An Afternoon to Remember for #sayYEStoSEN

The South West Regional Assessment Centre (SWRAC) in association with Linwood School invited local businesses, organisations and VIPs to a very special Afternoon Tea on Friday 13th October 2017 at the Marsham Court Hotel, served by students with special educational needs for the launch of their campaign #sayYEStoSEN.

The campaign supported by Bournemouth Borough Council, Poole Borough Council, Job Centre Plus and the Skills Funding Agency, aims to show local businesses how providing work experience opportunities to people with special educational needs really can work for them – and change the lives of young people.

Interesting and entertaining guest speakers attended the event including Jules Robertson (from BBC’s Holby City) who informed people about his personal experience with dealing with Asperger’s in the acting world, joined by his mother, the internationally acclaimed and award-winning writer Kathy Lette, and Rosie Jones (comedian on Eight Out Of Ten Cats and Mock the Week) plus a variety of talks from professional speakers from within the business sector.

Adrian Gunner, Principal at SWRAC, says, “We often meet people who are not only enthusiastic but also willing and able, reliable and trustworthy with great personalities and the right skills to undertake many roles.”

They have the potential to make wonderful employees but often they need help gaining experience first.  That’s what our event and the #sayYEStoSEN campaign is all about – businesses got the chance to see first-hand how easy it is to help and that they really do have the power to make a difference.”

Comedian Rosie Jones adds, “SEN in the workplace promotes diverse outlooks, experiences and opinions. As a disabled working person myself, I am able to make a positive contribution to society, which in turn makes me feel valued and accepted.”

Kathy Lette says, “My son has Asperger’s syndrome and is now 26 working as an actor on the BBC’s medical drama, Holby City. It’s the first time anyone’s cast an autistic actor to play an autistic character and it’s been a huge success with both the cast and the audience.  After years of bullying at school and endless rejections, his self-esteem was limbo low, but now he’s proud of his condition and wants to teach others about the positive aspects of autism.

What my son has taught me is that there is no such thing as normal and abnormal, just ordinary and extraordinary – and people on the spectrum have a lateral, literal, tangential logic which is truly original and fascinating. My own son is Wikipedia with a pulse. We now know, with diagnostic hindsight, that Mozart, Orwell, Van Gough, Warhol, Steve Jobs and many other brilliant artists and scientists, were on the autistic spectrum. If only employers could learn to think outside the box, then autistic people could give back to society in the most amazing ways.”

Jules Robertson says, “Working on Holby is the best thing that has ever happened to me. And of course, it’s the best thing for the show too. The programme was dying without me! At least that’s what I tell the producer! But it is helping people to understand more about autism, which is the important thing. Normal is just the setting on a washing machine.”

The #SayYestoSEN campaign has already attracted considerable, positive national and local attention. It’s an amazing opportunity to help people with special educational needs gain skills, confidence and opportunities to succeed.

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