As the spotlight shines on Autism Awareness Week this month a client at Action Mental Health’s Newry and Mourne’s Vision Project, Adrienne, shares her journey towards recovery…
My name is Adrienne. I’m 27 and I have Asperger’s Syndrome, a mild form of autism which affects my social interaction and communication skills. I also affects how I process and interpret information. I do not understand figures of speech unless I have learned their true meanings and tend to interpret things literally. So, I don’t always realise if someone is joking or not. I also have limited non-verbal communication and a poor short-term memory so I cannot process a lot of information at once.
My Asperger’s caused me difficulties at home, such as arguments with family members, and at university, as it took me longer to complete my coursework and other tasks in general. Not understanding my coursework, requiring clarification of things mentioned in lectures and in particular, group work, were all significant issues for me. I found assignments – in which I was part of a group of students – was particularly hard because of my difficulties with social interaction. My fellow students would carry on with the assignment, while I didn’t understand it, so my input in the completed assignment was minimal.
I also found my chosen degree subject extremely difficult, so as a result of all of this my course work piled up, I couldn’t do my exams and my stress levels became extremely high. In addition, I didn’t know about my Asperger’s until I went to university and when I found out more about my syndrome I thought I would never get a job or make anything of myself because I had a disability. So I became depressed.
Due to arguments at home and my difficulties at university, I was on the verge of quitting university and running away from everything. Then my aunt found temporary accommodation for me, which allowed me to move out from the family home. I left university with a Bachelor of Science Ordinary Degree, depression, no self-esteem and no intention of applying for jobs because I felt as though all the hard work and stress I experienced trying to obtain my degree had come to nothing.
I was unemployed for two years and in that time I completed a Prince’s Trust course (an organisation I would highly recommend). It gave me my confidence back so I started applying for jobs. I got many interviews and was capable of doing the work required, but because of my difficulties with processing and interpreting information due to my Asperger’s, the responses I gave at these interviews did not answer the questions being asked. Thus, I was constantly unsuccessful. The confidence I regained from the Prince’s Trust course was lost completely and I was on the verge of giving up, until my Occupational Therapist got me into Action Mental Health New Horizons Newry & Mourne.
I took the term ‘New Horizons’ to mean me moving on to bigger and better things – a new start, the beginning of a better life for myself. At New Horizons I completed many accredited training courses including New Clait, ECDL, Advanced ECDL, Digital Skills, Cookery and Personal Careers Preparation. I am currently accessing the Vision Service to complete my NVQ Level 2 in Business and Administration and through this training and with the help of the Employment Officer in New Horizons I very fortunately secured a work experience placement in McKeown’s Solicitors. I was initially supported by the Vision Support Worker until I gained the confidence, knowledge and skills to do this on my own.
I have been employed there on Supported Permitted Work Higher 15½ hours per week as an Administration Assistant for two years now and I very much enjoy it. I get on very well with my colleagues who are a wonderful support to me and always include me in any of their planned social events.
I would very highly recommend the Vision Service within Action Mental Health New Horizons for people with Asperger’s because it has been a huge part of the journey to the success and fulfilment in my life which I never believed was possible. Now I live in a larger house with lots of nice things and I have my independence. I have come a long way since leaving university and my life has changed for the better.