My first language is autism, but I’m pretty fluent in neurotypical

Apr 20, 2021 | Connect

Meet Sarah Scott, Office Assistant at Fighting Chance. Sarah has recently graduated from Jigsaw, a social enterprise which trains and transitions people with disability into open employment by embedding an innovative, work-based training program within a commercial digitisation business.

Hear from Sarah about the challenges she has overcome, what she gained from her time at
Jigsaw and why she loves working at Fighting Chance.

“I grew up in libraries and computer labs. Being different isn’t easy, and I was bullied at school – teenage girls, in particular, can be cruel. I hung out in the library or the computer lab, or I chatted with the teachers instead of being out there in the meat grinder that was the playground. The library was a safe place as it was deemed uncool. The teachers and librarians, being adults, accepted me as I was. Exploring options with my school career counsellor led me to study Library Services at TAFE. The thing is though, library jobs are few and far between. 

“I applied to heaps of jobs, trying to get in the system. I was a volunteer shelver at my local library, I did some volunteer retail work with Lifeline in book sales, and that was great, but there comes a point when you want to stand on your own feet and pay your own bills. No-one wants to be called a dole-bludger, but I signed up for Centrelink and registered with a disability employment service. For about a year and a half, I didn’t receive very much support, so realised early on that I would need to take the initiative. I wrote my own applications and expressions of interest to positions in everything from hospitality work to dog walking to retail, and no one was biting – absolutely no one was biting. I was pounding the concrete, emailing every company I could think of, putting out resumes left, right and centre, and nothing solid came of it. In general, us autistic and aspie people suck at interviews. We’re not great when it comes to presenting ourselves in the best light. Finally, the light at the end of the tunnel was when the careers counsellor at the disability employment service referred me to Jigsaw. Jigsaw had just opened in Sydney to meet the challenges faced by people with disability, like me, in finding mainstream employment. 

“I learnt a lot and did a lot of growing up at Jigsaw. I worked on a few client contracts, notably with Squirrel Street, Hireup and various councils – Northern Beaches, Fairfield, Hunters Hill, Queanbeyan. I was their quality control girl. Through the Jigsaw training program, I learned how to deal with people, both neurodivergent and otherwise – I’m a lot more patient now, both with other people and with myself. These aren’t skills that come to me naturally. I gained experience in digitisation, file management and managing my emotions and reactions – I can be a stress head! I get anxious, and I worry about what people think – I genuinely want to do the very best by people, even if that means I neglect my own needs. I like to help! I am so much more confident now and able to advocate for myself.

“With my personality, I need a job that I can pick up and put down at the door, preferably part-time. I give it all and burn myself out at work, so I need days off to recover. On my days off, I do a lot of sleeping, but I’m proud of the life I’ve built outside of work as much as I am proud of how far I’ve come with Jigsaw’s support. In my spare time, I draw and write a fair bit, I’m involved with my church, I practice Tai Chi, and I spend a fair bit of time playing virtual reality games. Jigsaw was ideal for me; I felt very comfortable where I was. But you don’t stay at Jigsaw forever, you do transition out, and I was ready to move on. So when the chance came to interview for a role at Fighting Chance, I felt that this was the opportunity I’d been waiting for, to move on to somewhere supportive, where I could make a difference, give back to society and feel good about being in a mainstream work environment. 

“I dream of having a job that will give me enough income to build a little nest and live happily. I’m confident this role with Fighting Chance will help me on my way. It’s become something that’s no longer a pipedream, but something achievable for me. Fighting Chance builds social enterprises to help people with disability, so I now have a chance to help others like me. Fighting Chance sees us as people, not as people with disability.”

About Jigsaw

Jigsaw is a social enterprise that connects people with disability seeking open employment to employers. Jigsaw provides tools and training for employers to hire people with disability with confidence, and identify suitable roles they can take on within the organisation, as well as offering ongoing support through the recruitment and onboarding process of employees with disability. Jigsaw ensures employers can have peace of mind in hiring job-ready employees, providing a talented pool of candidates all of whom have graduated from Jigsaw’s extensive training and work experience program.