Case Study By Jamie | Asperger’s
I leave my traineeship a changed man. I’m not the Jamie defined by my Asperger’s but a new Jamie defined by my aspirations.
“Go out there and have fun. Do something you’ve never done before.” That phrase doesn’t just describe what I was told one May afternoon, it sums up the whole of my traineeship at Somer Valley FM.
My name is Jamie. I’m 22 and have Asperger’s Syndrome, which puts me on the Autistic Spectrum. Put simply, it is a disability which makes things like talking to other people and other basic tasks really hard. That includes finding work.
My traineeship started with an interview with Dom Chambers, the station manager. Despite my difficulties, he engaged me really well. I felt welcome and able to really make a meaningful contribution. For the first time, I was actually excited to work.
I officially started in January 2016. Dom taught me how to research and script the local news bulletin. He gave me great advice on how to improve my script and my writing as a whole. Thanks to that first day, I was reading the news ready for broadcast within three days. If you’ve listened to us from January to July 2016, you probably heard the lunch time or afternoon news. That was me! Doing the news wasn’t all I learned to do, however…
As I mentioned, Asperger’s Syndrome makes interacting with people a major struggle. This was especially true when it came to answering the phone or the door. They terrified me. I’d go into work every day hoping that I wouldn’t have to answer them. I did, and I improved. While doing either still isn’t so easy, it comes to me more naturally than it used to. I don’t have to force myself to do it anymore.
One of the things that has historically proven to be near-impossible for me was getting a job. I’d worked in a shop before but that only lasted three months, and ended more than a year before I started my traineeship, with nothing but failure in between. Socially inept, but academically able, finding work that was fulfilling and what I wanted was hard to come by. What jobs I was interested in I lacked a degree for, and those jobs which would consider me, like shop work or collecting bins, did not match my aspirations. Every job I did apply for I never got to the interview stage. Sometimes, I’d be turned away, on the grounds of “being overqualified”. I was stuck in a downward spiral.
Over the course of my traineeship, I learned new skills and that opened new possibilities to me. Some even being jobs I felt I wanted to do. Thanks to my experiences here at Somer Valley FM, I got interviews for the first time in years! I also began to take charge of my own life.
At the end of May, I attended a job interview one morning. I called Dom (progress!) to ask him if it was worth coming in that afternoon. He told me to “Do something you’ve never done before. Have fun with it and tell me all about it in the morning”. By the end of that evening, I’d applied to be a participant on a Channel 4 TV show. As I write I have made it to the last 20 from which 9 of us will be selected.
That brings us to today. It’s mid-July 2016, the sun is blazing and I got the job. I start as a data controller in two weeks’ time. That’s not all! I’m entering supported living which helps me overcome the difficulties my Asperger’s presents and learn the life skills I need to move out of the house with Mum and begin to live more independently. I’m also doing my A-Levels (again), this time to secure a place at the University of Reading to study War, Peace and International Relations, something which will lead me towards work in a field I want to be in. I can say with certainty I wouldn’t be able to do that if I hadn’t come here. It’s the last day of my traineeship and I’ve just been interviewed by BBC Somerset about my traineeship. I never thought that would happen, especially not before I started. It just goes to show how much of a difference 6 months can really make.