We can all achieve much more when we are well supported by the people around us. We wanted to give you a few examples. Learn about the types of support we offer by clicking here.
Please note names have been changed to protect identity.
I am a 19 female who was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome at eight years old. Throughout school I was bullied but still managed, with help from my school’s support staff, to complete my time at school and leave with both GCSE and A Level results.
In September 2006 I was referred to Specialist Autism Services and initially chose the Arts and Crafts and Money Matters workshops.
I was looking for part time or full time employment specifically in the area of Administration and, with Specialist Autism Services’ support, I enrolled on a Bradford Council run scheme called Workable who provide work experience for adults with disabilities.
One of these work experience placements was working in a busy office of a housing association whilst being supported by Specialist Autism Services’ employment staff. Gradually, as my confidence and ability in the job grew, the support was withdrawn so that I was working independently.
The placement at the housing association ended and I was very keen to find work in a public service area so I refined my search for job opportunities in this area. I received support from Specialist Autism Services for filling in application forms and also attending the interviews as these situations cause me a great deal of anxiety. Specialist Autism Services helped in these situations by providing me with lots of preparation for example running through the types of questions that could be asked and how I would respond.
After a few months of interviews I was successful in obtaining a post within the NHS but did not want to lose my momentum so I applied, and was successful, in obtaining a post at a Council as a full time mailing clerk.
After being at the Council for a while I requested that Specialist Autism Services provide some training regarding Autistic Spectrum Conditions (ASC’s) as none of the staff had experience of working with someone with ASC, except for one colleague who had had a negative experience.
The training was provided and I found this to be very positive in that the number of situations which created anxiety have been reduced in the workplace and colleagues feel more confident asking me to do tasks.
Coming to SAS really has changed my life significantly. Personally I was at breaking point both emotionally and also mentally.
I had recently been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of Autism, and since diagnosis had been left to try and get through the best way I could.
Looking back now, I can honestly say I don’t know how I managed before coming to SAS. They have helped me out in so many ways. For the first time in my life I have made what I would consider to be real friends, something which was a foreign concept before coming to the service. The workshops that are run are invaluable in teaching life skills and helping to cope with everyday situations. One such situation is going to the supermarket, something which most people take for granted.
SAS has increased my confidence dramatically. I no longer feel my condition is a barrier to employment. Before I started the programme I felt I was stuck in a rut with nothing to give and was becoming severely depressed. SAS has helped me to overcome my difficulties and gain my confidence. I now feel about to contribute to society in a positive way. I see my weaknesses as not so bad and I have recognised in myself personal strengths I did not know I had. I can now look at my future with hope.
I first started at Specialist Autism Services in October 2004 after the Disability Employment Advisor at my local Job Centre Plus mentioned it. Before 2004 I was getting help from people who didn’t know anything about my condition so when I heard Specialist Autism Services specialised in Autistic Spectrum Conditions I felt it important to go despite it being in Bradford- some distance from where I live.
Prior to me attending Specialist Autism Services I had a little experience of employment through a volunteering placement I had in a charity shop in 2003. I had hoped that this placement would assist me in increasing my confidence however the opposite happened. A lack of structured support and awareness lead to me feeling clueless. I had originally wanted to volunteer at a Supermarket but, due to my condition, it was decided that it would be better if I did a placement where working with others wasn’t much of a concern hence my placement working in the charity shop’s store room. After three months I left the placement feeling I had achieved little.
During my initial time at Specialist Autism Services I undertook Social Skills, Arts and Crafts and Music workshops. To begin with I thought that I would be shy but the workshops offered me a welcoming environment and I ended up speaking my mind, offering my opinions and ideas to the group. In May 2005 I decided to participate in the Preparing for Work workshop where we undertook activities such as discussing coping strategies we could use at work, appropriate conversations for work, and the differences between conversations you would have with your friends and those you would have at work. We also did role plays of interviews which sparked my interest in drama and led to me writing a play about disproving the misconceptions about Autism which was performed in 2006. I found Preparing for Work useful as it raised my confidence and made me feel more positive about my ability to work.
In January 2007 I was officially diagnosed as having Asperger’s Syndrome and Specialist Autism Services supported me through this process.
Whilst undergoing the diagnosis I had, through the Preparing for Work workshop, gained enough confidence to consider another placement. Specialist Autism Services’ Employment Officer found me a volunteering role at the Christian African Relief Trust packing clothes to be sent to Africa. I was working with other people, involved as part of a team and began to use many new skills. I noticed that many of the books needed sorting and so used my own initiative of sorting them into alphabetical order. Also, as I don’t like to leave tasks unfinished, I requested to volunteer for longer to make sure I completed all my jobs that day. From this placement I realised that I enjoyed filing books and I spoke to Specialist Autism Services’ Employment Officer about sourcing a role which would include these duties more.
Specialist Autism Services’ Employment Officer found me a volunteering role at the University of Huddersfield in the Library, and supported me until I was used to the environment and other staff. My duties included filing medical books and journals and cataloguing them. This involved looking at a catalogue displaying different medical books and seeing if they were on the database. Eventually re-structuring of the Library’s staff team meant I no longer had a placement available to me.
Specialist Autism Services’ Employment Officer helped me through the process of losing my placement and found me another at Batley Library. This was similar to my placement at Huddersfield except I also had to work on Reception as customer service. I found this difficult as I did not know what types of questions customers would ask me, once someone asked me for a train timetable which I found confusing because the train station would be more appropriate to ring for this kind of request. At this point I realised customer service was not for me!
Whilst at Batley Library Specialist Autism Services’ Employment Officer told me of an Employability scheme being run by my local hospital. Specialist Autism Services offered me support to find out more about the scheme and supported me at the interview. During the interview I found out about the European Computer Driving License (ECDL) and thought this to be a useful qualification to have, so began the course in 2009. In 2010 I completed my ECDL getting high results in each component 100% in Word, 93% PowerPoint, 86% in Spreadsheets. I am not sure I would have been able to attend the course if Specialist Autism Services had not assisted me in building my confidence.
After completing my ECDL I was keen to find a volunteering placement in which I could use my new computer skills. I had talks with my Employment Officer about this and was offered a voluntary place at the Nerve Centre, an organisation which helps those with mental health issues. Specialist Autism Services’ Employment Officer found the placement and supported me on the first two sessions however I was keen to become more independent and requested to attend the placement alone. I was asked to update member’s databases, research mental health issues on the internet and make sure all information was kept up to date.
During my time at the Nerve Centre Specialist Autism Services’ Employment Officer told me about a job they had found which they thought would be suitable for me. It was for working at an organisation called SCARD which helps people who have been involved in road traffic accidents. Specialist Autism Services’ Employment Officer helped me apply and I was successful in getting an interview. I was supported to the interview but the director of SCARD had said I would need to have the interview on my own. I was nervous at the interview but it went well as I had done some preparation with my Employment Officer beforehand and I had lots to talk about. The job was shortlisted down from 12 people and I was offered a work trial which was arranged through my Employment Officer. After my month’s work trial a review was held between me, SCARD and my Employment Officer and I was offered a permanent, paid position as an Administrator/Personal Assistant. I have now been at SCARD for nearly two years and enjoy my role. I feel I can communicate with other staff, am part of a team and am interested in the work SCARD carries out. It is very important to me to work.