A Support Practitioner at the learning disability charity Hft has shared his experiences during his time in the role, and how it has helped him to learn more about autistic people and how they might interact with the world around them.
Jordan Lee has shared his story as part of World Autism Acceptance Week, a time to raise awareness of autism in hopes of creating a more inclusive society.
What does the role of a support practitioner entail?
Jordan supports a group of young autistic men in their everyday lives at Hft’s Forest of Dean service. He supports them individually in all manner of ways, from supporting them to take part in their hobbies, to arranging healthcare appointments and supporting them with their sensory needs.
Jordan says he became interested in the role because his sister is autistic. He said when she received her autism diagnosis, it helped her to “understand herself, and the world around her, a lot more.”
“I have to admit, I didn’t know much about autism before my sister was finally told and now it’s something I wish was taught more about, to normalise it.
“Spending time with the people we support has enabled me to really learn about how autistic people might interact with the world around them and has helped me to start developing my skills for supporting them. I’ve learned now how to better spot the signs that an individual is becoming upset or worried, as well as how to uplift them. I’m always learning what I can do to support through these times,” Jordan said.
Now a joint keyworker for one of the men he supports, Jordan says he is arranging for a sensory board to be brought in for him.
“We’re excited because we feel that having the sensory board will give him the very best chance of getting the sensory input that isn’t necessarily available to him every day,” he said.
Individualised approach is needed for each autistic person
Most importantly, Jordan says through his work he has realised that there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach. He recognises that autism presents itself differently in each person, and the differences in experience can be vast.
“The biggest challenge for me has been supporting individuals through a crisis but this is where I’ve really learnt to trust myself and to build trust with the people we support.
“And the biggest pro of my work has been getting to know the people we support. For me, support work is made worthwhile by the people and the great days we have together. It pays to be adaptable, patient and gracious – and a good sense of humour can go a long way to lighten a challenging day too,” he said.
Why does World Autism Acceptance Week matter?
Speaking about why World Autism Acceptance Week matters, Jordan said, “Knowing that the public are being educated, and that the true side of autism is being talked about, not the stereotypes from films or history is really important.
“I’d like people to know that autism isn’t a bad diagnosis despite it being previously misunderstood. You can have a vibrant life, a fulfilling job, and a great social life. Don’t feel like you can’t do something because of this diagnosis. You can do anything you want and support workers are only there to facilitate that.
“Whether you have autism or work with autistic people, everyone needs a little help in life. You’re not alone, there’s always someone to chat to.”