Whenever I’m presenting to a room full of seasoned professionals, sometimes, these thoughts often flitter through my mind.
- Will I be able to remember everything that needs to be said?
- Will they take me seriously?
- Where’s the nearest man-sized window in case I need to escape?
And the ASD in the Business Community Workshop was no exception. The second Emma Southern told me we were going to be having such a session, I knew I would have to tick off that Golden Ticklist.
Luckily, I wasn’t alone. I had some brilliant support in the form of Alex George, a young man also with autism and a tech whiz who contributed his own story and ingenious mindset to the session.
The morning began with us meeting up at the Prince’s Trust’s Leicester office, where I had the pleasure of meeting Alex in person. We then made our way to a spare room where we were entrusted with taking all of the handouts that we had prepared and putting them into folders. Moments like that, I wish we had some kind of automated machine for this…though I will probably be eating those words when the machine take over, but I digress.
We whizzed through the presentation, and who was saying what, making sure no one got tongue-tied. After that, WE SADDLED THE HORSES AND RODE FOR GLENFIELD… at least that’s what might have happened if we were living in Game of Thrones. Instead, I suppose we’ll just have to settle for WE TOOK THE CAR.
Oddly enough, we had been to County Council over a year ago on the same day Hidden Talent was birthed into the world (I say ‘birth’, which roughly translates as ‘we came up with the name’. Don’t worry, we weren’t huddled around Frankenstein’s Monster shouting, “It’s alive!”).
Upon arriving, we had to change the room about, which looked like a UN debate. Then as our audience entered the room, we were tasked with placing packets of Haribo on each table – this felt like giving away pieces of my soul.
The event was kickstarted by a trio of talents; our illustrious leader Emma Southern, our dymanic Talent Match Chairman Paul Marriot, and the ever unpredictable Mark Frisby. Mark presented an activity called The Balloon, using an audience member to work out what she may take in her hot-air balloon, and what or who she may leave out, a metaphor for the struggles young people face. A brilliant activity, but one that leaves my mind mildly boggled. The only thing I have in common with a hot-air balloon is being full of hot air
After that, the bulk of the session was turned over to Paul Sandford, who gave an extensive workshop titled ‘Making Sense of Autism’, taking us through his own experiences and late diagnosis at 42 and inviting us to take a dive into the neural maze that is the autistic mind, what is likely to send your anxiety into overdrive and several times I found myself thinking, “this man is speaking my language.”
Paul also introduced us to the concept of ‘neurotypicals – an individual who does NOT display behaviours on the autism spectrum’. Still not quite gotten my head around it, but it’s better than the nonexistent ‘normal people’. Seriously, can that term be considered offensive? I do not know.
Of course, all my years of scheduling and meetings have taught me that if you write down that you’re commencing your presentation at 3:00, don’t bother getting out of your seat until 3:20. Suffice to say, Paul’s talk overran a little bit and by the time it drew to a close, myself and Alex were getting a little edgy, being the schedule sticklers that we are.
Due to the decreased time, we had to cut down on the number of slides (Nnnnoooooooooooo!), and then… we were on.
We took them through the research, the young people with hidden conditions who struggle to find work, the stigmas floating around the word ‘disability’, general adjustments that could be made in the workplace. And from what I saw, they seemed generally interested in what we had to say… unless they’ve learned to sleep with their eyes open.
Alex himself was a particular triumph. To the best of my knowledge, the man has never done any public speaking before, and yet he conducted himself with a fluency and grace that we could only marvel at.
And just when we thought the day couldn’t get any better, both me and Alex were interviewed by Mark Frisby, always there to raise the comedy bar and bring his charisma to the center. Seriously, the man could turn a broom cupboard into a performance stage…
Emma concluded the events, thanking everyone for their time and imploring them to pledge their next moves, which they did on a series of post-its. Seeing the employers take our advice on board really warms my heart and tells me we’re doing something right.
We’d like to extend our thank you to County Hall and Kevin Baskerville for having us. Once again, another successful session, another intrigued audience, and another reason to be a part of Hidden Talent. I can certainly say, that even though we’ve still got a long way to go, we are getting there. Like Luke Skywalker’s journey to become a Jedi, we are getting there…
TRICKY TRIVIA: Nocturnal lagophthalmos is the official term for sleeping with your eyes open. Not the most pleasant of conditions, but you may find it useful if you’re ever forced by a family member to sit through a soap opera.
(pictures supplied by Emma Southern)