Stephen’s Story – Autism Acceptance WeekTuesday 28 March, 2023
For day two of Autism Acceptance Week we spoke to Stephen, our Group Risk and Compliance Partner. Being an autistic person himself, Stephen has a vast understanding about autism and is passionate about sharing his knowledge with Real Life Options teams.
Starting his journey with Real Life Options as a Relief Support Worker 17 years ago, Stephen has since enjoyed a variety of roles, from Team Coordinator to his current role in Risk and Compliance. During his time as a Team Coordinator Stephen’s manager, Kawe highlighted to Stephen the possibility he may be autistic, which ultimately lead to his official autism diagnosis. Stephen says, “I’d been studying autism for a long time, but I never twigged that I could be autistic myself”.
Shortly after his autism diagnosis and upon lots of reflecting, Stephen said he wanted to use his experience to “teach people about what autism is, rather than what they think it is”, and change common misconceptions surrounding autism. From here, he developed specialised autism training, known as ‘Someone I Know’. The training see’s Stephen visit Real Life Options services, where we support autistic people and aims to further staff’s understanding about autism. Although Stephen says “he doesn’t have definitive answers on the best way to support autistic people” as autism works differently for everyone, providing staff teams with a deeper understanding of the topic can help teams better understand the needs of the people we support.
Stephen’s varied roles throughout his career at Real Life Options means he has first hand experience working with the people we support, with Stephen saying he “has always been interested in Autism”. Tracy, our Head of Specialist Support and Development says, “Stephen’s knowledge, coupled with his ability to collate and analyse data is innovative and has changed the way the organisation works, Stephen has been fundamental in shaping the way Real Life Options teams support people with autism.” Stephen’s role means he is able to share his passion and knowledge to bridge the gap between business support and operations, helping staff teams make a real difference to the lives of the people we support.