World Autism Acceptance Week blog

To mark World Autism Acceptance Week, Laura Whitehouse, Autism and Asperger’s Employment Advisor at our Cambridgeshire Employment service has written this blog to share her experiences of working with people on the autism spectrum.

Who am I?

In 2015-2016, I trained with Teach East to become a Primary School Teacher. I completed my training and got a job as a Classroom Teacher, teaching in Year 4 at the school I trained in. I left teaching in 2018 as I found that it was not the role for me. Having left the profession, I secured my current role working with autistic adults to find and stay in work. But my experience of working with children on the autism spectrum as a Teaching Assistant, Trainee Teacher and Class Teacher continues to help me in my current work.

What is Autism?

Autism is a lifelong, developmental condition that affects about 1 in 100 people. It is a condition that affects the way in which people communicate and interact with the world around them. It is also a spectrum condition, which means that every individual is affected in a different way and have their own strengths and challenges. This definition has come from the National Autistic Society website, and this is a good place to start if you want to find out more at www.autism.org.uk. Also, local libraries have a good range of material on the subject including those written by people with autism.

My Experience and Top Tips

Working with and talking to people on the autism spectrum on daily basis allows me to learn something new every day. It has also highlighted the fact that each person is unique with their own strengths and challenges and so the best way of supporting them is by working in a person-centred way.

Now, I would like to share some of my top tips to supporting adults and children on the autism spectrum:

  • Increase your own knowledge of the condition and how it might affect an individual, this way you will have a better understanding of why they might be acting in a certain way.

  • Take time to get to know them, what are their interests, strengths and challenges, that way you can tailor support to suit their needs. The importance is that they are listened to and heard.

  • Routine is important to those on the spectrum as they know what is happening and it reduces anxiety. So, use of timetables written or visual can be beneficial.

  • Sudden changes can be difficult for some people on the autism spectrum. So, spending time preparing for it, explaining what the changes is and why it is happening can help manage the stress around it.

  • Avoid figurative and ambiguous language instead be clear in what you say and mean and check for understanding.

  • Be specific with expectations of work and behaviour.

  • If they have a sensory need or challenge, try to find ways to manage this. For example, if they are sensitive to noise then use noise cancelling headphones.

To find out more information about our Cambridgeshire Employment service, click here.

Radio Sparky: February 2022 podcast

Listen to our latest edition of Radio Sparky, the podcast which shines the spotlight on the excellent work happening at Richmond Fellowship services across the country.

In this edition we’re focussing on our Employment services as part of our Employment services week on social media. Matt Webb, Communications and Marketing Officer speaks to Becky Ballentyne from our Bath, North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire (BANeS) Employment service about what her role as an Employment Advisor involves, her journey to becoming an Employment Advisor and how she finds working for a national mental health charity.

“Honestly, every day is completely different. On a Monday morning it’s admin, checking emails. We have a group meeting every Monday morning to catch up on our case loads, discuss any clients that are potentially in crisis, employer engagement which is going round to chat to various employers discussing any potential job vacancies, meeting clients face-to-face in the community, discussing their needs and expectations of the service, what kind of roles they’re looking for.” – Becky, Employment Advisor, BANeS Employment service.

 

Inspired by Becky? You can also make a difference by joining us at a leading mental health charity. Check out our latest vacancies on our online jobs portal at richmondfellowship.org.uk/jobs.

Opening the doors to our Kirklees Employment Service

This week we have been hearing from staff and people we support all about what it’s like to work within and be supported by one of our Employment Services. Our employment services help people to maintain or gain meaningful employment, training, education or volunteering opportunities that are right for and tailored to them. We deliver 38 employment services across England – and one of them is Kirklees Employment Service. We’ve already heard this week from some of our Employment Advisors at Kirklees over on our social media. Today we’ll be getting even more insight into the support that the service delivers, as well as hearing from our Kirklees Service Manager about what’s coming up next for the service.

So, what does the support look like at our Kirklees Employment Service? Their team of staff let us know…

Our employment advisors work with individuals aged 18 and over experiencing mental ill health and/or hidden disabilities. We work on a 1-2-1 basis to form an individual plan on how we can work together to achieve their goals. We provide practical employment advice and support around identifying skills, finding the right job for that person, creating CVs, interview preparation and much more, including retaining employment.

There’s so much more we do in between as well; we listen to people’s worries around employment and their confidence and skills, and we really focus on empowering people to see their own value and strength – there’s really nothing better than watching someone learn to realise that they can do these things and achieve their goals.

Without a doubt Kirklees Employment Service has a huge impact on the people they support – but what do they have to say about it?

“I was given so much support and encouragement that I considered a career in mental health support to try and help people as much as I was helped. I’m now a support worker feeling very satisfied in a job I might not even have considered if not for my advisor.” Person we support

“I have been able to find new volunteering opportunities which will strengthen my CV and have applied for jobs with the help of my employment advisor. Without her it would have been an impossible task.” Person we support

“The support that I have received from my employment advisor has enabled me to live a more confident and happy life. She has provided me with support and encouragement.” Person we support

“I felt like I was alone and back to square one, but my employment advisor made me feel like I mattered and always called at precisely the right time when I needed some help and guidance the most. I would definitely recommend the Richmond Fellowship for anyone going through difficulty with mental health.” Person we support

Kirklees Employment Service very recently won their contract to continue delivering this important support in their area. So, what’s coming up for service as they continue delivering support? Our Service Manager at Kirklees gave us an update.

“We recently won our contract to continue delivering our employment service in Kirklees. Towards the end of last year, I was lucky to be involved with the retendering of the service, working alongside our central service team. To support with this process we involved all staff, volunteers, customers, referrers and partners. We supported commissioners with consultation sessions, and made sure to use the feedback of people we support to help with identifying the needs of our service users to create a vision of a new employment service from April 2022. I was happy to see commissioners had taken on board people’s feedback from the consultation process, and the new service specification reflected the feedback of people we support.

We are always striving to increase the support we can offer to the community. As we begin a new year, and new contract, we are going to be increasing our offer to employers which will show us providing tailored support to organisations around mental health in the workplace, and support with the retention of employees.

We are linking up with far more organisations across Kirklees to provide our peer workshops around mental health and wellbeing into the community. We are also going to be providing community transition and integration workshops to minority groups.

We are excited about our new website that is currently under construction. The website will help us to reach even more people across Kirklees. The website will host some online guides to developing employability like a CV builder and interview tips. People we support will be able to seamlessly book onto peer support sessions and find out which service is best for them. The website will also host our new online referral system to services.

I feel lucky and privileged to be a part of shaping the future Kirklees Employment Service and supporting people across Kirklees.”

In 2021 our Kirklees Employment Service supported 472 people to find new employment, training, education or volunteering opportunities, as well as retain their current work. We can’t wait to see the impact they make this year – congratulations to the Kirklees team!

All our Employment Services put in important and necessary work to help people with mental ill health access employment opportunities. We are proud of the work they put in to inspire recovery. Check out employment services in your local area here, or find out more about Kirklees Employment Service here, as well as how to be referred to the service. 

Stay tuned to hear more from our other Employment Services across England this week. Including our Bath, North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire IPS Employment Service in this month’s Radio Sparky Podcast. Follow us on Twitter and like our Facebook page to keep up to date.