Finding employment and living with autism

My name is Yosef Bassiouni. I’m 34 years old. I have Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism. I got diagnosed when I was around five years old, so early diagnosis.

It affected me more when I was younger. I was really shy at school and didn’t have many friends, but now I’m trying to get over it with techniques that people have helped me with.   

Searching for work

I studied graphic design at the University of the Arts in London. I scraped that degree. After uni, I had some admin jobs and then found a six month placement with Goldman Sachs. 

After that finished, I was doing admin jobs for about four years. Then that ended and I started looking for work again. But I was getting no responses from job applications. I kept thinking, 'am I doing this right? I’ve got all the experience, but what am I doing wrong?' I just thought 'Why? What’s wrong with me? Why don’t people want me?' That’s when I needed the help of Scope.

Using Scope’s Kick Start service 

I heard about Scope’s Kick Start employment service through a Google search. I searched something like, ‘help for people on the autistic spectrum to find employment’.  

I just thought, ‘why not?’ Kick Start was a good chance to have someone support me with the job search. Because with job searching, you’re basically on your own. To have a Scope advisor there, pushing you, was really helpful for me. Demi, my advisor, set targets for me and she gave me something to work towards. 

At Kickstart there were weekly meet ups. We did the usual job searching and looked at things like my CV. Demi helped me be broader. Because I’d been working in admin, that’s where my experience is, but Demi encouraged me to think about what I want from a job. Until then, I thought I needed to just get any old job, but Demi got me thinking about what a job can give me as well. That motivated me more to find that ideal role.

Demi gave me that enthusiasm, because I lacked it a bit before going and getting Kickstart’s help.

A laughing and smiling young woman and man sat at a desk with laptop in an office 

Pictured above: Yosef in conversation with his Kick Start employment advisor, Demi

The challenges of job interviews

We rehearsed interviews quite a bit because that was the big one for me. I just dry up in them. To learn how to keep it flowing was really good.

I used to really struggle. I’d have all the answers in my head, and then as soon as I got there, I had nerves and stuff like that. I’d just forget everything. But Demi would say, ‘there’s a set way to answer questions’. Once you have that in your head, you practice that one thing and then you're more prepared with your answers, instead of just hitting off the bat. Just small things, like being more aware of how long the answers should be, because I would talk too much. Now I’m quicker and more snappy with my answers in interviews.

Why it’s important for disabled people to have the same employment opportunities 

The workforce needs a diverse set of people, including disabled people. They can give a different perspective on things. As a disabled person, I think it inspires confidence when you see disabled people at work. It makes you think ‘I can do this as well.’ 

Walking down the street, I’d be hearing people on their phones saying, 'I’m just getting home from work,' and I would think, 'Oh, I want that for me.' 

It’s important for disabled people to have a job, because a job can be so much more than just nine-to-five. You get the social aspect out of it. With the job I now have, I feel like I’ve got a purpose. 

My new job as a teaching assistant apprentice

I’m now a teaching assistant apprentice at a special needs school. They’ve got an autistic department, a sixth form college, and primary. So, it’s all ages.   

It’s good that I have people above me and the teachers have been really good with me. If I’m doing something wrong, they’ll calmly say 'this is how you do it'. 

We go out on trips with the children, giving them life skills, as well as all the usual lessons like maths and English. And there are really fun things like discos. Recently we dressed up for World Book Day. I dressed up as Where’s Wally, which was really fun. 

How my experience with autism helps me in my job

I definitely think my personal experiences with autism helps me in my role at the special needs school. Because I have Asperger’s syndrome, and my brother’s got autism too, I feel I can be more patient with children who are autistic. Sometimes you need to be a bit more firm, like, ‘okay, we need to do this now.’ Because I’m a bit more gentle, I sometimes find it hard being assertive, but I’m working towards it. 

I feel more confident with looking for work

After doing Kick Start, I feel a sense of achievement. I have a bank of answers I've worked on for interviews. Knowing what questions they might ask and being able to answer them straight away was great. Me and Demi practised interviews so many times, because that’s where I needed to focus and get that motivation. 

Work gives me a sense of purpose

With the new job, I feel like I’ve got a purpose. Not feeling alone is the main thing. Now I feel more confident. It’s all about motivation and support.

Every day, I’ve got something I can help these kids to do, and we can work towards something. If I’ve just done one thing and put a smile on a kid’s face, it makes it worthwhile getting up in the morning.

That’s what gave me motivation. The new job just seemed to fit and made all the hard times worth it. It’s life-changing. 

I hope every employer will pledge to be a more inclusive workplace for disabled people with Scope and Virgin Media's Work With Me campaign.

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