As is common with many people with Aspergers and autism, Robert was diagnosed at the relatively late age of 13-years-old. Unfortunately for Robert and his family, diagnosis came only after he had spent a ‘disastrous’ year at mainstream school and suffered at the hands of bullies, leading to a complete mental breakdown.
Robert and his family’s story is all too familiar but happily, he is now a thriving, positive and thoroughly endearing 29 year old. Naturally a generous hearted young man, Robert lives at home with his parents and spends much of his time volunteering, giving back to a society which hasn’t always accepted or supported who he is, knocking his confidence and hindering his independence. But Robert wouldn’t be Robert if his attitude wasn’t so positive and giving. He volunteers twice a week with Autism Wessex and also receives services from the leading, regional charity.
Robert’s Mum, Rosemary, comments; “At two-and-a-half, Robert was receiving occupational therapy and speech therapy attending a special needs group in an effort to help him grow in confidence. And yet we weren’t able to get a diagnosis until over a decade later. Throughout his early school years we were ignored as there was always someone else with greater needs who got assessed. I eventually presented myself at junior school with Robert and waited to see the educational psychologist. At this point I was asked why I had waited so long as by now Robert was way behind his peer group! But it still took a further seven years before diagnosis finally came and we could start to receive support.”
Aspergers is an unseen disability, and this can lead to judgement from people who don’t appreciate the situation, which can in turn lead to isolation for the whole family.
Rosemary continues: “It got to the point where we thought we were imagining it all and we knew we weren’t coping. It was a relief to the whole family to have a formal diagnosis which meant we could move forward and give Robert the support he needed.”
Robert came on greatly after his diagnosis and is now able to access support from Autism Wessex who are helping him with his confidence with weekly sessions.
“We heard of Autism Wessex through social services and couldn’t be happier that we did. Community Wessex, the social care team, provide Robert with weekly support, helping him in and out of the home. Robert also volunteers twice a week for the charity in the fundraising and marketing team. Both these things are helping boost his confidence and independence and we feel very fortunate to have the support of the charity.”
Robert concludes: “I really enjoy my time volunteering, both at Autism Wessex and Swanage Railway which both keep me really busy. One day I would love to have an employed role and be paid for my time. There is an acute lack of support for adults with autism and this continues to contribute to the difficulties to find appropriate employment and support. But I am now at a stage in my life where I feel valued and I am able to make a positive contribution to the community in which I live.”
Autism Wessex is currently working with the National Autistic Society, which is managing a national campaign called Push for Action to support adults with autism. In 2009 the Autism Act was passed by government. The Act aimed to put adults on the agenda in all local areas and remove the barriers which were preventing those adults from getting support, whether that is washing and dressing, finding work or even getting a diagnosis. This year the government is conducting a review to see if the intention of the Autism Act is being realised. Push for Action will be calling for more funding for autism services, closer monitoring of what local areas are doing and clearer guidance about what needs to happen. With a renewed focus on the Autism Act we are encouraging the local community to join the campaign by signing up via www.autism.org.uk/push
Of you are interested in volunteering for Autism Wessex please contact the fundraising team on 01202 703584.