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World Autism Day, 2 April.

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"I'm not a socially inept mathematical genius!"

It’s World Autism Day on Saturday 2 April and to celebrate we spoke to Michael, an Administrator who has been with Certitude since the merger with Yarrow.

What is your proudest achievement?

Not to toot my own horn but there are a few! I am very proud of my wonderful niece and nephew. That might be an achievement from my sister but I love them very much and am very close with them.

I have a lovely best friend and he and I are very close. I never thought I would have a friend that I am that close to. I am really happy to have a best friend. It took me 20 years or so, but I eventually got there!

I am proud of working at Certitude and really enjoy it. I would like to say thanks to my Manager who is really accepting of my neurodiversity. I am also part of the LGBTQ+ network, which is a really big thing for me as I have never been out at work before.

What are your interests?

Politics (that’s all I’m saying on that!), theatre – plays and musicals – writing poems and stories, drawing, the band Queen, The Smiths, Gilmore Girls, Harry Potter, Doctor Who.

I also love nature. I am at my happiest relaxing under a tree in Richmond Park or discussing etymology and other nerdy topics while relaxing with my best friend. I can’t stand football!

What struggles have you faced?

To be totally honest, there are still days (not as often these days) when I hate my ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) and wish I did not have it. Sometimes, I get overly annoyed with myself when I get the simplest thing wrong and can be quite self-critical. I am getting better at managing this. It is all part of the journey that is life, I suppose.

Also, when I was younger, I used to think my autism was confusing my sexuality. I am now comfortable with being gay.

Any experiences you think others could learn from or relate to?

When I was in school I got bullied a lot – by teachers as well as other pupils. I can only walk down the stairs one at a time very slowly and one teacher told me off for not walking down the stairs properly, even though it was on my SEN statement. I feel like if someone says ‘this is part of who I am’ people should listen. People have said I should not act in a certain way or I will be bullied more; I have learned that I should not have to change my behaviour because of those bullies. It can take people with autism more time to shift toxic people from their lives. I have learned that the hard way, but I have learned.

Do you have any favourite memories?

The day my niece was born. My sister is a lot older than me and I was in Year Six at school. They asked me to come to the scan and I cried I was so happy.

Another favourite memory for me is the day I first met my best friend, it was nerve-wracking at the start but ended up being so much fun.

How are you unique?

One of my favourite quotes is: ‘Everybody’s unique, just like everybody else.’ Everybody who has autism has different traits. My best friend would probably say that I’m all heart. I am very loyal and very protective of people I care about. I don’t love many people but the people I do love I love very intensely.

What are the things that most annoy you?

It is really annoying when people assume that I can’t hold down a job because of my autism. Or if people think I have a mathematical brain like in Rain Man. I am not a socially inept mathematical genius!

I find it annoying when people assume I cannot hold down a job because of my autism, and also when people assume that purely because I have a disability I cannot look after myself. People assume that everybody with autism needs somebody to care for them, like I can’t take care of myself!

It is also annoying when people assume that people with autism are either very, very nice (shock: some of can be mean sometimes, just like everybody else) or they think the opposite – that we are very, very mean!

“A lot people think that people with autism are very black and white in their thinking, but the reality is that the way people think about people with autism is very black and white.”

I just want people to know that we’re not all geniuses, and that we don’t all need 24/7 care. I have a job at Certitude and I have a wonderful best friend and a remarkably wise-beyond-her-years niece and cheeky yet delightful nephew. I want people to know I can do everything everyone else can.

Certitude supports people with learning disabilities, autism and mental health support needs to live the life they want.

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