There’s two worlds in this world: 1) the world we live in and 2) the world of silver linings.
I have been reading a lot of articles lately about how the world seems to forget that kids with autism grow up to become adults with autism. And I get it; as an autism family/community we often feel neglected and helpless. When the kids get diagnosed the first thing you hear is “Sorry, we don’t know what causes it” or “There is no cure“. We grow up in a community in which we have to shield ourselves and our family members from criticism and discrimination. It’s not a great way to start life off. Feeling helpless is an everyday thing for families with autism, every minute of every day we are helpless. The comparison to other children, other families doesn’t help the helplessness; it reinforces it. Having a child diagnosed with autism is pressure, having that child grow into an adult with autism is terrifying. I’ve talked a lot of the stigma that follows us when we walk around as an autism family – well, now I’m thinking about the expectations society has of adults. Terrifying.
In 2012, the National Autistic Society (NAS) conducted a survey on the conditions under which adults with autism have to work. It found that 43% of respondents said they have left or lost a job because of their condition. Only 19% said they had no experience of bullying, unfairness or lack of support at work. The NAS’ survey found that only 10% have employment support, despite 53% saying they would like it. In addition, 32% said the support or adjustments made by their employer/manager in relation to their autism are poor. Colleagues were not much better, with 30% of respondents saying the support or adjustments made by them in relation to their autism is poor. I can’t even.
Silver Linings is a world we have created. In my head, it has very high ceilings and no stairs, or chairs or anything you can climb on. The silver linings are like balloons that deflate just a tiny bit every time progress is made. You go to silver linings when you are scared, because its a place of hope. It’s a place where fears and insecurities can be calmed because there are so may prospects and wonderful works in progress. So, we go to Silver Linings to watch for any balloons we can reach and move to our world.
- Autism Initiatives was featured in the Derry Journal in February because they are changing the lives of local adults living with autism. They are being funded by the Housing Executive, through its Supporting People Programme and helping autistic adults with skills and tasks such as housing issues, cooking, cleaning, money management, paying bills and contacting authorities. The support is provided by a small team of Floating Housing Support Workers, with Margaret McLean and Alicia Munoz Herrero based in Derry, and their colleague Patricia Irwin based in Omagh.
- On the 30th May, Ford joined the growing list of companies who are launching initiatives to include adults with autism into the workplace. Ford Motor Co. will create five positions in product development suited to the skills and capabilities of workers with autism for the program, called FordInclusiveWorks. Ford’s vehicle evaluation and verification test lab will allow the adults included in the programme to log and prep tires for test vehicles. “The work is highly structured, requires a great deal of focus, and calls for a high level of attention to detail and organization. Skills required to complete this task safely and with a high level of quality lend themselves to strengths typically associated with individuals with autism.” Ford will evaluate the performance of the five new employees after an undetermined time and potentially offer permanent full-time employment.
- The Abilities Centre in Whitby has put in place the Worktopia programme which offers free help to participants in developing skills necessary for finding employment. EmploymentWorks is one of three new Worktopia programs that focuses on improving the employment futures of adults with ASD. Programme co-ordinator Cathleen Edwards says “Ninety-five per cent of the general population can find a job. When you go to the population of people with disabilities, it goes down to maybe about 65-70 per cent. When it comes to people on the spectrum, it goes down to probably about five or six per cent, or 10 per cent.”
- This month Glendale Community College is launching a unique programme to train highly functioning adults with autism to operate computer-numerical-control machines; their aim is to equip them with experience and knowledge for work as machinist apprentices or computer numerical control operators and programmers. The upcoming training is the result of the college’s new partnership with the Uniquely Abled Academy, which is part of the Uniquely Abled Project, based in Valley Village. So, on the 20th June the students will get taught by instructors for 300 hours – this will include lab time and soft skills, such as interviewing and CV building. The criteria to enrol include the ability to function independently in social and academic settings, demonstrate a competence in basic math, reading and computers, students must also be at least 18 years old and have earned a high school diploma or GED. Ivan Rosenburg said “Hopefully, we’re starting a revolution.“
The revolution has already started; you can find it in every initiative, in every diagnosis and it gains a tiny bit of momentum every time you hear or talk about autism. We are so lucky to be a part of this generation. We get to see the labour of all the revolutions before us bear fruit. We are empowered by the rigorous upholding of our civil liberties and human rights to move forward and launch a new age in the autism sphere. We get to break the sphere and move beyond it.