Today (2 April) is World Autism Awareness Day 2015, and the theme of this year’s campaign is Employment: The Autism Advantage.

CAFE supports World Autism Awareness Day, and to recognise the day we sat down with Kieran Reynolds from our sister charity, Level Playing Field. Kieran has Aspergers Syndrome, a form of autism, and works as LPF’s Project Coordinator, liaising with disabled supporter associations (DSAs) across England and Wales as well as working with other disabled fans to create a DSA at their club.

Kieran is a Politics and International Relations graduate from the University of Winchester, and a lifelong Newcastle United fan. He told us that his previous experiences of employment have been largely positive but feels that more needs to be done to improve employment services to help people with Autism find work.

Kieran said, “I was quite fortunate that I had an early diagnosis, and received one-to-one support as a child at a mainstream school and also received support at University. It is a worry that when you leave education, this level of support suddenly drops”.

“When I first started to look for employment, it was sometimes difficult to know where and how to apply for jobs. I completed an internship at the National Autistic Society in the UK, and they helped me to write cover letters and applications”.

On the interviewing process, Kieran told us how he had encountered mixed experiences. He said, “I was once told in an interview that I would not get the job because they thought I would need too much mentoring and support. My interview at LPF was very different – they explained what was going to happen and allowed me to fully prepare myself”.

Kieran has worked at Level Playing Field for around 4 months now, and has settled into his role well. He told us, “It’s the little things that make a big difference. There’s a good structure here, and I know when appraisals and meetings are scheduled. There’s also been a great deal of flexibility, such as working using a laptop rather than a desktop, which I have found very helpful. I’ve felt welcomed and very much part of the team”.

Joyce Cook OBE LPF Chair and MD at CAFE says: “It has been a pleasure to welcome Kieran to the team and we were delighted to appoint him. We wanted to ensure that we put the right measures in place to assist Kieran in his new role and sat down with him to discuss his specific access requirements before his start date. It’s been an important learning experience for us too and with Kieran’s help we’ve become a much more inclusive employer and a richer organisation but most importantly we’ve gained a highly valued and respected member of our team with the Working Together project flourishing under Kieran’s stewardship. I guess you’d say that it’s proved to be a win win situation for all of us.”

When asked if he had any advice for other people with autism seeking employment, Kieran said, “Perseverance. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. There’s too much of a focus on what people can’t do – it’s time to look at what people can do and the qualities that they bring to the table”.

Published 02/04/2015