Our son, Luke, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in 2016. He had just turned four years old. I’d had a suspicion that there was something a little different about him from when he was around two, but my mother in law had explained that my husband was a late talker, so suggested that’s all it was.
“He’s probably just lazy,” was a phrase I heard often, especially from the older generation.
As he got older and was close to starting school, Luke was still talking very little, so we made the decision to call in a speech therapist. She immediately acknowledged the behaviour and advised on what to do next.
There was a lot to go through for his diagnosis, with lots of appointments, and as time passed, his uniqueness became more pronounced. We had a long road ahead of us, and it was going to be bumpy…
Carers and Leonardo
I vividly remember my interview at Leonardo’s Basildon site in April 2018. I was excited and nervous; excited about the opportunity to work in an area I truly had an interest in, and nervous about the whole process.
The interview was good, very relaxed. But all through it, I was waiting for the moment when I would need to be honest about home. When asked if I had any questions, I said, “No, thank you, but I do need to let you know something.”
The nerves kicked in properly as I relayed how my son has Autism, and this might mean that some days I might be less reliable. I was always upfront with the situation in interviews, because if my employer cannot support me whilst I support Luke, then it is not the company for me.
I waited for the usual response of “Ok, well thanks for coming and we’ll let you know in due course”. Instead, I was advised about the flexible working options, and that whatever I needed would not be a problem. I left the meeting feeling slightly optimistic, but mainly convinced it would be another rejection. Just over a month later, I started work in the Treasury department!
When I look back, I do not think I ever really considered myself as a carer until shortly after joining the company. Luke is my child, after all. Isn’t that what it’s all about? Part of the package. Then you realise that this childlike need will be there for many more years than you had planned, and maybe even beyond your years on this planet. That realisation is like a dead weight around your neck.
The announcement that Leonardo was creating the Carers Network and was looking for people to join was an opportunity I jumped on! This, to me, is just another confirmation of how Leonardo as a company supports its employees, and I wanted to be a part of it.
I can honestly say that there has not been an instance where I have not felt supported by Leonardo. I have had times when Luke would have a tough day, and sensory overload means he becomes distressed or angry. On each occasion, I would be told, “take your time”, or “just go and do what you need to do, don’t worry”.
The support provided by my manager and the wider team has been amazing. In addition, through the Carers Network, I have met more people within the wider company who also deal with lots of caring responsibilities in their life.
Being able to talk about experiences and obstacles – highs and lows, you actually begin to realise you are not alone and the support is there for you. That in itself is priceless.
I urge anyone out there who has to look after someone, whether it’s a child, parent, spouse, friend, whoever… please get in touch. You won’t regret it.