Bit By Bit & Day By Day: A Dad’s Journey for Neurodiversity Acceptance
By Nic Lander
Battling for Acceptance & Accommodations
I have 3 neurodivergent girls, all with very different complexities. On a daily basis we deal with ASD, Eating disorders, PDA (ODD) and ADHD — so we have a very vibrant household. My desire to start my own companies came from a distinct ignorance of the so called “professionals”, and them not having lived with the challenges. I was told that because my daughter wasn’t in a wheelchair she wouldn’t get an EHCP (Educational Health Care Plan, which in the UK gives her assistance at school). This statement was like red rag to a bull for me, how a so called professional educator could say this was a disgrace. Dads tend to do things different to Mums. We don’t tend to have an outlet where we can share our thoughts, and some of us are very caveman like. My initial rage turned a little more proactive and controlled, we managed to gather a small team to fight this injustice, and after 3 months the local authority granted my daughter a 1 to 1 helper for her schooling. Unfortunately, the person the school hired had no idea of Autism, PDA or Mental health. She has since progressed to a special Educational school where she is understood.
The Wake Up Call
After 35 years of being a concierge in London, my position was deemed unnecessary and I was laid off. This sent me to a very dark place in my life, I ended up on Prescription meds and having to see a therapist, and then COVID hit. This was the wake up I needed. My whole family started volunteering for a zero food waste project in our home town. We were collecting and distributing food that had a very short date left on it. Seeing people come in that were in a bad way, they may have lost their job or unable to pay rent and were facing loosing there home was terrible being unable to feed your kids is awful. This put my problems into place and made me think now is the time for me to give back and start helping other people. My family is so important to me and we all had each other, a home and we could put food down for our kids. Now was the time to start changing the world.
Neurodiversity and Employment
My constant drive for my kids growing up is that they become independent and are able to find work, the current statistics in the UK is that only 16% of young autistic adults find employment. We decided to do something about this: we formed Kimelfoundation.com, which is a charity to get young 16 to 24 olds into work. We were able to get a small grant to start up, and have since formed our flagship course which is a 12 week program of personal development and employability skills training which has its first group of young people going through it now — it is so exciting to watch. We looked at what the local authority did and we were disappointed, they treated everyone the same when it came to job seeking, all in the same room looking for jobs as a group and practicing interview techniques, you and I both know that this isn’t going to work with the neurodivergent community. Hence we created our own 12 week course, we work personally with our young people on there aspirations for life and what they really want to do, and with this information we guide them into relevant work. Our philosophy from day one was to get this right, there is no point placing our young adults into any job, just because we are told to “get them into work” as this doesn’t work, and they end up leaving and feeling low and let down. One of our young people on the course wants to be a space man, now I must say this is causing me a few problems but…
The Kimel Foundation also works with partner agencies to help our young people gain confidence in the work place. This we do with Chris Pape from JACs who has a shop which our young people attend ,and she teaches them what work looks like ie “ how do we open up” , “ what’s a lunch break”, “stock rotation?” and she also works on workplace humor. This is a vital part of what we do as this helps our young people overcome some of the anxieties they fear about the workplace.
We have also teamed up with a technology partner who is creating an app where by our young people, Employers and us at Kimel can work together to support our young person while they’re at work on a daily basis.
It was all very well working with our young people, but there was still a massive job to be done on educating the wider community about neurodiversity. So we set up Kimel Solutions which is a training provider offering CPD ( Continued Personal Development) and ISO9001 accredited courses.
We offer training in:
- Neurodiversity First Aid: In this course, we discuss the fundamentals of Neurodiversity and how acceptance and understanding is the only way forward. This course will benefit professionals in public services, as well as workplaces. What is required is understanding and acceptance – not well meaning “therapies” that only seek to put the responsibility on the Neurodivergent person to change or adapt. The course covers the core of Neurodiversity and removes harmful misconceptions and outdated stereotypes surrounding autistic people. With an elevated mindset of understanding, relationships improve.
- Accommodating Autistic People: Given our experience within the travel and leisure industry, we are aware that Neurodivergent people can encounter challenges when traveling or staying in homes that are not their own. This doesn’t specifically apply to children, but adults too! This masterclass will provide innovative solutions to ensure that staff are fully equipped with high levels of understanding, acceptance and support for those who need it!
- Unearthing Autistic Talent: This course is ideal for schools, training colleges and groups involving autistic teenagers. Entering the world of work can be daunting for those of us who are different. This course reframes the traditional thinking patterns surrounding neurodiverse people, which are often negative. This view will transform attitudes whilst opening hearts and minds. We thought this was essential as so many employers are missing out on the talent pool that the neurdivergent community possesses. When polled 64% of senior executives in the UK knew that they had to have a policy on hiring from the neurodivergent community but didn’t know how to do it. So we came to the rescue.
It’s not rocket science — what we do is just educating those that need to be educated, so that when the time comes my three girls will be accepted into the work place.
For more information, visit:
I’m Nic Lander, father to 3 neurodivergent girls. After 35 years in the hospitality industry I was made redundant and my world came crashing down. My love for my family and the constant search for acceptance for them and I became my no. 1 mission in life. That is why we started Kimelfoundation.com and Kimelsolutions.com, which gives which gives people the tools and guidance they need to understand Neurodiversity.