Friday, 8 July 2011

Island Hopping, Nuclear Detonation and The Autism Show

First of all, apologies for being away for a while, but before you worry (an Asperger trait), it is not because I have not been well. Instead, I can happily say that it is all very positive regarding what I have been up to over the last three weeks. 

On the subject of worrying, don't let the 'nuclear detonation' in the blog title worry you! Last month, Dan and I went to see the documentary Countdown to Zero at Tyneside Cinema, just up the road from the Autism Works office. The film looks at how the possibility of nuclear weapon usage has increased since the end of the Cold War, partly because in particular parts of the world, potatoes are supposedly guarded better, but perhaps more disturbingly, through errors in software codes. Though this is something that our testers at Autism Works could help solve, Dan didn't seem too keen on testing nuclear weapon software, not least because of the pressure of being the difference between safety and an entire city being wiped out! 

At ExCel London for the Autism Show
The last three weeks has been a busy, but highly enjoyable and rewarding, time for me in terms of talks, seminars and workshops. Despite having had to put some events on hold due to lack of funding during what are tough times for the charities sector, I have still been able to get some opportunities to raise public awareness of Asperger's Syndrome as well as brand awareness of Autism Works. Quite often, limitations of opportunities often go a long way to one making the most of opportunities and sometimes, an event itself delivers more for me in terms of what I learn from audience interaction.

Meeting Jane Asher at the Autism Show
At the Autism Show held at London's ExCel Centre near Canary Wharf, I had the privilege to listen to Jane Asher, President of the National Autistic Society, give and speech and then to meet her in person later. I was delighted to find that she had heard of Autism Works! In her speech, Jane talked about how job interviews are often a major hindrance for many people with Asperger's Syndrome, particularly as many standard interview questions are open to literal interpretation. I also caught up with Specialisterne's Laura Priestly, a former college co-ordinator at ESPA, who was inspired by Specialisterne at the same time as Peter, and was very pleased to hear that we were now in the process of taking on software testers. As I write this blog, we are in the process of appointing our second tester who looks set to start with us later this month.

Just last week, I had the fortune to visit Guernsey, in the Channel Islands, to give a series of talks, including a lunchtime seminar for Credit Suisse, a major multinational financial service provider, which has offices on the island. What made the island experience fascinating from an Asperger training perspective was that for me it was coming out of my comfort zone. Though I have previously given talks and seminars outside the UK, where Guernsey is different is that it still doesn't have any Disability Discrimination legislation. Though there are demographic reasons for this such as small population and near full-employment, if an employer sees that an applicant has a condition such as Asperger's Syndrome, Dyslexia, ADHD, they can technically just bin their application.

The demands for diligence, attention to detail and most importantly, accuracy are paramount to  a company like Credit Suisse that has an annual turnover of in excess of £14 billion. My seminar at the organisation came about through a group of their employers being parents of young people on the autistic spectrum, and were interested in any suggestions as to how to recruit skills and talent on the autistic spectrum to a company where they would be considered an asset. I was delighted to hear from one of the Credit Suisse representatives attending my seminar who said that he had had the pleasure to work with a colleague with Asperger's Syndrome and had seen how they had contributed strongly to productivity as well as being great to work with. The representative also went on to say that if he saw Asperger's Syndrome mentioned on a candidate's application, he would be thrilled.

The beautiful coastline of Herm, Channel Islands
The interest and enthusiasm that I saw in Guernsey for wanting to understand Asperger's Syndrome was considerable, not just from the corporate sector but also from their State Parliament. While in Guernsey, I also had some spare time to take a boat trip around two of the neighbouring islands Herm and Sark. After this spell of island hopping, I returned to my birthplace, Stockton-on-Tees, to give a talk for the Daisy Chain project, which supports children and young people on the autistic spectrum and their families. There was also interest among the parents who attended as regards what would happen when their children on the autistic spectrum grew up, which is hopefully, fulfilling lives.

In the meantime, Dan is continuing to progress well with his ISEB Foundation Certificate and we look forward to welcoming our new Trainee Test Analyst later this month. Be sure to stay tuned to New Aspie Horizons for news of further developments and adventures.

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