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1. What is ASpire?

ASpire is an Employment Service specifically for people with Asperger syndrome or High Functioning Autism. We are part of autism.westmidlands which is a charity that provides a range of services to people with autistic spectrum disorders.

 

2. What are your contact details?

Unit 415

The Greenhouse

Gibb Street

Digbeth

Birmingham

B9 4AA

0121 224 7844

[email protected]

http://www.autismwestmidlands.org.uk

 

3. What services do you provide?

We run programmes to help prepare people for work and to find jobs, as well as supporting them once they have found employment. This can include attending our personal development programme that looks at developing skills such as communication, anxiety management, understanding workplace behaviour, how to apply for jobs, developing an understanding of Asperger syndrome and making decisions about work choice of career.

We also arrange work experience placements to give people a better idea of what to expect from employment and find out more about a particular area of work. We help people through the process of applying for jobs, such as filling out application forms and attending interviews. Once people have found a job we can give training to their employer about AS and help them to settle into their new role.

 

4. What areas do you cover?

We cover the whole of the West Midlands area, however we currently only have bases in Birmingham and Sandwell, so the amount of support we are able to offer is more limited outside of these areas. There is quite a big demand for the service, so there is usually a wait to access service.

 

5. What kind of things do you have to do in your job?

As the Team Leader I am responsible for the day to day running of ASpire and managing the Employment Supporters, as well as direct work with service users. The different things I do include: dealing with inquiries about our services, carrying out registrations and initial assessments, managing and monitoring staff caseloads and new referrals, one-to-one support services with job seekers and students, running group training sessions - both for service users about employment and other organisations about Asperger syndrome, liaising with employers and organising work experience placements and visiting employed service users at the workplace. My job is very varied and allows me to meet lots of different people, which is one of the reasons I enjoy it so much.

 

6. When and why was ASpire set up?

ASpire is part of our Asperger Syndrome Outreach Service, which also offers support to people with AS to live independently, to socialise and access the community. We recognised that employment was an important area for the support of people with AS and that a separate support service was needed, to help people overcome specific barriers to employment. We believe that having an understanding of Asperger syndrome and how it influences an individual is so important when identifying what support they will need to find and retain employment.

Five years ago Claire Fennell was recruited as a Development Co-ordinator to set up ASpire. Now Claire is the Manager of our Asperger Syndrome Outreach Service as well as me, ASpire had five Employment Supporters, a Trainee Employment Supporter, an Administration Co-ordinator and our own offices in the Custard Factory in Birmingham.

 

7. Have you ever found it a challenge to help someone in your job? If yes why?

Overall I find my job really rewarding, as our aim is to help people to overcome their barriers to employment and become more independent. Sometimes people may have specific difficulties, such as very high levels of anxiety or around decision making and it can be a challenge to identify ways to help reduce their anxieties and help them progress. But we have to be creative in thinking about new ways of supporting people and ensure that we help them one step at a time, always thinking about how they are feeling and how their AS will influence their understanding of the issues involved.