When I started my business, it wasn’t with glory in mind. Rather, I wanted to apply my skills in a way that would benefit others. With a focus on corporate coaching, I completed two Diplomas: The Coaching Academy Personal Performance Coaching, and Corporate and Executive Coaching – but soon discovered this path wasn’t to be. Why? Because, whilst studying, I learned of the challenges autistic people face, which lead me into a change of direction.
It was for this reason that, on the 17th November 2018, I was honoured with an award from The 2018 International Coaching Academy Award, in the category ‘Coaching for a Cause,’ recognising the work I do coaching people on the Autistic Spectrum to find suitable employment and to succeed in work. I couldn’t have been prouder.
Opening the ceremony with inspiring words was The Coaching Academy CEO, Bev James. She said: "There is nothing average about anyone in this room. It's not just about the people that will receive an award but for all of the people who were nominated and for every coach who is changing lives every day and every one of you that keeps pushing their own boundaries to be the best they can be, tonight is for you."
For me, this introduction set the scene for a wonderful evening. Held at Latimer House in Buckinghamshire, the event was black tie, with dinner and dancing – which only added to how happy I was just to be nominated. It was after the meal that winners were announced, and it was an emotional moment to hear my name - a mixture of shock, pride and joy to have my work with people with hidden disabilities recognised in such a public manner.
I am so grateful to have won this award, and wanted to take this opportunity to thank everyone again. More than that, though, I wanted to use this moment as a chance to say how much I am hoping this award will raise awareness of the benefits that coaching and mentoring can bring to people on the autistic spectrum to achieve their goal of gaining meaningful and rewarding employment.
And here is why: According to statistics, there are just 16% of autistic adults in full time employment, with only 32% of this demographic in any kind of paid work. These stats have not improved in almost a decade, yet we know that being in meaningful and appropriate employment can provide a real sense of self-worth, engagement and purpose, enabling autistic people to lead more independent lives and have improved mental health. With 77% of unemployed autistic adults recorded as saying they wish to work, this figure isn’t good enough.
There are many, often misguided, reasons those on the autistic spectrum do not get offered work. But the fact of the matter is, just as with those that are not autistic, they can be excellent workers. Through my work (and passion!) I am aware that people on the autistic spectrum may need additional support to identify work that is appropriate for them, that provides the opportunities to use their strengths and skills in an environment where they can thrive. It is with this knowledge that I coach and mentor the people that need it, providing the support they require to apply for jobs, disclose their diagnosis and request reasonable adjustment to the recruitment process. Once in work, my coaching of autistic employees helps them to understand the workplace and their role, so they can develop necessary skills, and have the best chance to thrive.
As I say, I am absolutely thrilled to have won this award, and couldn’t be happier to have been honoured in this way. However, my increasing awareness of the challenges autistic people face to gain and succeed in employment has given me a new vocation and sense of purpose, combining my background in Psychology and learning and development with my knowledge and expertise in autism - and this is my truest prize.