Susan Bird is the Diversity Champion at the University of Edinburgh Careers Service and the Service representative on the Student Disability Committee and Mental Health Sub-group. She was nominated as an Autism Champion by someone she worked in partnership with to support a young graduate who was still unsure of his career direction.
Some of the things I do:
- Identifying and attending relevant staff training courses through NAS and Business Disability Forum.
- Developing “sharing good practice” sessions for colleagues at University of Edinburgh Careers Service
- Identifying resources (books, websites) for staff and students
- Ensuring staff are aware of issues around disclosure and getting this across to students/grads/employers
- Working one-to-one with students and graduates, making links with other agencies and on occasion working collaboratively e.g. Into Work www.intowork.org.uk
- Collaborating on the development bid of a research project with Dr Sue Fletcher-Watson, Chancellor’s Fellow, Moray House School of Education, University of Edinburgh on “Employment Amongst Adults with High-Functioning Autism: Job Interview Skill Development”.
- Promoting opportunities for students on our website and jobs database
- Running “share what we do” sessions across Student Disability Service and Student Counselling Service so staff are more confident about how we can all support our students and refer to other services, with student permission
What motivates me:
- My Nephew is on the autistic spectrum which gave me something of an insight into one young man’s experience through school and into Further Education/Higher Education
- Realising that one person’s experience of autism is just one person’s experience.
- We have a number of students at UoE who are on the spectrum or we think may be but often they choose not to tell us – feeling that at a societal level we need to better link school, university, employers, support agencies, individuals and there is a way to go yet.
- Knowing that our students have a lot to offer but sometimes struggle to articulate that
- Wanting to ensure as much as possible that everyone get a fair chance.
Particular methods/strategies I use:
- Realising that the strategies often normally advocated for guidance advisers eg avoid being too directive – are actually often more productive in questioning.
- Adapting my language eg instead of asking “What experience have you developed that is relevant to this application? -asking “tell me three things you have done that show you could do this job.”
- In practice interviews, often situational judgement type questions/ hypothetical situations can be extremely difficult so I try rephrasing to ground in actual experience – and try to highlight this adaptation to employers too
- Mirroring behaviour so if eye contact is clearly uncomfortable, avoiding making this a big deal.
- Asking what works for the client/student
- Looking at strengths
- Not assuming things!