The Workplace


I’ve always had trouble finding work and it’s not because I’m lazy or unskilled or not trying hard enough because believe me, I’ve had many jobs, most of which are in the dreaded hospitality and catering field. The reason why is because for almost all the jobs I have had, I’ve had to be quick and process lots of information at the same time. My dyspraxia means that I have a very bad short term memory so with all my restaurant jobs I’ve had a hard time remembering food orders and instructions, especially as there were little to no visual prompts. Additionally, my overlapping autism meant I had sensory differences and it was a literal hell during rush hour – I’d be too hot, too forgetful and/or clumsy (mainly both) and overloaded with different noises and have a red-faced chef telling me to be quicker and multiple people telling me I need to be better at multi-tasking. 


In 2017, I left my job working as kitchen staff because my anxiety was literally off the charts and as a student, it was difficult because I needed to be able to pay rent, food and travel. It was a really tough time for a while, but luckily I survived by getting a bursary and funding from my university. Now I’ve been working in hospitality and catering for nearly 10 years give or take a few other jobs, but I worked out that I wasn’t cut out for such an unforgiving and inaccessible work because working long shifts and having to have nimble fingers JUST.WAS.NOT.ME. not to mention it was a total sensory nightmare almost every shift. 


So I finally finish uni and have time to reflect on career paths, rest and recuperate and spent time with my kitten (she’s the best). Meanwhile every Thursday, I attend disability football with Millwall’s pan-disability team with an amazing place called The Bede centre. Bede supports people with disabilities by teaching them new skills, helping others and making friends. Getting involved in Disability football and meeting and making new friends at the centre really opened my eyes to all the great possibilities after graduating and I really wanted to give back to the centre. I offered to volunteer 4 times a week to help other people with disabilities and it’s honestly one of the best things I’ve done. 


Currently, I am working in the centre’s cafe every Monday and Friday for 4ish hours a day, helping users to learn kitchen skills. Unlike the fast-paced nature of restaurant and fast-food work I’ve done, we have an actual recipe to follow, equip with visuals at each step. Each worker (max 5) has our own jobs to do and we aren’t rushed or overloaded with too much information either. The only customers we have to cater to are the other service users and staff members, who don’t get angry or impatient with us. When it’s time to take the orders, we only have to check the boxes under a visual of the food or drink that they want to order, so there is no writing down anything. Tables are clearly marked and we work table by table. All the people who work in the kitchen work on social interaction, teamwork, communication, time-keeping and organisation at a pace that suits them and everybody, (especially me) love it! 

Soon, I will also be volunteering every Tuesday and Thursday as a ‘travel buddy’, supporting clients to and from the centre on public transport. I’m really excited to be helping out at such a great place. As a person with disabilities, it’s often hard to find work, even harder to find accessible work and triply hard to find work that’s not only accessible but also enjoyable too, so I’ve definitely hit the jackpot with this one and can’t wait to take on more ventures at the centre. I’m already in discussion to teach service users computer skills and will also be getting my FA level 1 in football coaching in March, so I can possibly help out more with Thursday’s football sessions! My advice for anyone like me is to always reach out to disability organisations, even if to volunteer one day or a few hours a week with them because not only is it super accessible but who knows, you might just love it!

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  1. Thank you Jade
    Years ago now, I used to work for a small charity in same sector. In fact they gave me my first real break in employment. I believe we can gain such a lot by doing jobs like this.

  2. Hi Jade. What an inspiration you are. Wow! 💪
    Go girl! 👍
    Boy; can I Relate to being in the wrong job. I now see my acute diffs driving (despite loving it!) Propelled my finally at 58(!) To get a diagnosis. It wasn’t known in my school days.
    Me too with my old way of working; which was a Nurse! A total Nightmare. As I’m only recently diagnosed; I’m still daily just in shock still about the fuller cognitive issues.
    Although like most of us dyspraxics; I felt strongly I could well be; just by the news of if getting thru to me eventually: this was only due to being in Higher education once more & being sent to a special needs teacher. I was well into my late 40’s then.
    Info like this great site here ; will hopefully hell many to get help much younger than I was.
    It was only through my last job, that I started to see traits of my ADHD in others I was supporting. As for Dyspraxia; I knew inside I had it
    But felt it was only about motor skills. Like you; my old job was way too fast and the equivalent of that chef you had; were terrifying Matron’s catching us unaware as they did their rounds at night.
    I may well volunteer also at a Disability place. Thank you x


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Jade Hall-Smith
Jade is an artist, games designer and programmer. She was diagnosed with Dyspraxia aged 10 and austism at 26. She enjoys making games and playing football. She's an Incredible Hulk and Marvel Comics enthusiast. In her spare time she plays football, does design work and founded Variegated Games, where she designs games to raise awareness of disability and mental health.
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