Friday, 3 February 2012

Challenges, Training, Aurora-Chasing and A Curious Incident

This week, I have found myself doing a lot of planning, including setting some challenges as well as preparing to manage some changes in my role at Autism Works that are coming over the next fortnight. Also, I am putting together some slides for a presentation I have coming up next month for Diversity Works - The Untapped Workforce at Sunderland's Nissan Sports and Conference Centre.

This event is organised by the Sunderland  Local Autism Working Group, with whom I have been working, in association with the Percy Hedley Foundation and is aimed at employers large through to small to medium, who may be interested in understanding and hopefully benefiting from the skills and abilities that people with a range of differences*, including Autism and Asperger's Syndrome may have to offer. If interested, you can find out more at the Sunderland4Autism website which went live earlier this week. The site has a link to this event, as well as a directory of local services in Sunderland for adults with autism and Asperger's Syndrome, thus supporting the Local Autism Plan.

Next week, I am due to learn some new skills in software testing, when we are expecting the next set of work to arrive. This will be an interesting challenge for me, as most of the time, learning a new skills involves coming out of your comfort zone, and can be as much about unlearning old methods and habits as much as learning new processes, and in the case of software testing, a new language. What I am looking forward to though with the software training is working much more closely with our two Software Test Analysts Dan and Chris and Grayson, our Test Manager, who will be going through much of it with me. This experience could also reinforce the ongoing development of the Autism Works operational procedures, including in developing policy around working with client organisations, through understanding more about how they work.

On the subject of challenges, I am continuing to work with Daisy Chain on raising funds for the charity by entering this year's Great North Run and in 2013, trekking to Kilimanjaro. I have had the enjoyment of giving talks and training to Daisy Chain and I have been so impressed with the work they do. What they have done so well in particular as an autism charity is that they have encouraged interest and support from outside the 'autism bubble' (people on the spectrum and their parents), including from businesses. To enable the charity to continue their good work, their Chief Executive Matt Simpson has taken on the challenge of trekking to the summit of Kilimanjaro this year to raise much needed funds. For more about Matt's challenge, click here. I hope to continue this in raising over £3,000 from both the Great North Run and Kilimanjaro, as well as charting how the physical exercise continues to help with my self-esteem, a different form of training to software testing training! Watch this space for more on this as it develops!

Elsewhere, like much of the North of England, I have caught the 'aurora bug', with the Sun going through the Solar Maximum, giving off numerous Coronal Mass Ejections (CME), making it possible to see the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, to be seen further south than usual. I got a glimpse of them from Sunderland back in the late-1980s, but unfortunately, I haven't been quite as lucky this time around. I walked along the beach at Whitburn, near where I live Sunderland, during the dark on two different nights. One night it was clear, but the CME wasn't powerful enough. The following night, the CME was much stronger but it was cloudy. However, it was nice to have a whole beach to myself despite the chilly temperatures!

Meanwhile, in the autism world, I have heard that Mark Haddon's best-selling novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time has been adapted as a stage play. It is currently on show at London's Cottesloe Theatre (part of the National Theatre) and may go nationwide if successful. It will be interesting to see how the stage version is done, as much of the novel describes the experiences from inside the mind of Christopher, the boy with Asperger's Syndrome and central character of the story.

Stay tuned to Adventures with Autism Works to see how these challenges unfold!

*Notice I have used the term 'differences' to describe autism and Asperger's Syndrome rather than 'disabilities' or 'conditions'

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