My own place at last

I was born in 1981 and lived at home with my parents until I was
16 years old. I recall various things about my childhood, hospital,
and things being done to me. I went to mainstream infant and junior
school. When I got to secondary school I found it tougher. Around
this time they said I was dyslexic. When I was 12 years old I was
diagnosed with autism and was moved to another mainstream school
with a special needs unit.

I didn’t like school much. I got up to all sorts and know I was
a handful. I used to spend all my pocket money on cigarettes.

During my GCSEs I got a job with a travelling fair. They made me
work really hard. Some days I’d start at 9am and not finish until
2am the next day. I would put the whole construction up, take
people’s money for rides and ride on the back of the dodgems. They
paid me £20. I told them this was not enough but they said
they couldn’t be prosecuted under “Sherman’s law”. Later on my
social worker told me there is no such thing as Sherman’s law.

When I left home I went to live in supported lodgings. I really
did not like it but stayed for two years. They didn’t feed me

I fell out with them and got moved out into a registered care
home for people with learning difficulties. They said there was
nowhere else to put me. It was horrible. It cost more than
£2,000 per week to keep me there.
I wanted to leave but the manager said I had to stay and kept
saying I had done things wrong. They would threaten to call the
police. I would get woken up by the night staff who wanted to clean
up my room and take empty cups away. No one listened to me. Living
there was very stressful.

By now Mum and Dad had moved away but I still had regular
contact with them. Mum’s a nurse and Dad works for social services.
They got my social worker to help me. They took me out of the place
and found me a house to live in on my own. They also found me a
provider who supported me in a way I wanted to be supported.

They said I still need to have someone around 24 hours a day.
The support provider worked with me to find staff I liked and
helped me to do the things I wanted. They listened to me.

Now I have 13 hours’ support a week. I go to college twice a
week and am doing a painting and decorating course. I’m doing the
house up and have put my gardening skills to good use. I also have
an allotment and I’m building a garden pond. My friend from school
visits and my sister comes to stay. We have barbecues and drink
beer. My neighbours are great and don’t mind my music. I decide
what I do and when I do it.

When I visit Mum and Dad I go along to a group Dad runs for
people like me. We go out and have a good time. My ambition is to
move near my parents.

Bob Smith (not his real name) is autistic.

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