Our ambassador Jonathan Raiseborough gradually gained in confidence as he went through the education system, and his wish for Autism Acceptance Week is that all neurodivergent pupils get the support and opportunities he did.

After completing a degree at Teesside University, Jonathan achieved his dream of becoming a graphic designer and freelance illustrator, and already has three books under his belt.

He’s come a long way since he was first diagnosed as autistic at the age of eight and struggled to fit in.

“Socialising and making friends at school can be quite hard, because you still don’t have much confidence in yourself,” says Jonathan, now 24.

“So to understand, ‘this is who I am, I do these things because I’m autistic and that’s OK’, that’s when it gets easier.

Once I got to college I felt more confident in myself as an autistic person, I felt less need to mask and I made a core group of friends who I felt really comfortable with.”

Jonathan’s teachers at secondary school and sixth-form college in Darlington made sure he had the adjustments he needed to study, as well as support for timeouts when he felt overwhelmed.

University was trickier in that he had to sort out access and support himself. “But I always felt my tutors understood – even if not entirely where I was coming from – then why I was asking for support,” he says.

A key moment was meeting journalist, author and NEAS patron Peter Barron at an awards ceremony, and being hired to illustrate Peter’s children’s book Snowdrop The Spikeshuffler.

Jonathan became an ambassador for NEAS and found himself learning new things about autism and neurodiversity.

It really changed the way I thought of myself and my relationship to being autistic.

“I realised how much it contributes as a part of who I am, and how much I share with so many other people who have had similar experiences. It helped inform a lot of the projects I’ve done since then about how being autistic affects the creative process.”

He teamed up with Peter on a second book created for Zizu’s Day Care and Learning Centre in Middlesbrough, and now works permanently creating graphic designs for their business. 

“It’s such a wonderful role,” he says. “They take into account me being autistic, they take into account I have bad days, and it’s such a great chance to use my skills productively in a place that understands and supports my needs.

“I hope to build on my work as a freelance illustrator as well and creatively express things from this perspective of being autistic.”

Jonathan is backing our Everyday Equality campaign for Autism Acceptance Week. “It’s one thing to say we accept autistic and neurodivergent students, but the support we need isn’t just well-wishing,” he says.

“It’s actual systems to support us, actual changes put in place. That’s what we really need.”

See Jonathan's portfolio at: https://jonathanraiseborough.wixsite.com/portfolio

Autistic voices and experiences will be front and centre of our Autism Acceptance campaign this year as we push for Everyday Equality.

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