Autism Acceptance Day: Surviving to Thriving

 

I was working on a project for myself when a LinkedIn notification popped up explaining they needed Learning Coaches for supporting adult education of people working in warehouse. As my career was working both retail and warehousing, this caught my eye and I took a chance on applying, despite being happy where I worked. I did not know that this would help me for the first time in my life be able to thrive in what I did.

 

Being diagnosed autistic in your 30’s is difficult, re-evaluating your whole self and history, but it has still helped me understand who I am. Surely, you think that you have life planned out by your 30’s but I was still just beginning to understand myself for the first time.

 

My personality, like anyone else, is quite unique and I describe myself as someone who can perform and engage with others once I know I have created a solid method or plan to what I am going to deliver. I am the most introverted extrovert you will ever meet, although my youngest son, diagnosed at 2 and a half is just the same.

 

My son’s diagnosis was 14 years ago and was not a sign for me at the time to go and search for a diagnosis. I was ‘happy’ at work, a retail manager at the time who could get engage but struggled with ‘performing’ all the time. I suffered what I now know to be ‘Autistic Shutdown’ in 2018, which made me stop everything I was doing, broke my confidence and changed me from outgoing to silent. After some self-discovery, I started looking into my own self and began the process of seeking diagnosis to how I am feeling. Autism diagnosis can take excess of 2 years for people, and for people in vulnerable positions, this is too long. Being a parent kept me going and I wanted to make a difference to my children’s future. I started talking to different people and found Anna Kennedy, an autism campaigner and founder of Anna Kennedy Online, who helps so many autistic people and their families in such a positive way.

 

Now, working alongside the charity as one of their charity champions makes me want to continue to support positive change for autistic people. Anna was one of the first people I told that I had been diagnosed and she asked me to be a charity champion to role model to others, and that is what I want to do.

 

In work, having the job at Lifetime allows me to plan and prepare, charging my social battery in my own quiet and planning time, before I can go and inspire others and deliver engaging sessions. That is why the role I do is the best job I think I could have. I work with people who are genuinely interested in people and development, who are all cut from the same cloth and want to help each other. We all have the ability to help support learners from all different backgrounds with a wide range of different experiences and this should be celebrated and supported. My colleagues have all been fantastic and will ask questions about how to best support their learners. I am not an expert in autism, I am an expert in my autism but if I can help someone rethink a conversation or plan the best way to encourage learning from someone who is neurodiverse, then I am happy to help.

 When Lifetime Training began looking into their Equity, Diversity and Inclusion strategy, I asked to help because I believe there are so many more autistic people that can inspire and become great coaches in our business. We also have the opportunity in the job we do, to encourage, support and develop neurodiverse people to have better careers and to become proud of what they do, who they are and how far they have come.

 I am so happy that I am able to do a job that I love, can openly discuss being autistic and the value that this can bring to an organisation, and its great to do this to a business that wants to listen, support and make a positive change to people’s lives.

 Proud to be Autistic, Proud to support Anna Kennedy Online and Proud to work for Lifetime Training.

Today, 2nd April 2024, is also a special day as we launch this year’s Walk for Autism for Anna Kennedy Online. This year, we are doing our first stadium tour, with 12 London Stadiums being toured by myself and, I am delighted to announce that I will be once again joined by, Goddo Debattista. Goddo, himself has previously supported the charity with me, he is an experienced charity walker and a great friend.

Walk for Autism 2024: The Stadium Tour, taking place on the 24th and 25thAugust 2024, will be a 65 mile walk through London taking in the stadiums and the sites, as we raise awareness, and promote acceptance and inclusion of autistic people. You can find out more about the walk here:

https://gofund.me/bea3df89

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