I am considering moving to Japan as an English teacher (I take this job seriously, it's not a holiday or an excuse to travel) and I have Asperger's Syndrome. I am trying to weigh up all the pros and cons to make an informed decision on whether to pursue Japan, or to go to another place I have in mind.

I am aware that Japan is a very reserved in terms of its societal structure, so being different or non-conforming results in 出る杭は打たれる。Obviously with Asperger's there's a degree of not being able to exactly fit in (whether you are Japanese or a foreigner) but that wouldn't result in me not trying to make an effort in living in Japanese society, or it would defeat the purpose of living in Japan altogether.

How do Japanese people feel about Asperger's Syndrome? Are they aware or educated about this Syndrome? I would like to try and make Japanese friends when in Japan, so I'd like to know whether I stand a chance of having some form of social life in Japan, even if it would only be with other foreigners.

In terms of work, how much freedom does an English teacher get in teaching in a classroom? My ideal teaching position would be to use my own teaching materials, PPT, games and or techniques to teach English, even if I can just my own methods alongside a teaching curriculum. I would look into teaching in 英会話学校 over being an ALT, although I would be prepared to comprise and be an ALT for a year or so before I find a teaching position in 英会話学校。

Will Japanese schools be accommodating, or at least aware of Asperger's or Autism? As much as I'd be willing to satisfy my job description to the fullest, there could be things that would need to be negotiated. I can't list the specifics as many schools may have different teaching systems, so the meticulous stuff isn't the issue, it's whether or not the school I am teaching at will be willing to negotiate in the first place. Would this be at all possible, or will I not find employment because of this?

To start out, I would be joining an agency such as English First or HESS. I can make them aware of my Asperger's to see if they have schools that can be aware of autism/Asperger's which would help. This can help me to built a support network with fellow foreigners as well as beginning to make Japanese friends where possible. but eventually I'd want to break away from the agencies and work directly for a school.

Finally, are there any cities/towns in Japan that are more open-minded about autism/Asperger's or that may not be so rigid about 出る杭は打たれる?

I really would love to come to Japan, but I need to know that I can find support for my Asperger's if and when I need it, inside and outside of work. I'd probably be spoken about behind my back, like anywhere in the world, but I just don't want any direct prejudice or discrimination against me when I'm just trying to live my life.

Hearing from anyone who as Asperger's living in Japan would be awesome.

Many Thanks,
ジョノスケ
Interesting post. A few thoughts.

Generally with anything to do with alternative cognitive views (I'm not sure how to describe Asperger's so forgive my clumsy wording), mental health, etc., Japan tends to be behind the curve in terms of public awareness and implementing systems to support such people. Having said that, Asperger's and autism are reasonably well known and there are schools for such kids - my wife used to work at one - and anyone teaching at a public sector school will be aware of them through their teacher training.

In Japan, your standout trait is probably going to be your foreignness rather than your Asperger's unless your behaviour is particularly conspicuous - may I ask how it manifests itself with you? I can't see it necessarily being a barrier to making friendships with other Japanese people (bear in mind that many Japanese people find it difficult to make friends with other 'perfectly normal' Japanese people once they become adults, particularly men!). My experience is that the traits you have that allow you to make friends in Britain (I'm also British) will also enable you to make friends in Japan.

I worked for Shane, a company with a chain of English conversation schools in the Kanto region that specialise in British English, for my first two years in Japan. I was teaching to a syllabus but I had a lot of autonomy in the classroom. The schools were often small, usually just a single floor of a building with one Japanese staff member and one or two other teachers, which may suit you better than a large school. Although there were lesson plans and suggested activities, I was free to teach the material how I liked, though bear in mind that students and their parents will want to get value from the textbooks that they buy.

In short, I can't see any obvious reasons for avoiding Japan because you have Asperger's.
 

Buntaro

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For people not familiar with Asperger’s Syndrome, here is a video about the America’s Got Talent singer Susan Boyle who has Asperger’s Syndrome. A discussion of the symptoms begins at 0:48.

 

Glenski

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Sorry for joining this conversation late. Exactly what sort of teaching position are you looking for? If it's just an eikaiwa job or ALT, it will just depend on the chemistry you show at an interview and the desperation of the employer. For jobs higher than that, you'll need to show qualifications first.
 

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