Supporting people with Autism and Learning Difficulties in Employment with Little Gate Supporting

Located at the stunning Little Gate Farm in Beckley, near Rye, East Sussex is a supported employment charity pathing the way for an inclusive future. In their own countryside haven, surrounded by beautiful woodlands, Little Gate works with individuals who have learning difficulties and autism to ensure they get equal opportunities, particularly in the workplace. 

Only 6% of adults with learning disabilities are in paid employment.

This means 94% are in unpaid work, day care or stuck at home.

Little Gate is on a mission to increase this 6%. There is so much going on at Little Gate in order to achieve this. Supported Employment is all about helping someone find work by providing the trainees with the skills they may need. Likewise, employees from across East Sussex and Kent collaborate with the charity to ensure training programmes are developed to suit specific industry needs. 

Similarly, Little Gate offers Supported Apprenticeships, encouraging young trainees to earn while they learn. Or, the Supported Work Training helps adults with learning difficulties or autism improve their workplace skills. Perhaps they need a little extra help gaining confidence. Or, they have recently been put out of employment and need a touch of guidance to get back to work. 

All trainees at Little Gate are assessed for what their ambitions and interests are. Everyone is given the appropriate care and support they need to become confident and independent. Being a part of Little Gate is to be a part of self-progression journeys. 

For 8-18 year olds, there is also the option to enjoy Little Gate Rangers where children and young adults can spend their Sundays or school holidays exploring the countryside and making new friends. Activities are developed by the staff and children themselves and include arts, animals and den-making! 

While Little Gate is evidently doing an incredible job, there is more we can do beyond the charity. There are small steps we can take in our day to day lives and workplaces in order to also contribute to this brighter future where everyone gets a chance at employment. 

First of all, let us understand Neurodiversity a little better. 

Neurodiversity is a term that is used to refer to a range of conditions such as those along the Autism Spectrum, (ie. Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome), Attention deficit disorders (ADHD/ADD), and Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Dyscalculia. People with neurodiverse conditions have a different way of processing information. This includes written and spoken language, visual imagery, understanding body language, or facial expressions and tone of voice. When these different ways of learning and communicating go unacknowledged it can cause anxiety. Neurodiverse conditions will manifest differently in different people. Just like anyone else, people with neurodiverse conditions have strengths and challenges which will manifest themselves in the workplace. 

Some common strengths include: creativity, an eye for detail, persistence, excellent memory for facts and figures or visual images, technical ability, and high expectations. 

Some common challenges include: short term memory, difficulties in following instructions, maintaining concentration, time management and prioritisation. 

General adjustments that should be considered for neurodiverse trainees and employees:

  • A working environment with limited distractions. Partitions or headphones can help. This may include adjustments to the environment, e.g lighting, temperature, noise.
  • Flexible working hours. For example, later start or finish times may help someone avoid the stresses of rush hour. Also, flexible working patterns. 
  • Clear and concise communication: Both written and oral. Recorded instructions may be helpful or ‘easy read’ manuals. Structured routines, e.g. project plans, mind maps, flow charts are helpful. 
  • Break large tasks into chunks. You may need to explain priorities. Do not overwhelm them with decision making. Checklists are helpful!
  • Provide a regular schedule as much as possible, rather than changing patterns of work. Give advance warning if this schedule changes. 
  • Regular breaks, including communicating when they will be and where to go. 
  • A named person to help with general information and interpretation of instructions. Give reasons for rules and set clear boundaries or expectations for what is their job. 
  • Encourage your employee often and give them feedback on their work. Listen to their needs and concerns, and make them know they are supported. 

Little Gate Success Stories 

So far, Little Gate has supported over 130 adults with learning disabilities and autism into paid employment. Amongst these individuals are Steven, Marie and Anthony. Little Gate has kindly shared their stories with us, so that we can celebrate their achievements. 

At school, Steven was told that he would never achieve more than a Level 1. Through our Young People’s Programme, Steven has now completed his Level 2 Health Care Apprenticeship with a Merit! Steven now works at Martha Trust and loves caring for people.

“Steven’s confidence has grown so much, it has been so amazing to witness” – Leah, Steven’s Job Coach

Marie worked with our Supported Employment team to secure a traineeship at Hastings Borough Council. She is now working as an apprentice at Elizabeth Court Rest Home as a carer. Marie has always been passionate about caring for others and it is so great to see her following her passion. 

“To have a job that she has achieved has put a spring back in her step and a smile on her face again” – Marie’s Mum

Anthony works as a gardening assistant at Rob Hawes Tree Car. After 6 months of working with a job coach, he now works independently. His role involves physical outdoor work which Anthony loves! Anthony is booked onto a chipper training course which he is looking forward to starting. 

“Anthony has gained confidence and this includes his communicating with colleagues and customers, which he has had difficulty with in the past.” – Julie, Anthony’s Job Coach

Autism Awareness Day with Little Gate – April 2nd 

On Sunday the 2nd of April, it is World Autism Awareness Day which raises importance for us to be having these conversations about neurodiversity. Awareness is great, but action is even better. With the advice provided by Little Gate, hopefully it is evident that even small adjustments in work settings can be extremely beneficial to neurodiverse people. Some of this guidance should be beneficial in alternative settings too. 

In order to educate people further, Little Gate is doing a seafront walk along Hastings taking in the sea air and views. It will begin at 11am at Grosvenor Gardens and the total distance is 2.4 miles. This is a day of acceptance and celebration. There will be an array of interactive events and workshops to get involved in along the way, but the final celebration is 12pm-3pm at The Stade. Other involved charities include Eggtooth, Aspens, Amaze Sussex and Project Art Works, all collaborating to create this wonderful sense of recognition and community. 
Missed the event? You can always donate, fundraise or volunteer for Little Gate online. Meanwhile, teach your friends, family and colleagues what you have learnt; everyone has the right to train for, find and thrive in paid employment.

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