Employers; Are you missing out on a talented autistic employee?

16% of autistic adults are in full-time paid employment

Employers want capable, talented employees but in this day and age they must know they are missing out on one part of society? Those with autism may lack the ability to sell themselves, do not have the same social skills as others and questions need to be direct and clear. But they are also hardworking, talented, creative people that deserve to have the same opportunity as others. Not everyone is suitable for mainstream employment but isn’t it time that the recruitment process is given an overhaul so those on the spectrum who can work and want to work are given that option?

It’s no secret my own brother has Asperger’s and a degree in graphics and animation. Like my brother many people with autism struggle to find suitable employment. Those diagnosed with Asperger’s will understand and can relate to my brother in the sense that he doesn’t have the same social skills as you and I. He doesn’t make eye contact when speaking, his expression and his tone of voice can be a bit monotone, unless you tap into something he is passionate about then he becomes quite animated even throwing in the odd witty comment.
He is currently working with a fantastic group called Signpost that are helping him re-write his CV, write job applications, helping him prepare for interviews as well as boosting his confidence. I know that with the support he is receiving he will eventually be successful. He has a great work ethic, is creative and hardworking,  the concern will then be the interview stage. My hope is that potential employers will do their research and adapt their interview process.

The National Autistic Society has some useful interview tips and advice for employing someone with autism, from creating the right job advert through to the interview stage. Interviews can be a daunting experience, so imagine how someone with autism will feel.

A solution for one parent was to create his own company that only employs people with autism, Auticon. Formerly known as Mindspark, was created by Gray Benoist, a parent of two autistic sons who saw the lack of employment options for them so decided to take matters into his own hands.

Our mission is about enabling a group who have been disenfranchised. There are many segments of society that are under-utilised and people on the autistic spectrum are one of them

In the UK two autistic brothers decided to change their employment situation by opening their own comic book shop. It wasn’t an easy task to begin with but with the support of their family the business is still going.

My aim is to not vilify employers but this is an ongoing problem and concern. Despite all the education, knowledge out there, groups emphasising that in the right environment autistic people can thrive we are still in this position. It’s a different world we are living in now, many people don’t work 9-5 they work hours to suit the demands of the company and to accommodate their lifestyle for a better work life balance plus the option to work remotely. So if companies can adapt to these changes then why not adapt to employ people with autism?

This isn’t an easy task and not even something all companies can invest in, but it is down to all of us to get the best out of people. Sometimes a bit of kindness, understanding and time can make all the difference. Put a bit of effort into investing in people and you’ll be surprised by the positive results.

Mental health in the Asian community

Time to Talk Day 7 February.

‘..one in four of us, yet people are still afraid to talk about it. Time to Talk Day encourages everyone to talk about mental health.’

This year the theme is having the right ingredients, to have a conversation about mental health. This could be from having a private chat over a cup of tea to hosting an open event where strangers can get together and share their experiences. Whether it’s private or public it’s all about creating a comfortable, non-judgemental environment where anyone and everyone can feel safe to talk about mental health whether it is their own or someone they know.

Despite all the work being done to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health there are still communities that do not understand mental health and see it as an illness that will go away with some tablets, it is a punishment that can be treated by praying more or by carrying out particular rituals.

Those in the Asian community living with a mental health illness may keep this a secret from their family, friends because of the stigma still associated with mental health and the fear of being ostracised. Then there is the fear of what society will say if they found out, what they will say about the parents, who will marry them.

‘…kept their illness secret from their spouse for more than 20 years.’

My own brother has Asperger’s, our own parents didn’t really understand what this meant and what it meant for my brother. It wasn’t something anyone in their family has come across before, this it isn’t because no one else had been diagnosed with autism but because it isn’t something that is recognised or acknowledged. In there minds there was nothing wrong, which in some ways is a good thing because my brother is capable of doing many things but his normal is not the same normal for everyone one else.

I don’t want readers to think that families / friends don’t care but to understand that this isn’t a community that wouldn’t come together. No one should have to hide how they feel but it isn’t easy to break the mould, to go against cultural thinking and traditions that have been ingrained from childhood.

Changes are happening

Culture has a way of adapting without breaking traditions. For many people religion is part of their identity who may feel that being mentally unwell could compromise that relationship it can make seeking help and starting the recovery journey more difficult. This doesn’t need to be the case, religion could help those with mental health by teaching that religion doesn’t turn their back on those who are suffering but giving them the tools to find inner strength and seek help.

Coming together

Within the Asian community there are three main faiths, Islam, Sikhism, Hinduism. Throughout history and even still today relationships between the three religions can be strained at times but not in the world of mental health. There are support groups specifically aimed at those of each religious group but will openly encourage and support each other.

When it comes to helping each other even though we may have different ways of practicing our faith it all comes down to one things, being a decent human being and helping each other out. No deserves to be alone.

Muslim Counsellor and Psychotherapist Network (MCAPN)
Sikh Forgiveness
Bengali Mental Health Movement
South Asian Health Foundation
Mind
Rethink

Shine the light on me

Last weekend the husband’s family had arranged a prayer at the temple for his nieces’ birthday followed by a celebration of Lohri at home. All sounds simple, don’t need to dress over the top to sit in a house of god right…wrong!

It has been 6 months since I have been married but am still thought of a new bride whom the mother in law wanted to introduce and show off to others. Something I am not comfortable with, on previous occasions there has been a silent battle as I have chosen to wear something appropriate for the occasion, still looking nice just according to ‘others’ who these others are I don’t know, I don’t look like a new bride. lohri imageThis time you all would have been impressed, I dressed as if I was going to a wedding whilst others who attended wore clothes and accessories that were less in your face some even came in jeans and a jumper and had a shawl to cover their head.

I wore an outfit that sparkled and shined with matching accessories, my makeup was full on from primer, foundation to copious amounts of powder that it did not budge all day and evening. I have to say even I was impressed with how my hair and makeup turned out. Excuse the reflection of husband while he took my picture.

Fake it until you make it people that was the mantra of the day.

I am happy to be left alone in a corner on this occasion I plastered a smile on my face as I was introduced to aunties who’s names and faces I won’t remember but if nothing else I was making a good impression with even one aunties looking at me and saying ‘nice, very nice’. High to five to me.

Back at home where Lohri was being celebrated I put on a hoodie for the bonfire which the older ladies sung and danced to. A little bit of background to Lohri in the words of Wikipedia;

Lohri is the celebration of the arrival of longer days after the winter solstice

 In this case the mother in law was saying it’s a celebration of mine and husband getting married. Who would have thought there would be so much attention on us two just for getting married, lucky us. Once the bonfire part was over, I was back in jeans and a jumper feeling more myself again.

Overall it was a nice day and hopefully the ‘new bride’ title will be passed onto someone who is actually a new bride. I am not interested in other people’s opinions or whether I should still look like a bride, as far as I am concerned that is old news now. People were asking when they will hear the pitter patter of little feet, me and husband have decided they must be thinking we are getting another puppy.

Dog+Yoga=Doga

Are you concerned about your dog’s wellbeing? Do you think they are a bit stressed and need some support?

Then doga could be just the activity for you and your dog to reconnect with each other in a calming and relaxing environment.

I struggle with yoga sometimes, throw a dog into the mix and I sense carnage instead of calmness, my dog Rocco who gets distracted by his tail. 

If this works for you then great but think I’ll pass.

A spoonful of sugar…

The sugar lies on the black background
Image created by V.ivash – Freepik.com

New Year always brings new goals and aspirations that for the average person don’t usually last past February.

Which is why two work colleagues and I decided to take part in the Staff Engagement team’s New Year New You challenge that takes place over January, one month is enough for us. Each week the Staff Engagement team issues weekly challenges with prizes at the end. We were issued our first task, 7 January where we had to record our sugar intake; this included both natural and refined sugars with a limit of 30g of sugar per day, going by how the week went I doubt we’ll be winning any prizes!

This is not as easy as you think, my diet isn’t the worst but it could also could be better.

Monday was the start of this educational week. Ate my usual breakfast of peanut butter on toast, with banana and honey. I thought it was healthy. Then I got hungry an ate a Muller fruit corner yoghurt.sugar_new year new you

The banana had 12g of sugar, a banana! Muller fruit corner yoghurt contained 14g. Good think I opted for peppermint tea was fine and not my usual of caffeinated tea with milk and two sugars.

Afternoon snack was an apple,15g, that’s it I was done I had exceed the limit! Not chocolates, not cake but fruit had pushed me over the edge and maybe the muller yoghurt had something to do with it.

That was pretty much how the rest of the week went.

Fast forward to Friday when I drank a homemade protein milkshake, I didn’t even think there would be sugar in milk, how wrong was I. According to Google 1 cup of semi skimmed milk contains 12g of sugar. Team that up with the banana and two frozen strawberries I was already nearing the set 30g daily limit. I can’t wait for this challenge to be over.

Overall looking at what I ate in a day did have some benefits; I noticed that the majority of the sugar I was eating was natural sugars from fruit. I rarely drink caffeine tea these days but when I do I have 2 teaspoons of sugar with it plus milk.  Even then it wasn’t enough refined sugar that I risked having a sugar crash later in the day.

I do think that with the daily exercises I wasn’t eating enough which might be why i was feeling tired and having headaches. That won’t be happening again, making sure I have plenty to eat throughout the day.

Let’s see if I do any better in the next challenge.

Trousers are a bit tight

Since getting married I have noticed my trousers have been getting that little bit tighter. I know that we are all loved up, happy and comfortable but I do prefer to be able to breath after eating.

I’m not one to monitor my calories or obsess about the scales but since getting married I have noticed my trousers have been getting that little bit tighter. I know that we are all loved up, happy and comfortable but I do prefer to be able to breath after eating. Fortunately, I’ve not ever been overweight but the past year the weight has been creeping up with those trousers getting a tad bit tighter that I can get away with not doing the hidden buttons up.

Three weeks ago I started a some high intensity interval training workouts which I do on alternate days to the kickboxing YouTube videos by Jessica Smith.

I’ve tried the Plank workout by Emi Wong, afterwards it took me two days to be able to cough without my abdominals aching. You think I would have stopped here but no, a day later I did the Low impact HIIT Cardio workout by Joanna Soh, don’t let the title fool you, I still haven’t managed to complete the entire routine. I get to the second to last move then collapse. In both cases after the workout I ended up needing to lay down thankfully not in the recovery position but to;

  • let my body figure out how to breath normally again
  • allow my vision to return to normal from all the sweat

fitness clothes_v2The husband has also gained a few pounds but is not willing to partake in the morning workouts before work. So we have decided to go on weekend family jogs / speed walking for the dog. Wearing our new trainers and joint supports we started last Saturday were surprised that we managed a mile. This was also with the dog stopping to sniff at every blade of grass, and peeing at every tree trunk to mark his territory. I think the dog was pacing us he knew we need the jog on the spot breaks to break us into this brave new world.

Laugh all you want at my suffering yet despite the sore muscles I have noticed a change in how I feel; more energised and hungrier. My trousers have started to feel a bit looser, enough that I can now do all the buttons up!

8 year old drag queen

Many people, myself included used to get confused about the difference between being a drag queen and being transgender, they are not the same. Through a bit of research the way it has been explained is that a drag queen is a character that is played whereas a transgender is a way of life, part of that person’s identity.

No that has been cleared up what I want to discuss with you all is a bit of a sensitive subject and there are a few people that won’t agree with it but at least it will get us talking. I read about a family in Montreal where the mum is supporting her eight year old son as he embraces his drag queen alter ego ‘Lacaticia’. The young drag queen is already finding stage success having already appeared on stage with drag queen Bianca del Rio. Some could argue that the mum is being a bad parent by allowing her young son to behave this way or that the child is being sexualised and allowed to venture into what is considered an adult environment, but what harm is he really doing to himself and others? The mum and son must have a great relationship with each other that he felt comfortable enough to be so open with his mum about how he was feeling.

Don't panicI’m not a parent but this situation has got me thinking about how easy it is for me to say, ‘what’s the harm, the child is happy, the family is happy, live and let live’ but would I feel the same if it was my child who at such a young age decided they wanted to be a drag queen or say the age of 4 decided they were trapped in the wrong body and wanted to be the opposite gender? How would I react, would I be the supportive parent or the one that despite loving their child is now embarrassed by this declaration and direction in life they want to take? I would like to think that to some degree I would be relaxed about it, I probably would have a little freak out but more about how the handle the situation without the child feeling like they are doing something wrong or that there is something wrong with them. Culturally there might be a few questions from other people but change has to start somewhere.

self-esteem-1566153_1280_webIf you have read any of my previous posts you’ll know that I am fascinated by drag queens and there is a lot we can learn from them, from the way they do their makeup, how they carry themselves, yes they are crude at times but some of them have also had to go through a lot of different life experiences and hardship to get where they are. They are resilient and highlight the importance to be yourself and confident even when it feels like the world is against you. Ru Pauls drag show contestants are adults but they too were once children who went through the many experiences and emotions that some transgender children face today, though as a society we are trying to be more open and accepting change is not that easy and there are some countries that are in no hurry to accept that drag queens, homosexuals, transgender people etc should be allowed to live in peace.

Saying all this could the gradual changes in views and opinions the reason behind the increase in the number of children being referred to the only gender identity clinic in the UK?

The figures, from London’s Tavistock and Portman NHS foundation trust, show that in the year ending March 2016, 1,398 people used the service, compared with 697 the year before.

There are increased media reports and programmes following children through their day to day life as they transition, some delaying puberty with medication to live as the opposite gender, although  doctors can prescribe gender changing hormones to children as young as 12 depending on the situation. Is this the right approach, the article I read does provide a compelling reason behind the decision to allow children start gender changing treatment much earlier than the agreed age of 16.

As adults and roles of parents we are expected to guide and encourage the future generations to be decent human beings. But what do you do when your child comes to about such an adult topic, they are playing with Barbie and GI Joe dolls (This could have changed but that is what kids played with when I was young) but what if GI Joe wants to become GI Jane and Barbie has decided she is more of a Ken doll?

Sources

The Guardian: gender identity clinic
The story of two transgender children
RuPaul’s Drag Race

Apple and blueberry muffins

Maybe it’s because The Great British Bake off is back on the TV or maybe because I’m getting my baking mojo back, whatever the reason I am rediscovering why I enjoyed baking. I am not making as detailed cakes as I once used but opting for quick bakes that can easily fit into my daily routine and still taste good; muffins, biscuits even bread that doesn’t take a great length of time. You’ll have noticed that I occasionally dabble in eggless baking, the texture and taste is different to that of an egg based cake but only those who are cake connoisseurs or are told about the lack of egg would most likely notice the difference. 

Tuesday night I had Bake Off on in the background but not sure if other avid fans of this television show feel the same but this series isn’t holding my interest. I was on in the background while I busied myself experimenting with a new recipe I had found for blueberry and apple muffins through Google from netmums.comApple Blueberry muffin batter_WebThe mixture looked ok, I don’t think I over mixed the batter and it definitely looked lumpy as the recipe said it should. Where I fell down was the timing, every oven is different but I think I just have a special one that either wants to cook food too quickly or wants to take its time, in this case it was the latter. The recipe said the muffins should take about 10-12 minutes to cook on gas mark 6, mine took about 16-18 minutes. I was concerned about overbaking them as they started to brown but when poked with a skewer there was still a bit of wet mixture attached.

Apple blueberry muffin_WebThe end result was better than I expected, I did think they felt a bit soft but were cooked but that can happen with additional liquid from fruit but they were holding their shape and not falling apart when they were removed from their cupcake cases. As always I have willing guinea pigs who give honest reviews, my work colleagues;

  • the blueberries gave a jammy texture
  • it was light with a nice texture
  • they were a bit soggy probably caused by the apple but tasted nice!  

Here is the Netmums recipe if you want to try it out.

Ingredients

  • 256g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 220g soft light brown sugar
  • 1 apple (large)
  • 150g raspberries
  • 2 eggs
  • 120ml milk
  • 50g unsalted butter, melted

Method

  • Pre-heat the oven to 200’C/400’F/Gas mark 6
  • Line a muffin tin with muffin cases
  • In a large bowl mix all the dry ingredients together
  • Beat the milk and egg together lightly, add the melted butter and then add the apples and raspberries
  • Mix gently into the dried ingredients until just combined (the mixture will look lumpy, but that’s okay!)
  • Spoon the mixture into the muffin cases
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden, well risen and firm to touch
  • Remove from the oven and cool in the tray for 5 minutes, then remove from the tray and leave to thoroughly cool on a wire rack

 

Latest attempt at eggless baking

The Great British Bakeoff is back on our screens and on the new TV channel, Channel 4 with the exception of old blue eyes; Paul Hollywood, new presenters. I did find that the last years series on BBC One wasn’t has good as the previous series so thought the revamp and the current changes would be a good move, breath some new life into the programme. I was wrong. Presenter Noel Fielding has a witty personality which I just feel is being suppressed, it’s like he is on his best behaviour not to offend anyone, and I’m waiting for him to break free. It could just be me and maybe I’m being a little unreasonable but I don’t think the talent is has high as some of the bakers from past series, let’s face it no one has been able to top lion bread. There are a few bakers that have won me over, Yana, Julia and Liam. He was robbed of star baker, think Facepalmsomeone needs to check that it is only tea in Pru and Paul’s mugs when they have to such an important decision. The introduction of Caramel week was interesting, though I think I will stick to buying stroopwafels, not a single baker was able to get the caramel right in the technical challenge, what was that all about?

I haven’t tried any of the bakes from the show but have been having my own little challenges. I back on the eggless baking trying to find a perfect go to eggless cake recipe. I personally don’t have any concerns baking with eggs but over the years I have come across people for whatever reason don’t eat eggs be it an allergy, religious or vegan or simply don’t like to eat eggs.

I am getting closer to reaching my goal with my recent attempt, think I may have found the ideal recipe from Carve your Craving. The mixture makes your own buttermilk by adding vinegar to milk and letting it curdle, I just bought buttermilk. I thought my mixture looked a bit too dry in the notes it says to add water but I didn’t read this part and added a few extra table spoons of buttermilk and chocolate chips. You can use an electric mixer but a trusty old hand whisk did the job.

In the eyes of my guinea pigs these cakes were success; the texture was that of an egg based cake and got thumbs up on the taste, I was a bit concerned they may not be sweet enough but I was Eggless Cupcakes Cooked Webwrong. I was just a bit disappointed with how the top of the cakes looked, I thought maybe I had overbaked them but the actual cake didn’t taste dry. With some icing on top no one who even see what the top of the cakes looked like!

One cake taste tester did say they had turned out nice but they did prefer the egg based muffin. I do think the egg based equivalent was that tad bit fluffier but that could also be down to over mixing the batter slightly. I am my own worst critic. I’ve added the recipe below but do visit Carve your Craving website for the original recipe as there are lots of accompanying pictures and helpful tips, plus lots of other recipes.

Ingredients
  • All purpose flour – 1 ½ cups / 215 grams
  • Granulated Sugar – 1 cup / 214 grams
  • Cocoa powder – ½ cup / 43 grams
  • Baking soda – 1 teaspoon
  • Salt – ½ teaspoon
  • Milk – 1 cup / 240 ml
  • Oil – ½ cup / 118 ml
  • Pure Vanilla Extract – 1 teaspoon
  • Vinegar – 2 teaspoon
  • Milk plus vinegar is nothing but buttermilk:) so if u don’t have vinegar use sour buttermilk ( chaas) 1 cup by replacing milk and vinegar
Instructions
  • Preheat oven to 350 degree F or 180 degree C.
  • Line the cupcake tray with cupcake liners
  • Sieve and Mix all dry ingredients (All purpose flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt) in a bowl. Always sieve from a height for tender crumb outcome
  • Now time for liquids
  • Add vinegar to milk and let it stand for a minute .. Stir in oil
  • Use liquid measuring cup to measure the liquids for best results smile emoticon
  • Mix liquid in the dry ingredients – whip with a electric whipper or by a spatula or hand whip only till the batter is smooth and no lumps – don’t over beat – very important
  • Mine is always ready within 30-40 secs.
  • And bake in pre-heated oven for about 18-20 minutes or till toothpick inserted in center of cupcake will come out with few dry crumbs .. Don’t over bake
  • Remove it from oven and after 5 minutes remove cupcakes on wire rack and let them cool completely before frosting.
  • Please follow the given tips – for the best tender moist cupcakes

 

Notes
I recommend adding 1 tsp instant coffee powder to the batter.. It enhances the flavor of chocolate… Do add if not making for kids
Milk plus vinegar is nothing but buttermilk:) so if u don’t have vinegar use sour buttermilk ( chaas) 1 cup buttermilk in place of milk
As there may be difference in flour quality – if you think the batter is too thick add no more than 3 tbsp water – 1 tbsp at a time
use whipping attachment not beaters
Can be stored at room temperature unfrosted upto 3 days in a air tight container
1 week in the fridge
3 months in the freezer

 

 

Morning routine update; Did I stick with the changes?

alarm-clock-1193291_1280_WebNot too long ago I wrote an article about changing my morning routine, this involved me waking up earlier, doing a some exercise and anything else if I have time for it all before work. I only trialled this new routine for a week but have since tried to maintain it.

There have been days where I have fallen off the wagon and skipped the morning yoga choosing to get out of bed a bit later or generally having a ‘go slow’ day where I have had more than enough time to get ready for work, arrive at work early but the mind and body were not being that responsive.

Bar the few occasions where I have hit the snooze button I have managed to maintain the exercise part of the routine. I still do the 5 minutes yoga video stretching out the morning kinks helping to dissipate the last dredges of sleep. Where I have only been keeping up with part of the original routine personally I have felt disorganised and rushing around trying to get things done.  I have been feeling under the weather lately but I don’t think that is the only reason behind my lack of energy and  motivation throughout the working day. I am hoping that my renewed drive to get back on track will help combat these feelings.

Diet has played its part, being organised and having breakfast ready meant I was eating something other than a chocolate muffin or a doughnut for breakfast, you imagine how I felt after that sugar crash. I was eating more fruit and drinking less caffeine, this has all gone out of the window and the extra sugar I have been consuming it definitely affecting my energy levels. As well as having a more structured morning I have been trying to stick with a bedtime routine involving removal of makeup, brush teeth etc I am also bringing back the bedtime yoga video. This could be the 5 minute or the 20 minute YouTube video depending on time but the aim to do at least one of them. Reading has become virtually non-existent, this is something I should try and find time for, it was a form of escapism and relaxation. Need to make to time to wind down and let go of the day.

I’ll let you know how I get on or if I fall back into bad habits. If this week has been anything to go by, it’s a work in process. I’ve discovered the TV series Dexter on Netflix so have been having a TV binge fest going on. I have been managing to get up early, I have a lodger and I need to get in the bathroom before her if I don’t want to be late for work.  I am still managing the morning yoga and eating a few more bits of vegetables and fruit, not quite the recommended daily amount but something is better than nothing.

Wish me luck!