Friday 29 June 2012

Seminars, Astronomy, Railways and Different Perspectives

It seems as though I find myself having to do this on a relatively frequent basis when beginning my blog entries, but once again apologies for the lateness of this entry. However, readers will be quite excited to know that the last fortnight has been a fascinating experience from both an Asperger perspective with the seminars that I have been giving and a travel perspective with the train journeys and the places that I have been lucky enough to have had some time to visit.

My busy week of talks, seminars and workshops began with the Autism Show 2012 at Excel London, where I gave a seminar on Asperger’s Syndrome and Employment, including looking at some of the operational procedures that I have developed at Autism Works, before having the privilege to listen to Ari Ne’eman speak. Ne’eman (who is diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome), was appointed by Barack Obama in 2010 to serve on the US National Council on Disability, gave a very inspiring speech on the rights of people on the autistic spectrum to be included within mainstream society as they are, rather than being pigeon-holed or seen as needing to be cured. This relates to what we would like to achieve at Autism Works where we would eventually like to provide opportunities for employees to earn an industry-recognised qualification, the ISEB Foundation Certificate, which can also lead to opportunities beyond Autism Works, rather than feeling as though they are in an ‘autism bubble’.

Statue of John Betjeman, St Pancras International, London
One of my favourite aspects of giving talks, seminars and workshops on Asperger’s Syndrome is that it has taken me to places throughout the UK that I perhaps wouldn’t normally visit as well as along some very picturesque railway routes. Travelling to Lancashire via Carlisle took me through the peaks of the Lake District and past the sands of Morecambe Bay. As the late John Betjeman, former Poet Laureate, said, views from railway journeys give a different and often unique perspective of landscapes.

Carr House, Much Hoole, Lancashire
While in the north-west I also found time to visit Carr House in Much Hoole, Lancashire, where Jeremiah Horrocks is said to have observed the Transit of Venus in 1639. As you may remember from my last entry, along with many others I missed out on seeing this year’s transit (the last until the year 2117) due to heavy clouds, but weather couldn’t stop me from gaining a view of Carr House! Like the view from a railway carriage gives a different perspective on landscape, observations of astronomical events not only often give us a different perspective of the universe but have, historically, often changed our perception of it. As the first to observe the transit with a telescope, projecting the Sun’s image onto the wall, Horrocks made measurements the derived a value for the solar parallax that showed that the Sun was further away from Earth than previously thought, thus a step in opening us up to a larger Solar System and Universe full of possibilities which would gradually unfold.

Having already used two of what I call my ‘Guilty Asperger Pleasures’, railways and astronomy, to illustrate the value different perspectives, I must now get back on track and apply this value to software testing. One of Autism Works strengths as an independent software testing service is that we see software products from outside the constraints under which the developers work, thus being able to see and identify bugs that most likely bypass them, which I am finding in some testing that has just come in. For more about this, as well as different and unique perspectives, stay tuned to Adventures with Autism Works.

On the subject of different perspectives, mountain treks have enabled me to gain a different perspective of who I am in relation to my Asperger diagnosis. To find out about or make a donation towards my next challenge to raise much-needed funds for The Daisy Chain Project, please see the following link

Friday 8 June 2012

Vesak, Moving Office and Cloudy Skies

Welcome back to normal at Autism Works after the circus of the bunting and red, blue and white over the long weekend! It would be unfortunate for some, but fortunately for me, I managed to avoid the majority of the Jubilee celebrations by stepping back from the flow at Harnham Buddhist Monastery in Northumberland, where I have been participating in Vesak, celebrating the birth, enlightenment and passing into Nirvana of the Buddha.

During Vesak, Ajahn Munindo, Senior Abbot at Harnham gave a series of Dhamma talks after periods of meditation. most interestingly, he gave one on literal interpretation of the Buddhist scriptures. As a person with Asperger's Syndrome, literal interpretation of written word is a topic of interest to me. Literal interpretation of metaphors by people with Asperger's Syndrome can sometimes be comical, but where it can also be problematic is when it collides with an Asperger aspect that is considered a strength - rules orientation. What is often difficult for a person with Asperger's Syndrome understand though is the context in which such texts or rules are written. Ajahn Munindo also said that when reading the scriptures, it helps for one to detach from the written words of the scriptures, so that you don't become 'conditioned' by them.

The Jubilee celebration wasn't the only thing that I missed this week, as due to weather conditions, along with many others who had woken up early, was the Transit of Venus. Cloud cover obscured the event, which won't be seen again until the year 2117. Though it was a disappointment not to see the black disc of Venus cross the Sun, the clouds and rain didn't stop the happy and joyful atmosphere within a group of members of Sunderland Astronomical Society at Roker Beach who had brought flasks of hot drinks and containers of food. That we won't see the Transit of Venus again until 2117 shows us just how insignificant human lifetimes are within the broader context, especially in the context of astronomical events. As Ajahn Munindo also said during my monastic stay, no being that has ever lived is immortal, for nothing is fixed or permanent.

Having been a short week at Autism Works, other than finally having broadband installed in our new office and a process of shifting furniture, computers and cables downstairs, there really hasn't been too much to report. I can happily say though that we have a little more space in our new office, including an extra room, which Peter is especially thrilled with! However, I have a very busy two weeks coming up with four speaking engagements including at the Autism Show at London Excel, before heading to the North West to speak at the Cheshire Branch of the National Autistic Society. In between all this though, I will be watching Euro 2012, which kicks off today with co-hosts Poland facing surprise 2004 champions Greece, and will also see Bruce Spirngsteen at the Stadium Light as well as continuing my training for the Bupa Great North Run. I have my fist 5km Park Run  in Sunderland this weekend. To find out more about my challenge, visit my sponsorship page at

To see how this all unfolds, stay tuned to Adventures with Autism Works.

Friday 1 June 2012

Talks, Seminars and Funding Bids

Welcome back to some more adventures with Autism Works. I am well-known for taking a long time to settle down back into home life after being away for a while, but this year, it seems to have taken me a little longer, despite having been back home for almost a month since my holiday! Then it suddenly occurs to me that it is the first day of June and I have a busy time coming up of presentations! added to that, I am also due to start working on my first funding bid since were were awarded Social Innovation Pioneers status by Deloitte.

After a month of places as diverse as Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, the next few weeks sees me visit the delights of Cheshire, Hertfordshire and London to give talks and seminars, together with some publicity for Autism Works. On June 16th, I will be giving a seminar on Aperger's Syndrome and Employment at The Autism Show, which takes place at Excel London, near Canary Wharf. Readers of this blog may remember that at last year's inaugural I got to meet Jane Asher. After speaking on the theme of Asperger's Syndrome and Mindfulness Techniques last year, I am looking forward to revisiting to talk about how to shape working environments around employees with Asperger's Syndrome. As you will see on the Autism Talks programme (in association with Autistic Rights Movement UK), there are some interesting speakers giving their perspective  of autism and Asperger's Syndrome on a range of themes.

Back at Autism Works, we are just about to commence on putting together another funding bid, this time to the Investment and Contract Readiness Fund. As readers may remember, we have been unsuccessful with previous bids we have put in because we have been 'too small' to have any real impact. Now though, that we have more employees than we did back then as well as having successfully completed testing contracts together with the doors that being a Deloitte Social Innovation Pioneer has opened for us, we should be better placed to apply this time.

Away from work, after finally regaining some momentum after my 'holiday hangover', I have been doing much preparation work for my talks next month, as well as getting my training back on track for this year's Bupa Great North Run as well as my campaign to summit Kilimanjaro in October 2013. The talks also present a good opportunity for me to promote my campaign as well as the work done by Daisy Chain, particularly as 3,000 people are expected to attend this year's Autism Show. I have had some more very generous donations over the last two weeks. To find out how this is progressing or to donate, visit the following link -

Over the next week there are two events coming up relating to my special interests, starting with Vesak on June 2nd, celebrating the birth, enlightenment and passing into Nirvana of the Buddha and then on June 5-6th the Transit of Venus. Last visible in 2004, this transit will be the last opportunity to view it until the year 2117, so hopefully the skies will be clearer than they are forecast for Bank Holiday weekend!

To find out how these events go, stay tuned to Adventures with Autism Works!