In celebration of World Autism Acceptance Week this week, a Support Practitioner at learning disability charity Hft is sharing an insight into working with autistic people in the hopes of raising awareness and encouraging acceptance.
Support Practitioner Jordan Lee works for the charity at their Forest of Dean service, supporting a group of young autistic men in their everyday lives. He works with the group in a number of different ways from supporting individuals with sensory needs and health appointments to organising fun activities they have expressed an interest in.
Jordan explains more about his role and how he first got involved with the charity:
“Before I joined Hft, my main experience with autism came from living with my sister. She was only recently given her autism diagnosis and it has helped her to understand herself, and the world around, her a lot more.
“I have to admit, I didn’t know much about autism before my sister was finally told and now it’s something I wish was taught more about, to normalise it.
“Spending time with the people we support has enabled me to really learn about how autistic people might interact with the world around them and has helped me to start developing my skills for supporting them. I’ve learned now how to better spot the signs that an individual is becoming upset or worried, as well as how to uplift them. I’m always learning what I can do to support you through these times.
“Recently, I became a joint keyworker for one of the people we support. He spends a lot of time seeking out various sensory inputs so my co-keyworker and I are arranging for a sensory board to be brought in for him. We’re excited because we feel that having the sensory board will give him the very best chance of getting the sensory input that isn’t necessarily available to him every day.”
Through experience, Jordan recognises that autism presents itself differently in each person; one individual might rely heavily on echolalia (repeating words) for social interaction whilst another might be non-verbal. Jordan says, ‘there’s no one-size-fits-all in.’
“The biggest challenge for me has been supporting individuals through a crisis but this is where I’ve really learnt to trust myself and to build trust with the people we support.
“And the biggest pro of my work has been getting to know the people we support. For me, support work is made worthwhile by the people and the great days we have together. It pays to be adaptable, patient and gracious – and a good sense of humour can go a long way to lighten a challenging day too.”
Speaking on why World Autism Acceptance Week matters, Jordan said:
“Knowing that the public is being educated and that the true side of autism is being talked about, not the stereotypes from films or history is really important.
“I’d like people to know that autism isn’t a bad diagnosis despite it being previously misunderstood. You can have a vibrant life, a fulfilling job, and a great social life. Don’t feel like you can’t do something because of this diagnosis. You can do anything you want and support workers are only there to facilitate that.
“Whether you have autism or work with autistic people, everyone needs a little help in life. You’re not alone, there’s always someone to chat with.”
If you are inspired by Jordan’s story and are looking to pursue a career in social care, please visit Hft’s website at: hft.org.uk/jobs.