Women’s Week: Campaigner says more needs to be done to help autistic women find employment

Gemma Grace. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

Gemma Grace. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

My experiences of being a woman with autism in Suffolk can be very exhausting, but I can say that I finally understand why I have always been different, writes Gemma Grace.

The challenges I face daily are that there is no employment support for autistic females in Suffolk.

I feel things could be massively improved by taking time to understand people with autism properly and their needs as everybody who is on the autistic spectrum communicates differently. If people were to take more time to understand then it would help to lower our anxiety and help us to successfully communicate.

I feel that I have been discriminated against when applying for employment as I rarely get invited for an interview, and I feel this is because of being autistic. I would love the chance to be able to prove my worth in the workplace but I feel that I am just hitting a brick wall. I am more than good enough to work for a company and all I need is for someone to give me a chance.

I volunteer with organisations such as Suffolk Constabulary, Autism Diagnostic Service for Suffolk and Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust.

The reason I started my campaigning was because I felt there is no provision for autism in Suffolk and felt that as I am somebody who was newly diagnosed I felt it was important to set up a Facebook page to educate people about autism and to raise awareness and acceptance of the condition for the public and professionals.

I feel that by campaigning it has made me feel stronger about myself and has made me more determined to make a little change in my community which it didn’t have before.

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I have set up an autism social club for people on the spectrum aged 18 and over. It currently runs on the first Thursday of the month at 6pm until 8pm, located at the Rushmere Hub, Ipswich.

I strongly believe that being part of this group in the community has made me a better person and I have increased my communication and social skills with other people with the same condition as me.

My goals for the future are to help people understand autism better and to encourage professionals to take on people with autism into employment. I feel this would benefit somebody like me to have opportunities that have not been possible before.

• Gemma, 29 and from Ipswich, was diagnosed with autism four years ago and she actively campaigns for greater awareness and improved support.