Sam's story shines light on Autism Acceptance Week

As part of Autism Acceptance Week, we are highlighting the role of the Council's Community Provisions service in supporting people with autism and other learning and physical disabilities.

Published: Tuesday, 2nd April 2024

Sam Chaffey, who has worked with the Council’s Community Provisions Team to overcome the challenges he faced through autism.

This week (April 2-8) is World Autism Acceptance Week.

Organised by the National Autistic Society, this global event aims to raise awareness about the challenges autistic people face across all areas of society. The week also aims to highlight how, with the right support autistic people can overcome these challenges to: ‘develop skills and build friendships for fulfilled lives.’

Hounslow Council’s Community Provisions Team supports adults with a wide range of learning and physical disabilities to access opportunities and develop independence that enables individuals to thrive. One arm of the Community Provisions team is the Employment Opportunities Service, whose focus is supporting individuals with employment, with special attention on retaining and developing individuals career pathways.

Here, we follow Sam Chaffey’s journey from working with the Community Provisions Team to becoming more independent and finding a job.

Sam’s Story

“Hello, my name is Sam and I have autism.”

Sam was diagnosed with autism in his early 20s, however, before this he went to a special needs school in Hounslow for most of his educational career.

After leaving school, Sam was keen to strike out on his own and find a job but admits it wasn’t an easy task.

“After a few years at college, I tried to find work,” he said. “I was unprepared for how the real world works but with the support of family and services around Hounslow, I managed to find a few work placements and volunteering opportunities.”

It was then that Sam was introduced to the DFN Search Project, which works alongside Hounslow Council to provide supported internship programmes for young people with learning disabilities and autism. The eventual aim is to ensure that young people can learn in the workplace and eventually move into full-time employment.

Sam said: “As part of this project I was working in different placements gaining and improving my employability skills. Near the end when the program finished, I had a few interviews lined up I went to one, and they called me back.”

Sam was successful in getting the job and has worked as a customer representative for the past 10 years.

Sam admits that the job has its ‘ups and downs’ but thanks the wonderful team for supporting him during his journey. A journey that has also helped him to understand his own needs.

He said: “As a person with autism, it is hard to change because we like our routines. Certain challenges seem impossible to conquer, such as talking to people, using technology and being in loud places. I still have to struggle with some of these issues to this day.”

Sam adds: “There are challenges in our society, where having a disability seems like a burden for those who struggle with it. This is what is called masking, trying to act as part of society but hiding our true selves, which down the line could lead to mental health issues.”

Sam is currently exploring new opportunities through the Community Provisions’ Employment Opportunities Services. He admits that he’s still learning but continues to challenge himself every day.

His advice for anyone in a similar situation is simple.

“Take every opportunity, don’t be afraid to ask for help,” said Sam. “Doing tasks can be laborious but give us time and we can achieve our goals.

Sam’s story is a testament to his commitment and dedication and also to those who have supported him along the way. His wish is that it inspires others to take the first steps on their own journey.

Hounslow Council’s Community Provisions service is always keen to work with employers who share its dedication towards inclusivity in the workplace.

As part of your commitment to Autism Acceptance Week, why not reach out to the team to see how we can work together to celebrate neurodiversity?

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