The Careers Calendar is hugely passionate about inclusivity. One of the common themes we keep finding within the careers education space is questions from schools who work with students who have Asperger’s / Autism about how to meet their needs.
We met Alex Manners recently and asked him to tell us how we can better understand the needs of young people with Asperger’s / Autism from a careers education perspective.
Alex was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome in 2007 when he was ten years old. By the age of 22 he had written That’s Not Right: My Life Living with Asperger’s after successfully completing his education, despite it having been a shocking rollercoaster of experiences ranging from good … to terrible.
Over to Alex…
If you have a child with Asperger’s then you may have felt just like my own parents did when I was younger.
What will my child do once he leaves school? How will he earn a living and cope as an adult? These feelings may be all too familiar but my advice is that you must always have ‘hope’. You never know what someone with Asperger’s will be able to achieve once they become an adult and it may take time to discover their talents and interests. If you encourage them to pursue what they are passionate about and provide them with positive support, you will empower them and then they will start to flourish. Remember that everyone with Autism and Asperger’s is different. So what I struggle with may be completely different to the next person. Also, just because I don’t look Autistic does not mean that I am not Autistic. Asperger’s is a ‘hidden disability’ as it is something that you can’t see. Yes, there will be challenges along the way but I look upon my Asperger’s as something positive that makes me unique. I view it as an ‘ability’ and not a ‘disability’. There are many positive traits such as; my ‘never give up attitude’, not being nervous when speaking in front of large audiences and being able to communicate and articulate my story. These are the things that I like to focus on. They are my ‘Asperger’s Superpowers!’
Another of my parents’ worries, when I was younger, was how I would be able to travel independently.
At school, I would never travel by public transport and the thought of getting a bus or a train on my own used to fill me with dread. After leaving 6th form a man from our local council provided me with three days of travel training and it changed my life. The travel training was fantastic and left me feeling much more confident about using trains. I now travel all over the country on trains and even provided some travel training of my own to one of my friends. Most jobs will require you to travel independently to work so being able to use trains and buses, especially if you don’t drive, is essential. Even if your local council doesn’t provide any travel training you could always ask a family member or a friend to show you how to use trains and buses.
If you are applying for a job then I would always state that you have Asperger’s and if appropriate the measures you would need to be put in place to ensure that you can work to the best of your abilities. Many companies are now actively looking to employ people with Asperger’s, because of their beneficial traits, so you never know it could give you an advantage! My ambition is to become a TV Presenter and I know I would not have had nearly as many interviews on the radio or TV or met as many people if I did not have Asperger’s! If, for example, you don’t like sitting next to a window or you find shirts with collars irritating then explain this at the earliest opportunity.
Above all you must find a job that you enjoy. “If you choose a job you love, you will never have to work a day in your life”. One of the most important things in life is being happy. It’s very rewarding when your child does well at school, gets good grades and then goes on to get a good job. However, would all of this still be good if they were not happy? My advice is that you encourage your child with Asperger’s to “Pursue their Passion” and above all stay positive!
Alex visit schools and organisations to talk about his experiences of living with Asperger’s. So if you are looking for a speaking with a difference get in touch with him. His website can be found here.
Alex recently published a book about his experience of living with Asperger’s. His book can be found on Amazon here. Check it out!