Learning Development Trainer Craig Richardson, who has dyslexia and dyspraxia, explains how the North East Autism Society equipped him with the skills and confidence needed to discover his true career calling.

Craig joined NEAS as a support worker in December 2012 and delivered independent living sessions at Hendon Workshops and New Warlands Farm, before qualifying as a PPS instructor.

However his career took an unexpected turn in 2018 when he successfully applied for a role on the Society’s training team, which now sees him deliver internal and external training, including the Society’s five-day induction programme. 

“In my current role I am often people’s first impression of the North East Autism Society,” he says. “I’d say my sales background gave me a solid foundation, but in this role I have learned how to communicate effectively with people and that really is the key to this job.” 

While his dyslexia and dyspraxia have been misconstrued by previous employers, Craig says the Society has gone above and beyond to support him over the past nine years.

For me, my neurodiversity is a strength, not something that hinders me. And everyone here just gets that – the Society acknowledges and utilises everyone’s individual strengths and differences, whatever they might be.

“For example, I found the physical side of the PPS instructor’s course difficult because of my dyspraxia. But I had a good solid group of people around me, who knew me and took the time to break it all down for me. So it was never a problem.”

The 36-year-old also credits his former managers within the Society with progressing his career, and says that they supported him fully when the opportunity to join the training team arose almost three years ago.

“I had been getting good feedback about my ability to speak to people and deliver training,” Craig adds. “When the job came up, I told my manager at the time and he said it was an opportunity I couldn’t afford to let go.

“That support was instrumental in my decision to apply for the job, it gave me the confidence I needed to go for it.”

University-graduate Craig, from Sunderland, also believes his own neurodiversity has helped him to connect with the children, young people and adults that the Society supports.

“I feel that, because of my dyslexia and dyspraxia, I have developed a deeper understanding of my own anxieties, which helps me to empathise with people,” he explains.

That empathy and communication was crucial when I was a support worker, but it has also helped me to support my colleagues. And when I am delivering training, I often spot subtle body language or behaviours which means I can pick up when someone might be needing extra help or support.

“Because of the nature of the Society, you need a wealth of diversity reflected in the staff,” Craig adds. “We need staff of different ages, from different backgrounds, who all bring different life experiences, interests and abilities to the table – and if you’re open about them, NEAS will find a way to really make the most of those skills.”

For anyone considering applying for a role within the Society, Craig says one of the key benefits is the wide range of opportunities and training that is available to staff.

“One of the main things that was presented to me early on was that the opportunities are there if you want them,” he says.

The Society allows you to take your career in any direction you want as the support, training and encouragement is all there for the taking. And that all starts on your very first day of induction, as we strive to give everyone the tools they need to succeed in their new roles and alleviate any doubts.

Craig adds: “I remember when I started this job, my granddad said that I needed to take every opportunity I could get, and that’s exactly what I have done.”

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