Autistic Pride Day is an annual pride celebration day. We wanted to help promote the importance of pride for those who have autism and celebrate the positivity that it can bring not only to the insurance industry but all working environments.
We spoke to Lynda, whose son Pete has Asperger’s Syndrome, who wanted to share the pride she has for him as well as the challenges faced. We discuss how she balances her care responsibilities whilst working, what companies can do to improve their working environment and most importantly, what positive outcomes there have been for Pete relating to his autism.
Lynda, when did you first discover that your child had autism?
“We didn’t actually find out until Pete was 12. He’d been slow in developing through his early stages and didn’t walk until 22 months – when he did start walking, it was with a limp. We soon realised that he was copying me, as I was having trouble with my knee and was limping! When Pete was about two years old, he went to see a Speech Therapist. Funnily enough, looking back on this now, we were blaming the therapist as Pete won’t stop chatting! When he was at school, they were visited by an Educational Psychologist who made a referral to an Autism Specialist – it was then that he was assessed and was told that he had Asperger’s Syndrome.”
How have you managed to balance your own career whilst caring for your son?
“I stayed at home for 7 years until the children were settled in school and then I got a part-time job with the local council. The hours I worked allowed me to make sure that both Peter and his brother Andrew went to school and that I was home when they came home, which was incredibly helpful. As they got older, I increased my hours and my friend who was a childminder looked after them until I finished work. She helped over the school holidays as well, giving me time to do everything else I needed to do.
When Pete went to college and was away from home, I became a full-time Office Manager. I was in this role for 15 years.”
Can you describe any significant moments of pride? (Other than every day as a parent, I’m sure!)
“Pete loves to bake, he made some scones and entered them into a competition and won first place! I was very proud of him and he was over the moon.
He also went to Fairfield Opportunity Farm where he learnt to ride horses and won rosettes.
After coming second a few times, Pete persevered and finally came first in a karaoke competition for singing Frank Sinatra’s My Way.”
What barriers do you think people with autism face when it comes to either finding a career or even whilst in their current job?
“I think some companies might be unsure of how to support people with autism in the workplace, but there are so many resources available to help.
I feel that companies should give autistic people a chance, get to know the person and then apply their abilities to work tasks. Anyone with autism could in fact be an asset to a business, they just learn a different way and need to be comfortable in their own environment. I know many people with autism who are incredibly intelligent and creative, this could bring so many benefits to a business.”
How could employers be more inclusive for parents of children with autism, or people with autism looking for jobs?
“Some larger companies could have open days, where everyone can come in and look around and speak to people in different departments, see it for themselves and learn how to improve.
Companies could have “buddies”, so they have a designated person they can go to for help or if they aren’t sure where to go or how to do a task.
Be open-minded, consider the benefits of having a diverse and creative workforce! Make simple changes to your employees’ working environment so they will be motivated and thrive.”
How do you encourage your child to be proud of who they are?
“Always talk about the person’s strengths, what do they love? Praise them, include them in everything, encourage them to be confident in trying new things and be there to support them.
Pete can be handy to have around when you are in a pub quiz. Or if anyone fancies a Victoria sponge!”
This certainly goes to show that all businesses can do more to support those with autism and encourage a more diverse workforce to benefit their company by adopting some very simple changes. We spoke to our partners, Pavilion Recruitment Solutions, about how
“The issues Lynda has highlighted are all too common in the workplace currently. Thankfully, recent initiatives are starting to make a difference, although there is still a long way to go. This is why Pavilion is proud to be partnered with iDAWN to make a small difference in the industry.” – Matt Gunn, Director
No one should EVER feel like they are not good enough because of their disability, especially autism. Be proud of who you are, be proud of having autism.