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Talking with Luke for Autism Acceptance Month

Hi, I’m Luke! I work for South & City College Birmingham and I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of Autism, at 4 years old.

I work as a Customer Service Assistant, helping to be the pretty face of the college! I’m on reception at Digbeth campus with the wonderful Jackie. I do Livechat enquiries and emails.

I’m a huge gaming nerd outside of work and I like my music as well, whether listening to it regularly or singing when I’m washing up. I play guitar, when the guitar wants to behave! I also do content creation and I stream. I just have fun with what I do!

My relationship with Autism has changed a lot.

When I was much younger, filling in official forms, I used to put it under ‘disability’. I wouldn’t now! Autism is a fancy name for saying there’s certain things I’m good at, certain things I’m not, and that’s okay. It’s not a positive or negative – it’s just who I am.

I got a job at this college to give back to people.

At school, my Autism meant that I struggled with the social side of things. I was fine with academics but I had issues making friends, knowing what to say and talking in general. I was lucky to have a lot of support with that. That’s why I wanted to work in education! To give back that support to people.

Autism is not a black and white thing!

People hear ‘Autistic spectrum’ and they think it’s a straight line – it’s not. It’s a wavy line with loads of dead ends and loads of branching paths. Get a room of ten people with Autism, it’s unbelievable how different they all are!

I love talking about my Autism – so many people are worried about asking questions, thinking they’re going to offend someone. So, people assume things. It’s mostly from a good place, but obviously this can sometimes lead to the wrong idea.

Something ‘trivial’ can mean so much to someone on the spectrum.

Routine is strong for me. It’s important to respect that people on the spectrum may need more time to deal with a last minute plan change. My brain can’t comprehend that things have changed and I don’t know what to do with myself.

My mum and gran used to help me with ‘test runs’ before doing new things. The day before starting school or a job interview I’d get on a bus, do the whole route and go to the building. Knowing the path meant I wouldn’t panic on the day!

The people I work with have been patient with me – I work with awesome people.

Autism’s not something I class as something that holds me back, but if it kicks in for whatever reason people are aware of the fact that I might need that time. For me it’s just a bit to collect my thoughts – that’s obviously different for everyone on the spectrum. People here are very understanding of that.

Outside of work, I find it harder to talk to strangers.

One time when my partner and I went to Costa, there was an army veteran outside the store. I’m really proud of our vets. I wanted to thank him for his service and ask some questions. But I was so terrified of going up to someone I didn’t know that I started to panic.

My partner was like ‘just go and speak to him’ and I was going ‘I can’t, I don’t know what to do, what to say’. Once he encouraged me to do it… it was a huge relief! I was almost in tears walking away. I can sometimes work myself up over nothing.

Personally, I don’t think one Acceptance Month is enough!

Like so many things, Autism shouldn’t be a taboo subject. The more you know of people’s backgrounds, hopefully the better the world can be. Time will still tell on that last one, but I’m hopeful!