Understanding autism, together with Autism Adventures
On Wednesday 6th December 2017, we had the great pleasure of welcoming Julie Simpson from Autism Adventures, to MID Communications, to provide us with the first of our two-part training workshop around Understanding Autism.
Living with autism
Autism Adventures was set up by Julie, to support and impact the lives of families living with Autism, after her son, Joe, was diagnosed with Autism at a young age. Julie’s primary aim is to provide safe and fun environments for families living with Autism to enjoy, as well as educating businesses around how they can contribute to creating an Autism Friendly space. A valuable and priceless gift to families that may struggle to socialise normally.
I met Julie a couple of years ago, when I was at my previous employer. I can’t remember the exact moment we met, but what I do remember is seeing her and Joe regularly, waiting to use the very same computer that he had used the week before. To him, that made the shopping environment bearable, an experience that otherwise could have been physically painful.
Shopping experiences and autism-friendly environments
I remember Julie telling me of her relief at shopping somewhere that Joe enjoyed to be, as opposed to some of the experiences she had had at other retailers. It was these poor experiences that led Julie to her vision of creating an Autism Friendly City in Liverpool, by educating retailers and social spaces how to deal with their Autistic Community of customers. She has spoken at local government and in parliament about her vision, and is spreading it further afield now, with successful training taking place across the country.
Identifying autistic behaviour
For us, Julie delivered a highly engaging and informative session, educating our Gurus and Sales & Service Area Management team around how to identify Autistic behaviours and how to interact effectively with someone exhibiting Autistic traits. Many Autistic people also suffer from Sensory Processing Disorder, where balance and special awareness become real issues along with sight, taste, touch and smell. We took part in a Sensory Overload exercise which helped us to understand in small part, what this can feel like. Our Guru team will soon be training out this content to our teams, and we’re looking at ways we can support our customers even further.
Autism; a lifelong, developmental disability that affects how a person communicates
Autism in numbers
Autism is a Neurological lifelong condition with no known cure. When Joe was diagnosed 10 years ago, 1/100 people were affected by the condition, Julie says this number has now risen to approximately 1/66. More children are now diagnosed with Autism than Downs Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy and childhood Cancer, put together.
Supporting autism, together, across our communities
Living in a time where more of our customers and future customers than ever before are living with Autism, it’s our duty to support them. I’m happy to say, with the help of Julie, we’re an Autism Friendly Organisation, and we’ll be continuing to do more work in the new year to support this vision when Julie returns to us, to deliver another session to our Store Leader community around how to effectively recruit, appraise and lead a team member living with Autism.
We can’t wait to welcome her back to MID Communications.