During National Autism Awareness Week, Operations Administrator Harry talks about the challenges he faces and the success he has achieved at work:
I worked at Somerset County Council for three years and completed a Level 2 Business Administration Apprenticeship, before joining Discovery as an Operations Administrator in November last year.
Project Search Internship
Before I worked at the council, I completed a Project Search Internship which supports young adults with learning disabilities and/or autism to find paid employment. That’s where I met the Discovery Supported Employment team who helped me to build my work skills and look for a job.
I like working with them because they have confidence in my ability to complete any task and allow me to have the self-belief that I can achieve my goals. They fully understand person-centred support, so they encourage me to apply for the jobs that match my skills and interests. At each job I’ve had they’ve been effective at breaking down instructions into clear, individual tasks.
I’m autistic and I struggle to process information and sometimes I need time to think about my answer. I prefer instructions to be written down to ensure I remember the task and complete it in the way the person has asked.
When I was at school, my ability to achieve was never doubted but teachers didn’t always know what opportunities were available. The Project Search Internship wasn’t available then. There are far more opportunities available now even though according to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics, only 7% of people with a learning disability are currently in paid employment, despite the UK’s unemployment rate being less than 8%.
I enjoy working for Discovery because I love working on computers and compiling spreadsheets, which is a key part of my role. As I’m autistic, I can offer a perspective of what it’s like to live with a disability and this, in turn, can help others to offer better support.
If my role becomes permanent, I would like to move to Taunton and have my own home. One day, I’d like to become a leader in administration so I can share my skills and expertise with others.
A member of the Discovery board
I am also a member of the Discovery board and I give my perspective as someone with autism. I attend Board meetings every other month, and I go on service visits and meet locality managers and report my findings to the Board and the Executive team.
When I was first offered my Operations Administrator role, I was assured that if there were any conflicts of interest at the Board meetings, I’d be allowed to abstain from that item on the agenda.
The Executive team and Board members have been very supportive to me. They ensure that I have the confidence to ask any challenging questions to other people whether that’s in a Board meeting or on my service visits. I also enjoy the social interaction with colleagues and people we support, which gives me a better understanding of social care.
Offering a unique perspective
As someone who has lived experience of receiving support, I can provide a unique perspective to the Board that not everyone can offer. I like being a Board member because I can provide a voice for people we support knowing that people with autism and learning disabilities can make a contribution.