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This weeks blog comes from Lesley Lock, our Family Support Advisor, who outlines AEM’s Building Better Opportunities initiative and how we support autistic adults into employment within the Northamptonshire area. 

Autism East Midlands’ Northampton office are delivery partners for the Building Better Opportunities: Working Progress project across Northamptonshire, and our aim is to help get autistic adults a step closer to employment.

With recent Covid-19 restrictions, this has slightly changed the format of this service temporarily. Throughout November, we are not providing face-to-face appointments, however we still keep in regular contact with each participant whichever way feels most comfortable to them – that could be a text message to arrange a phone call, email or a zoom call.

We understand using Zoom can be rather strange and different at first, it is a new platform even ourselves have had to adjust to, however we are here to help decrease any anxieties around using the video communications service. 

We currently have 21 BBO participants spread across the Northamptonshire county, our Building Better Opportunities service provides a wide range of support and activities including:

  • Wellbeing chats and organising counselling throughout their employment journey
  • Creating CVs, working on interview techniques and assisting with applying for jobs
  • Funding training for those that lack the necessary skills, confidence or qualifications
  • Securing voluntary positions for those that wish to have a bit more experience of a working environment before applying for paid employment.

Something that we have organised and that ventures out of our usual activity calendar is a 12 half-day fishing tuition with an experienced SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disability) coach.

One of our BBO participants has difficulties surrounding social interactions and managing his anger and expectations of others – the fishing activity is a non-confrontational environment where he can be encouraged to have conversations and develop his patience and social skills.

As the fishing has now finished, this participant is accessing counselling through the BBO initiative to deal with his deeper issues – once he has developed coping strategies through his counselling, we hope to support him to access public transport.

We also have a participant whose assistance dog training was funded by the BBO initiative – this training was delivered through Zoom from the start of lockdown.

The assistance dog has now passed with flying colours, quicker than expected and has been accompanying the participant to a voluntary project we have set up with the assistance of Brixworth Country Park education rangers.

Aside from individual support, we also have a BBO group consisting of 6 participants. The group volunteer each week completing a variety of jobs in local parks directed by the rangers. Each week they are improving their timekeeping and social skills, learning about using different tools safely, working as a team, and having the satisfaction of making a different to a local amenity – plus, it gives each participant something meaningful to add to their CV.

It’s not necessary to be referred into the service by a professional either, so please still get in touch if you would like to self-refer. You must be 19 or over, not currently in paid employment and eligible to work in the UK. To find out more information or to make a referral, email northampton@autismeastmidlands.org.uk