In the run up to Autism Awareness Month this April, the many issues relating to employment, autism and indeed, wider disability, are all ones which are very close to my heart. This is especially true as I continue to overcome my own personal challenges.
This year, however, I have a reason to be optimistic that the statistics around employment and autism can change. This is because I recently met Dean Jenkins of Codez Academy, after he heard my voice and message on embracing autism. Dean got in touch with me after seeing a video I did with my friend Anna Brees on why more employers should embrace diversity and how it can benefit them.
Like myself, Dean has also faced many personal challenges, having struggled within the traditional academic and school structure at a young age. This was the result of a lack of understanding around his dyslexia and dyscalculia. Similarly, as I have faced barriers with my own autism, this also resulted in many challenges in gaining employment for Dean after leaving school.
It was after sharing his passion for coding and teaching with his first 8 year old student that Dean founded Codez Academy in 2015. Through his tutoring and subsequent work, he has demonstrated that learning doesn’t need to strict and academic; it can be hands-on and fun. One of the academy’s past students has utilised the Photoshop skills he was taught and has gone on to create geofilters for Snapchat that has been used by the likes of Beyonce, Ed Sheeran and 78.3million others.
Dean has also raised his own voice by sharing his story of struggling within traditional education and overcoming personal barriers, to achieve success, by presenting talks at universities, schools and numerous events and workshops, including Big Ideas Wales. He has also organised the successful Building a Brighter Future in Tech events in collaboration with the Welsh Government and MiFuture founder Gemma Hallet, most recently held in Bangor.
Dean now aims to raise £500,000 to open a creative college and offer an alternative to the standard model of education. This will address the needs of more creative minded pupils through a focus on vocational learning and in turn, promote creative thinking and thinking outside the box.
By working with Dean, my confidence and believe in my abilities have continued to grow and I am sure with him alongside me, I will continue to go from strength to strength. I do not see my autism as a barrier to achievement and neither does Dean. It is just part of who I am; at the end of the day we are all different. Recognising this, is key to unlocking the power of diversity.
We both share the view that everyone has value and something to offer if given the chance to grow within a supportive and inclusive environment. This is no different in the technology sector, where gender inequality is a particular concern. This is also an issue Codez Academy is keen to address with its courses for both children and adults.
If you would like to get involved with Codez Academy then please get in touch – http://www.codezacademy.co.uk
I am proud to be raising my voice with Dean. You can help me make my voice even louder by joining us and embracing diversity and autistic talent.