What it’s like being a support worker with Autism


What it’s like being a support worker with Autism

Posted on 04 October 2023

What it’s like being a support worker with Autism

​My name is Michael Neave, I’m 44 years old and I work as a support worker at a learning disability supported living service in Norfolk, which is run by Ambient Support.

I’m the first person with autism to be employed here at the service, and it gives me a unique perspective when caring for the people we support.

What attracted me to work in social care?

I came into social care because I hoped that I could use my autism to benefit others. I wanted to adapt my condition into a job that lets me change people’s lives.

It’s good to have an understanding about autism for myself, but also to be able to share information, knowledge and ideas about it with my colleagues and the people we support. We all share each other’s skills and qualities, and it’s a strength to be able to connect with people in this way.

How did I become a support worker?

I first got into social care after I was diagnosed with autism in 2012. A few years later I started working at Autism Anglia with people who were nonverbal.

I have now been at Ambient for a year and it’s very different to what I did before. Here I have more time to spend with the people we support, and I enjoy really getting to know them.

​​How does my autism make me a better support worker?

I’m good at being consistent in what I do, I like routine and so checking things such as medication and money comes more naturally to me. I’m good at planning and making sure everything is correct.

Having an active, involved job is perfect for me because I do better at practical things, rather than theoretical. This means I needed a bit of extra support when learning new skills such as manual handling an d hoists, because I learn in a different way to others and group classes weren’t a good fit. But my colleagues understand this and are very helpful and adapt things for me.

‘He’s a good strong team member, he’s very involved and people never have to ask him to do anything, He’ll always be unloading the washing machine as soon as it finishes and at 4 o clock on the dot will be doing the medicine. He’s very productive and uses his own initiative very quickly. Very good with IT as well and often helps people when they have problems.’ – Sarah Green, Michael’s Team Leader at Ambient.

What’s my favourite bit about the job?

I love being a part of the lives of people we support. I enjoy taking them out in the community for days out and activities and I want to give them the best opportunities.

I appreciate that Sarah and the team let me have my own responsibilities, and recently I have taken on the role of ordering monthly care supplies for the service, as well as independently planning more activities with the people we support. I feel excited to be able to gain even more experience and complete more future qualifications and courses. Working at Ambient has given me room to grow in skill and confidence, and to work independently. I like that I really make a difference here.

How else has my autism helped me?

Understanding my autism helps make other aspects of my life clearer. Since being diagnosed, I have learned to gain more confidence in myself, and I now understand that I can be in control and manage all kinds of situations.

I have a six-year-old son who is currently going through the process of getting an autism diagnosis too, and I have been able to support him throughout it. Being open about my condition has been a great tool and I now see how it can help others. At my son’s school, I have started to be more open with other parents with autistic children and giving them advice based on my own experience.

It’s very rewarding, and I now try to see my autism as more of a superpower than a disability.

Sarah Daniel, Director of People and Culture at Ambient Support says:

“We are so proud to be able to provide a working environment where people like Michael can achieve such amazing things. We feel lucky as an organisation to have employees from all different backgrounds and skillsets. Everybody brings a unique, diverse perspective to life at Ambient.

“Michael has proven himself to be an invaluable asset to the team in Norfolk and is part of a wide group of individuals across the country paving the way for accessible employment and disability inclusion. Similar to how we offer support to those who use our services, we always want to offer individualised support for our employees to help them succeed and reach their full potential.”

At Ambient, we offer supported living services across the country for people with learning disabilities. We have a person centred approach to care and work closely with the people we support to meet their unique needs. We make sure that the right support is given at the right time, to enable people to live a full and meaningful life.
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