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.