1989 was the year I started working in social care. I can’t say it was a conscious decision, but I can confirm it was the best decision I’ve ever made.
I left school at age 16 and went to college to train as a chef. After qualifying, I quickly realised that I loved sampling food a little bit too much and the hours I worked meant I didn’t have a life outside of the job.
I saw an advert in a local paper, yep, that’s how we did it back then, for a local autism charity who were looking for a catering officer. I knew nothing about autism, but I knew a lot about food! I was invited for an interview so off I went to the local library to get a book about autism, no home internet access for me I’m afraid. Fortunately, the charity was more interested in my catering skills than my knowledge – or lack of – of autism and I was offered the job.
I remember my first day like it was yesterday and the word that springs to mind is WOW! I had no idea how intense the environment would be. I soon settled into my new role and the desire to improve my understanding of autism to help me provide effective support to autistic people for excellent quality of life outcomes penetrated my whole being. That’s not to say there haven’t been challenges over the years. Sometimes I’ve doubted myself and sometimes I’ve got things wrong.
As I sit here reflecting on my career, older and hopefully a little wiser, I want to say thank you.
Thank you to every autistic person I have ever met.
For helping me to understand and letting me know when I didn’t.
For allowing me into your world when you could.
For accepting me and forgiving me when I misinterpreted your communication.
For teaching me to look for alternative ways by being open to finding them.
Most importantly, thank you for enhancing my world.
I feel truly blessed and privileged for the last 30 years.