Building my social confidence through an Employ Autism internship
I completed a 10-week internship at CFC Underwriting as part of Ambitious about Autism’s Employ Autism programme which helps autistic young people integrate into the workplace.
CFC Underwriting is a specialist insurance provider, and I was part of the Learning and Development (L&D) team working from home and in the office.
Creating a presentation on being autistic
I was tasked with creating a presentation on autism to help others understand what it is like to be autistic. The creation process for the presentation was split into two parts between me and my work buddy (a co-worker assigned to support me).
My buddy was aware of how nerve-racking this could be for me, standing up in front of a group of people I didn’t know and talking to them, having done development sessions for 10 years and still finding it nerve-racking themselves.
We spoke in detail about the structure of the session and followed up our meetings with emails detailing and making clear what we needed to do.
I mostly worked on creating the presentation and adding the relevant information on the topics I had chosen. This included what autism is, what are its characteristics, what my experiences have been in my daily life and what coping mechanisms I have used to help me. All of this was a mixture of research and my own personal experience.
Once the presentation was finished, I added speaking notes to it which included the information from my research as well as anecdotes of my own first-hand experience. This was to act as a reminder and a guide of what to say during the presentation, which I printed off in case I needed to look over them.
Delivering a presentation to employees
Days before the presentation, I had a look over the main auditorium I would give the presentation in so that I could get familiar with the surroundings. This helped me feel less anxious as they laid out the room in a way that I would feel the most comfortable. This included moving the chairs so that everyone could see the front of the auditorium while not being too close to it. I arranged a table and chair set up at the front, so me and my buddy could sit during the presentation to make it more casual and conversational.
Building my social confidence
The presentation took between 15 – 30 minutes to complete and afterwards I received a lot of positive feedback from the audience. They said they found it very enjoyable, especially with the quiz, Q&A, and the general discussion me and my buddy were having.
They also learnt a lot from it, gaining a better understanding of what it is like to be autistic and what is the best way to help and support those on the spectrum. This all felt satisfying to me, especially as I felt my confidence was growing as the presentation went on. I started relying less on my written notes when discussing the points and even started to improvise a few points and some comedy, which made the audience laugh and increased their enjoyment of it.
In addition, hearing them having a better understanding of autism also helped to increase my social confidence, as I felt more comfortable and confident in approaching the other interns and having conversations with them. This helped especially at the end of the internship when we all went out to get drinks and I was able to stay and interact with everyone a lot longer than I usually could, which is usually an hour but here I manage to stay between 2 to 3 hours, which I felt very proud about.
My advice to autistic young people looking for work
For anyone still unsure about entering a work environment, the best advice I can give is to find a place to work that is not too far out of your comfort zone, especially when it comes to travel. That allows visitation to a spare, empty room when you need to have time out and to process your thoughts.
It was helpful to have a buddy/mentor as I could get a lot of thoughts off my chest which reduced stress and anxiety while working and prevented me from having any shutdowns and meltdowns.
I hope this blog post has been very helpful to all of you. And to those that are autistic and starting out in work, I wish you all the best of luck and reassurance that you can do this. Everything will be fine, no matter what.
About the author
Ellis is an autistic young person that completed an internship through our Employ Autism programme.
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