Friday 14 January 2011

Giant Strides and Milestones

This week at Autism Works has seen us take a major step forward in our goal to provide sustainable employment for people on the autistic spectrum by making our Expression of Interest form public and regarding credibility, we have also reached an important milestone by breaking the 1,000 likes barrier on Facebook!

The Expression of Interest will give us an idea of the undiscovered pool of talent that we can be sure exists. Incidentally, when Peter Macdonald, Autism Works' Managing Director, first contacted me back in April 2010 to say that he was looking to replicate the Specialisterne model in the UK, one of the first things he asked me was about autism audits. Following from the Autism Act 2009, the Statutory Guidance on Implementing the Adult Autism Strategy has recommended that local authorities conduct an audit of people on the autistic spectrum, but what has been a major problem for for most is how such an audit can be undertaken, not to mention how such an audit would include those on the autistic spectrum but who don't have a diagnosis.

What I have found from meditation practice that has something in common with putting together questions on the Expression of Interest and Application forms for Autism Works is how we have tendencies to put labels things, including on people. All individuals, both people on and not on the autistic spectrum, seen through their own labelling systems. I am no different in this way myself, but what practice and life experience has largely taught me is how what we see through our labelling and classification systems isn't often the way it is. For instance, when developing the forms, we used the term Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC) and explained in the guidance notes that this includes Asperger's Syndrome, but after feedback from the ESPA students, it was felt that we needed to make it 'ASC or Asperger's Syndrome' as some people diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome may not like to be confused with those who have autism or High Functioning Autism. In relation to those who have ASC or Asperger's Syndrome who don't yet have a formal diagnosis, they can select 'In Progress' when filling in the Expression of Interest form.

Elsewhere this week, we have also been working on another funding bid. This is where the Facebook milestone of reaching over 1,000 like will hopefully help us regarding credibility when seeking funding, together with the support we have had from MPs and leading professionals in the field of autism including Professor Tony Attwood. What's more, the scope of interest that Autism Works has had on Facebook has continued to widen. When Autism Works first appeared on Facebook, much of our likes came from the UK and Australia, but we have also had interest from places as diverse as Egypt, Indonesia, Mexico, Bangladesh and many others.

Our new offices on Grey Street that I talked about in my last post have now been decorated and have network connectivity, and once we install some office furniture, they will be ready for us to use - another major step. The next major step though will be when we advertise for and take on our first software testers, which won't be long now.

We would like to thank all of you who have 'liked' us on Facebook (at the last count 1,004) and keep the likes coming in! If you haven't already done so, please suggest Autism Works' to your friends, and continue to watch this space for more exciting news from Autism Works - it's all happening!

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