In this month’s newsletter, we had the pleasure of speaking to our colleague Martin, about autism and his experience into the world of work. Martin works within our EmployAbilty team as an Employment Team Administrator, and is also on the Surrey Autism Partnership Board as well as being an Autism Champion not only for Surrey Choices, but externally offering training to other organisations.
When I was growing up I felt I was different to my school friends and struggled with social situations. I didn’t really know what to say to people, so I either didn’t say anything, or if I did it usually came out wrong. Nobody realised I had a problem and assumed I was just being shy, or strange. I only learned what it was when I became an adult, and got a diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
My biggest struggle as an adult was finding and retaining employment, until I was lucky enough to stumble across the EmployAbility team. Whilst helping me to find a job, vacancy opened up within the team, I eventually ended up as the full time team administrator. I have been working with EmployAbility for nine years now and have taken all opportunities to develop my role, such as using my life experiences of autism to give advice and training, and using my IT skills to support the team, and get involved with the development of an internal database used at Surrey Choices. I’m far from being the only colleague with autism. In a Disability Confident Employer company like Surrey Choices, there are so many colleagues who are experienced in autism, I feel we should not be afraid to let people know our diagnosis and be ourselves as much as possible. I was surprised to learn how broad a condition autism is, with people with many levels of ability, and often very uneven abilities, being supported by Surrey Choices.
Some years ago I became an Autism Champion, taking up the role of championing autism best practice within Surrey Choices. This helps give customers an individualised service by raising awareness of how people with autism see the world around them and how they try to make sense of it in their own different ways. I have been doing a variety of autism awareness training with Surrey Choices, employers and job centres. The aim is to be able to pass on how autism can feel, how it impacts people differently, what can be done to make life easier for the person and the employer.
Autism Partnership Board
There is an Autism Act set in law but who ensures this is implemented locally? In Surrey, the Autism Partnership Board meets every 3 months and is attended by people with an interest in autism, such as Surrey County Council, NHS, police, schools and colleges. When I first started going I was often the only person there with ASD, there is now a variety of adults with ASD attending, some who experience quite profound difficulties, playing a part in the decisions being made that will affect them.
Christina Earl, Senior Operations Manager here at Surrey Choices told us about the lack of support into paid employment there is for autistic people, and how EmployAbility are breaking down these barriers to help people like Martin find their career path.
Only 16% of autistic adults are in full time paid employment and mainly due to lack of support, 1 in 3 autistic adults experience severe mental health difficulties. Many more will have less severe but also debilitating mental health issues including high levels of anxiety. EmployAbilty’s new referrals include nearly 60% for people on the autistic spectrum, but there are many more autistic people who don’t have access to employment support services (nationally 53% of autistic people would like employment support but only 10% receive this type of help). Martin is just one of many who has benefitted from EmployAbilities support and it proves once people gain confidence most can work independently and lead full lives.
If you would like to know more about our EmployAbility service, or how Martin can offer you training as an Autism Champion, please get in touch on 0148 806 806, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.