Richard Carranza is a Senior Support Worker with Autism Initiatives.  He has been setting up a vegetable garden which provides an opportunity for individuals to learn new skills and develop new interests.

I initially got into support work after a friend suggested that it would be something that I would enjoy. Needless to say, just over 2 years on I have enjoyed every day and relish the challenges that present themselves everyday.

I started with Autism Initiatives as a support worker in the Lothian Outreach Service, working with a wide range of individuals. I was given a lot of training and I got to work alongside some fantastic support workers who helped me find my feet at first.

Currently I am a Senior Support Worker and for the last 8 months I have been setting up a new service, vegetable garden, within AI which provides people with an opportunity to learn gardening, woodworking and other outdoor based skills. We have individuals who have made amazing progress since joining the service, taking on tasks that they hadn’t expressed any interest in, and improving on previous skills.

Though I have learned, and use on a regular basis, a wide range of communication methods and approaches, I have always found that the best way to work is to remember that you are working with an individual, with their own aspirations and their own interests. I don’t have one way of working with everyone, instead I adapt myself to each individual I am with and use their interests and motivations to help them succeed. As a result I have not only become knowledgeable in Autism but have also become an expert in football, cars, video games, Disney movies, and Thomas the Tank Engine, amongst others!

What keeps me motivated is seeing the progress that people can make with the right support and seeing the confidence in themselves improve. I passionately believe in the work that AI does and our overall philosophy in that through working in partnership with people with an ASC, families and professionals, and focussing on improving self-esteem, people with autism will learn new skills and strategies, and will have continued success throughout their lives.

As well as providing direct support my duties also involve directly managing a small staff team, all of whom bring their own skills and interests to their work which I actively encourage them to use. I also contact and work with families and other organisations to make sure that the individuals I support are getting the best service they possibly can. I have also undertaken several fundraising endeavours for the organisation including a Stand-up Comedy Night, and running Tough Mudder.