“It’s all in the planning and encouragement”
When I was at school, I needed extra support with my learning because I have autism. It was good that the support was there, but sometimes, because of the autism, it meant that I would come across as being quite rude. This resulted in low confidence and self esteem and also made it hard to make eye contact with others. In April 2015, I was referred to Phase 2 at Wheatsheaf Trust and on my first few visits, took my mum with me as I was too scared to go on my own.
By the end of my introduction appointment I agreed to start the programme and felt comfortable with my Adviser, which pleased my mum. Over the next few sessions we spent time on focusing on my strengths and weaknesses, which at first I found hard, but then it got a bit easier. I realised that I was good at attention to detail, a perfectionist, enjoy learning new skills and am organised and helpful. We also worked on my goals and learnt that I wanted to be more independent, motivated, build my confidence and be able to work in retail.
Eventually, I was able to attend appointments without my mum, which was a huge step and one, that both my mum and I are proud of. But then I had a bit of a lapse and emailed my Adviser to say I didn’t want to attend anymore. My Adviser was quick to come back to me and encouraged me to identify what went wrong and how we could put it right, it turned out that I was very uncomfortable coming into town for appointments. Me, my mum and my Adviser all worked together to find a solution, as I really did want to move forward, the outcome of the meeting was that I would be willing to give volunteering a chance, as long as it was near where I lived and not in town.
We had a plan, my Adviser and I visited a number of charity shops to get a feel about the environment and how the staff spoke to me. At first I was very nervous and my Adviser did all the talking, but after a while, I felt more confident to talk to them and ask questions. It was a very useful exercise to carry out and after evaluating all the shops, I made a decision based on the friendly staff and the comfortable environment.
I now volunteer a couple of hours, two days a week which I want to maintain before considering increasing my hours. Whilst volunteering, I have improved my confidence and self esteem, am able to leave the house on my own, interact with the general public and am able to maintain a routine of getting up and out of the house. I have a sense of purpose and responsibility and have fitted in well to my new working environment. I keep in regular contact with my Adviser and have been assured that if I need any advice or questions answered, than I can contact her at any time.
“The support at Wheatsheaf supported me very well, the most positive change at this point is that I’ve gained confidence and skills which I thought I would never have gained. The most things I enjoy about volunteering is that I am able to communicate with people, and give them customer service and also be able to work on a till.”