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A PDA member shares their story: Living and working with autism

Living with an invisible disability makes it difficult for people to understand the daily struggle people living and working with autism face. Currently 1.1% of the UK population is on the autism spectrum which means that 650,000 people are also living with this invisible disability, and of that 650,000, only 16% of autistic adults are in full-term employment. As a member of this 16%, working full time with autism is hard.

Thu 20th August 2020 The PDA

I already see the world through a different perspective and struggle daily with the social interactions that are required – eye contact is almost impossible and I struggle to find the right words when needed. Working in a high pressured environment like the NHS is challenging and stressful which can lead to a sense of feeling overwhelmed at times.

Autism is a broad spectrum and every autistic person will have different signs and symptoms. Personally, I have had to adapt the way I work to get through the day. For example, I am light and noise sensitive, so I work in an office which is dimly lit and where necessary I wear noise cancelling headphones to protect my ears. Without these adaptations at work every day was a struggle and I would have what is known as ‘shutdowns’ and ‘meltdowns’.

I have never been open about my autism with my work colleagues due to fearing judgement and the stigma that comes with being autistic, however, after a challenging year which lead to a mental breakdown, I decided that I was done masking my autism and with the help of my manager I informed my colleagues of my autism.

Being honest has allowed me to gain back a piece of myself which I had hidden away for so long and my colleagues have been nothing but supportive. There are still days where I struggle with the environment and the communication aspect of work, but I am allowing myself the chance to accept that this is me and who I am is good enough. Being autistic is hard but I have so many qualities and abilities which others lack, which makes me extremely good at my job and a valued member of the team.

For anyone out there who works with an autistic person or is thinking of hiring an autistic person, my advice to you is give us a chance – we will make you proud.

And to those who are autistic and work whether it be full or part time – keep going and be proud of who you are. Autism is a superpower not a disability.

Get Involved

If you would like to share your story of working as a pharmacist with a disability, please contact our PDA Regional Official, Richard Hutton on: We would like to be able to share examples of good employment practice and member stories and issues. You must be a pharmacist and can remain anonymous.

Equally, if you would like to share positive examples of working with and supporting patients with disabilities, that would be helpful so that members can learn from your experience.

The Pharmacists' Defence Association is a company limited by guarantee. Registered in England; Company No 4746656.

The Pharmacists' Defence Association is an appointed representative in respect of insurance mediation activities only of
The Pharmacy Insurance Agency Limited which is registered in England and Wales under company number 2591975
and is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (Register No 307063)

The PDA Union is recognised by the Certification Officer as an independent trade union.

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