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Autism and me: a blog by Michael #AutismAwarenessMonth2020

 

Hi, my name is Michael. I am one of the educational facilitators at the National Justice Museum. I teach school groups about the history of the justice system and I also do fun and educational activities with them, such as mock trials. I am also Autistic. I was diagnosed at the age of 4 and as it is Autism Awareness month, I shall talk about the positives of the condition.

What is Autism?

Autism is a neurological disorder where the brain is wired differently to neurotypical brains. This is what I affectionately call my ‘funky wiring’ and as a result, Autistic persons have issues with emotional regulation, social awkwardness, and meltdowns. Wait…this sounds like a condition with lots of negatives. Wrong! There are many positives such as direct honesty, ‘out of the box’ thinking, and something that helps me in my role which is hyper-focused specialist areas of interest. Mine just happens to be history, which was nurtured at a young age by parents and grandparents. Their support helped me to a achieve a merit in MA European History from Birkbeck in 2018.

For as long as I can remember, I was always interested in History as a subject. One of my early memories is of my mum, dad and sister gathered round the television on a Sunday, watching the acclaimed series ‘Time Team’. The programme follows a team of archaeologists over a period of three days – they dig and catalogue a site. The show provided a layman’s explanation of what happened at the site and why. My parents later discovered the Young Archaeologist’s Club, and they signed me up in a bid to help me socialise. I went to a fair few of their events and I even got a Time Team book signed by the presenter of the programme Tony Robinson!

After primary school I had a somewhat hard time transitioning to secondary school and had a lot of behavioural issues that stemmed from that. It was around this time that my grandparents, especially my Mum’s Dad, got me interested in industrial history and we would watch Fred Dibnah together. When he passed in 2012, it was a great blow to me. But I feel like I am inspiring young children with history as an educational facilitator, just like he did with me. I can inspire by using my special interest combined with the other positives of autism, like attention to detail and retention of facts and key pieces of information.

The National Justice Museum provides is an environment that nurtures Neuro-diverse staff members. I started out in February 2019 and I initially shadowed teaching sessions before doing my own independent teaching a few months later. In August 2019, I was asked to help create an Autism friendly Bonfire Night event at the museum. This allowed me to share my knowledge and experiences of being Autistic so that the event could be better tailored to the needs of Autistic visitors. The event in November 2019 was a success and everyone enjoyed it.

I always enjoy coming to work as I feel lucky and privileged to work in an environment that matches my interests. It helps that my education team are lovely, kind and understanding towards me. They do not judge me and make me feel welcome. I would like to thank Gill and Naomi for giving me the opportunity to work at the National Justice Museum; Jo and Michael for asking my advice to help SEND students that visit us. I would like to thank Jess for including me in the Autism friendly event. Lastly, I would like to thank Angela, Sarah, Natasha, Lucy, Claire, Rebecca, Christy and Shannon for making me feel like a valued member of the team. I would also like to give special thanks to Alice G, who is no longer at the museum, and Sheila who sadly passed away recently. My team helped me learn how to do my job and I will forever be thankful for the time that they put in.

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