Friday 25 March 2011

Patagonia Pending

Hello all,

First of all, apologies for having to wait a while for another blog entry, as I have been using up some spare annual leave I have left to use before the end of March as well as giving talks and interviews, including an interview for the Autism File Media Channel. This entry will be my last before my upcoming trip to South America, after which I will hope to return to my duties here at Autism Works from a refreshed perspective.

One of the benefits of mindfulness practice, including meditation, that I have been noticing much of late is gaining a refreshed perspective which helps when when starting new tasks or adjusting to different circumstances, almost similar to the refreshed perspective one may find when returning to their job or to their native surroundings after having been travelling. It is surprising what one often notices or how they see their 'normal' surroundings after being somewhere different for a period of time.

Presently at Autism Works, Peter is continuing to work with potential clients while I am in the process of developing a database of major national and international software developers whom we will look to market ourselves to. While I have been away giving talks, I have also met with Jackie Jenkins, who is a marketing specialist working mainly from home based in Berkshire, who has very kindly offered to help Autism Works with marketing our services. Jackie received an Asperger's Syndrome diagnosis just recently, which she said explained why she had spent much of her working life working from home.  Like Peter and I, Jackie doesn't believe in sending the same one big mail shot to all, but rather going directly to potential clients, so that we can tailor our services to meet their needs should they be interested in working with us, just like at Autism Works we try to tailor or working practices to meet the needs of our employees.

On this theme, I had the privilege to listen to Dr Luke Beardon, Senior Lecturer in Autism at Sheffield Hallam University, in Nottingham yesterday. Dr Beardon's specialism is sensory issues and autism, but his approach relates well to what we value at Autsim Works, particularly in relation to being flexible towards the needs of people on the autistic spectrum, as this opens the way for them to use the strengths their condition presents effectively, rather than enforcing them to conform to and adopt conventional social cues, including eye contact. Luke was also pleased to hear that his work had been of help to Autism Works, and we would love him to come up to Newcastle and visit us sometime!

This time next week, I fly out to Buenos Aries before embarking on a trekking tour of Patagonia, including camping out in tents in Chile's Torres del Paine National Park. Be sure though to look out for my next entry in around late-April - early May.

Friday 4 March 2011

MP Visit

Welcome back to Adventures with Autism Works. This week we have enjoyed a visit from Sharon Hodgson MP, who seemed very impressed with the efforts of ESPA and Autism Works as well as her constituency being something of an international hub for autism! Having been a strong supporter of the Autism Bill and through being a Shadow Education Minister, Mrs Hodgson was very well-versed and understanding of issues faced by people with Autism, including Asperger's Syndrome, but she said that working down in Westminster for much of the week, she doesn't get as much time as she would like to see what is happening in her constituency.

Mrs Hodgson's eagerly-awaited visit to ESPA to find out about Autism Works had been planned as far back as November 2010 after I had sent letters to all the MPs in the region seeking support for Autism Works. I received a few messages of support and then had a phone call from the office of Sharon Hodgson saying that Mrs Hodgson would like to come and visit us at Autism Works in relation to her role as a Shadow Minister for Education and her interest in Special Educational Needs. Though Mrs Hodgson had planned to visit before Christmas, other commitments stood in the way, but the visit was well worth the wait, for Mrs Hodgson, ESPA and Autism Works. Inspired by ESPA's record of making a positive difference to the lives of many people with Autism and Asperger's Syndrome and the potential of Autism Works to bring unique skills to the economy, Mrs Hodgson, before leaving for her next constituency appointment, said that she would be more than happy to offer any help she felt she could provide, including possible celebrity endorsement from Iron Maiden in relation to her campaign to stamp out ticket touting at live entertainment events! 

To help bring such new and unique skills to the economy, since my last blog entry Autism Works has advertised for a testing manager to help secure contracts and develop a training programme for our software testers. If anybody reading this blog either is or has been a testing manager and is looking for a new challenge or knows of anyone who may be interested, check out our Testing Manager post here Feel free also to pass on this link to anyone whom you think may be interested.

Back in the office, I am starting to undertake some more marketing work, continuing on from the database of local companies that I completed last month, and which, in relation to being diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, I enjoyed. The next part though is a little more challenging as it involves compiling a list of the big national companies and finding out of is responsible for Corporate Social Responsibility within a particular company, to whom we can market Autism Works to. When undertaking such tasks, I see in myself just how far I have come since my diagnosis in that I feel much more confident about making enquiries rather than feeling so nervous, not least because it introduces me to new people as well as opens me up to new experiences.

While our following on Facebook in terms of number of 'likes' we are continuing to get goes up, to show how much support Autism Works is generating, we have had many requests from people who want to help us. As well as Sharon Hodgson's offer, we have also had requests from parents of people with Asperger's Syndrome who would like to help where they can. This surely indicates that there are many who are inspired by what we are doing at Autism Works, which is reassuring in relation to the upcoming challenges we face, particularly the appointment of a Testing Manager and eventually appointing our first Software Testers.

Be sure to continue to follow Adventures with Autism Works to find out how we cope with the challenges we are soon to face.