From a background in community engagement for SureStart, 31-year-old Jonny Martin hadn’t supported autistic people before. But after five years with the North East Autism Society he says the rewards far outweigh the challenges.

“At first it was an eye-opener, and it did take a bit of time to find my feet, but my passion has always been around helping people so I was keen to learn how to make a difference,” says the Sunderland University graduate.

Now a Senior Programme Support Worker based at our adult vocational training centre, New Warlands Farm, Jonny is using his sports degree to help adult service users.

“When you’re at uni you wonder how you will end up using your degree. I get a lot out of knowing the things I have learned now help other people.”

Jonny Martin, Senior Programme Support Worker

Grainger Simpson, Operations Manager for adult day services, oversees Jonny and the work of the programme managers. He explains:

Jonny is a huge asset to NEAS. He’s taken his own skills, made full use of our internal training opportunities, and on top of that he’s innovated some amazing projects.

As well as being the go-to person for health and fitness checks Jonny also looks after our community gardening initiative – and what’s really great is how he empowers the service users to take the lead.

Working alongside autistic adults can be a challenging environment, but for Jonny, and many others like him, the pay-off comes in the form of a smile.

Probably one of my greatest moments since being here is seeing the progress the people I work with can make," Jonny adds. "One lad in particular, when I first started working with him, wouldn’t have been able to stand up in front of his peers and take on any form of leadership, now in the physical therapy sessions he leads the warm-ups. And even better than that he loves it.

If they’ve gone home happy, with a big smile on their faces, then I go home happy too.

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