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My job, and what it means to me

Alex Dafalla

Alex contacted Scottish Autism earlier this year, keen to share his experiences of finding and sustaining work. Here he answers questions from Joe Long, editor of Share magazine.


Joe: Alex, tell us a little bit about your job and what you enjoy most about it.

Alex: I am a Team Member at Greggs Perth. I have worked there since October 2013. My shop provides takeaway and sitting in. My shop can be very busy as it is based in a city centre. On a morning shift I set up the store which means arranging all the freshly prepared stock for the day to be ready for shop opening. The part I enjoy the most is serving the customers tasty food. I have regular customers that will come in for a small chat when they are placing and receiving their order. I enjoy working as part of a team where I can help and chat with my colleagues.


Joe: How did you find your job, did you have support in looking for work?

Alex: I used an online job search engine called Indeed and found the job being advertised in Perth. I filled out the application all by myself. I was contacted by Greggs and they invited me to an interview. After the interview, Greggs contacted me again and they said I was successful and offered me the job. I was over the moon and was very much looking forward to starting work. The Perth One Stop Shop helped me by speaking to Greggs on my behalf to have systems in place for me to help me in the workplace, for example I have a set work pattern.


Joe: What does it mean to you to have a job?

Alex: My job is an important part of my life because it gives me structure to my day, it gives me valuable independence skills, allows me to socialise with my colleagues and customers, and makes me feel happy to help people in the community. The job gives me a sense of responsibility in the community and I feel I am a valued employee of Greggs.


Joe: What has your employer done to support you in maintaining your job?

Alex: I have been able to maintain my job through many different ways. My current manager is very understanding of my needs for me to be able to do my job. I work 16 hours a week and I work set days and shifts. This helps to give structure to my week and stops me from becoming too overwhelmed and stressed. I need a lot of prompting and reminders while doing tasks in the workplace. There are guides in place around the shop that help me with this. My manager reminds me of what Greggs is expecting from all employees.


Joe: What advice would you give to employers wanting to better support autistic employees?

Alex: For employers to have understanding and awareness and to work with the individual to have strategies in place at work that help them to do the job.


Joe: You told us that you have been furloughed for several months, what has that been like and what are you most looking forward to when you return to work?

Alex: I did find things difficult at first when I could not work for a long period of time, I struggled with not having a routine in place, interaction with colleagues and customers. After a while I changed my attitude on life and started engaging with activities online, such as Magic the Gathering online tournaments and discussions, online fitness classes with Scotland All Strong and virtual drop in with Number 3 [The Perth One Stop Shop for autistic people]. I went out for a walk or a run each day as this is important for my mental and physical wellbeing. I also tried something new by getting into building and painting Warhammer models. I found this very relaxing and helped to fill in my time. I have connected with my local Warhammer shop in Perth and have received really good help and advice for me to get started in the hobby. I am looking forward to getting back to work for a sense of normality, having structure to my week and interacting with customers and colleagues.


Joe: As well as your job, what interests and activities help you to maintain your wellbeing?

Alex: I am a big football fan and I support my local team, St Johnstone. Before the pandemic, I used to go along to the football matches at McDiarmid Park on a Saturday afternoon. I enjoy being amongst my fellow Saints fans watching my team play and do well. I started playing in a Pub Pool League where I competed against local pubs in Perth on a Thursday evening. This gave me a sense of enjoyment and opportunity to interact with new people, which helps my wellbeing. I enjoy going on my bike around my local area and exploring new cycle routes.


Joe: Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us, Alex. We wish you luck on your return to work!