Elaine was diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder as an adult five years ago, and it provided an understanding of some of the difficulties she’d faced in social situations growing up. She had a creative background and a degree in photography but was finding it hard to see opportunities for work. Now, after taking part in a New Directions course, she volunteers at Dorset Scrapstore, based at The Factory.
“I first heard about New Directions last summer through a community self-help group I attend.
“I’d been volunteering and I hoped to find employment one day, and I thought the New Directions course sounded enlightening and would be useful as it offered exposure to various industries in the locale which may be looking for employees.
“I graduated in photography at the time of the recession and finding employment was difficult. I tried to diversify into graphic design and different skillsets and for a short time they served me well. But the underlying issues I have with ASD don’t disappear overnight and I was finding it difficult.
“The New Directions course helped show possible avenues for someone with my diagnosis. I found the site visits very useful, especially the mock interviews at JP Morgan. And the Barclays Eagle Labs were great – learning about 3-D modelling, laser etching, 3-D printing – all things to get the creative juices flowing.
“I started looking into Dorset ScrapStore because it’s based at The Factory – the same site at which the New Directions course was delivered. I spent an hour or so looking around at what they did and was interested.
“I had finished the New Directions course and was at a loose end in the new year. I was considering what to do with myself and asked the Scrapstore if they needed volunteers.
“So now I do two days a week here. I enjoy spotting what’s popular in crafting circles and it’s always interesting to see what people are planning to do with the things they pick up here. We have all kinds of things you just don’t see anywhere else!
“I’m still looking for employment eventually but I hope this is a good stepping stone to work.
“There is a well-recognised statistic that only 16 per cent of people on the autistic spectrum are employed.
“When I started New Directions I could tell that the course facilitators had previously come into contact with people with neuro-diverse conditions and could understand me.
“There were some very good workshops helping with communications skills and boosting assertiveness, self-esteem and confidence.
“I’m glad I took the course.”