To mark World Autism Awareness Day today - 2 April 2019 - and in an effort to raise awareness, we have invited two of our staff members to share something about their experiences as autistic adults and about working for us here at SYPO. We feel proud to be able to say we are an employer that is positive about autism.
Jamie first started working for us in September of 2018. Before that, he had struggled to integrate into full-time education. He came in initially on work experience, about once or twice a week to support any aspect of the work here at SYPO. He proved himself adept at whatever task we gave him and was soon offered an apprenticeship, focusing his tasks on his particular area of expertise, programming. Here's what Jamie has to say:
When I was about six or seven I was disruptive in school, not getting work done and generally not doing well within the environment. It was the noise I couldn't handle, and the people. So my parents took me to get evaluated by a doctor.
The diagnosis of Autism (Asperger's Syndrome) came soon after. My parents then decided to partially take me out of school. I was homeschooled for most of the week, and went to school for one or two days, until eventually I was fully homeschooled by the age of 8.
I feel that learning at an early age that I had Asperger's has helped me understand myself, allowing me to understand why I acted certain ways, and being able to accept it mentally. This probably helped me mould myself into the person I am today.
Maybe when I was about 12-13 years old, I found computer programming and started with my first language called LUA. It's a simple language that taught me most of the fundamental concepts with code, and started my fascination with programming (even if I didn't know it at the time.)
When I was 16-17, I attended Kendal College to further my education, joining a Level 3 IT course, but a bad mix of things caused me to drop out after the first year. It was shortly after this that I was offered a chance for work experience at SYPO.
When I am about to do something that I've never done before (having a job,) it can cause me to be very anxious, but at SYPO I very quickly found my place within the group.
One of the best things is, I don't have to tippy-toe around what I'm feeling because of the mutual respect we have for each other, even if we disagree on certain topics, because hiding who I am and what my feelings are causes me to feel a recluse, and generally unhappy.
According to research carried out in 2016, only sixteen per cent of autistic adults are in full-time work, a situation that hadn't changed for at least a decade. Read more about the research here. We are thrilled that we are helping buck this trend and will soon be applying for our own Autism Friendly Award.