Arriving at the large house just off the Finchley road on a very cold Monday morning, I didn't really know what my first week with a charity had in store for me. I've never really been around anybody autistic before and because of that I will admit I was slightly nervous but also excited. I find the unknown exciting and the reason why I fell in love with this job is because it really is so varied and different that it has and will continually push my personal boundaries.
I walked into the small hallway that looked like the front room of somebody with 4 kids: boxes of toys and lovely posters and artwork everywhere. I met Liza, the director at Resources for Autism and she took me on a whirlwind tour of the house. They are very adamant that it be called a house because the feel of it needs to be homely. I was whisked upstairs to meet the team. I instantly got a sense of calm and contentment.
Monday flew past so quickly and I ended up leaving at 9.30pm after an amazing training session ran by one of the staff members, Iris.
I woke Tuesday morning more relaxed but even more excited for the day. After getting into the office I realised it would be much more full on. Seats were full and all computers were on with people working full pace on them. The day was very much similar to Monday, joining group sessions and engaging with adults and teenagers with Autism whilst trying my hand at helping in the office. I think my good excel skills came into play when I helped Liza, the director with some admin issues, showing her how to do things more efficiently. I also did a little good deed and bought brownies for everybody in the office!
I then spent the rest of my day with fundraiser Danousia and director Liza, helping to streamline their social media pages and come up with some great ideas for raising some money. Instantly I was amazed that Resources for Autism had spent the time making an incredible animated video about one of their young Autistic children, Conor. The video features the young boy, narrated by his own mother and puts simply what it is like living with Autism. It's a very emotional and moving video and one I have to say you must watch. I also managed to help Resources for Autism look into a Google grant where they are currently undergoing approval status for funding for advertising. This can be found at Google's non-profit website. I wanted to ensure that Nicest Job left Resources for Autism with something, strategies and ideas in place that they can use in the future. Leaving a mark on the charity, which will continue to help after I've left
After meeting the staff, my first exposure was a meeting with a parent. A real-life account of somebody who, day in-day out, lives and breathes Autism. Her child suffers quite badly from sensory issues, which is apparently quite common. It's got to the point where he is so affected by noise that certain members of the family are unable to be around him for extended periods of time, because of this sensitivity to noise and voice. I sat for an hour in awe of this woman. We all have our issues but when you listen to somebody talking about how their whole life is sleep deprived and they are required to care for 24 hours, you have to take your hat off to them. It really makes you realise how easy your life is. Because what we could consider to be a bad day could be just a usual, if not good day for them.
I ended my week and day by meeting up in Birmingham city centre with a group of very able young teenagers suffering from Asperger's Syndrome. To look at these young adults you would probably not even think they had any type of disability. But what affect them most is their social anxieties and a struggle to understand and react to social situations. The team leader Ricky set them a challenge - to walk around Birmingham and go into as many shops as they could, blagging as much free stuff as they could. Now my initial reaction was of course sceptical but fair play to them, they did an amazing job! The two guys I was with started off very hesitant but after a good hour they were running the length of the Bullring asking shop owners and managers for anything they could get their hands on.
It costs the charity £18 for just 1 hours care. That's a bottle of wine and a take away pizza for most of us. So if you feel like you want to help, your donation would be so greatly appreciated.
Next week see's me at the Charity Bag Books who provide multi-sensory books for people with profound learning disabilities.