Child Protection for the Autistic Child - A Resource
I recently read the obituary of a man I had worked closely with a number of years ago. He was a gentle man with a very observant eye who had learned the value of silence when in situations where these attributes were not valued. I had never worked for anyone like him before because the world I work in attracts very able fixers and schmoozers and mostly we all tried to emulate them to be successful. He on the other hand had to be shoe-horned into meetings where he would sit in silence making everyone feel uncomfortable, uttering the occasional incisive one-liner until the meeting came to an end in the shortest possible time. With the powerless he was immensely patient and respectful. He was very generous with his time and knowledge, showing how the thing you thought was beyond you could be understood and mastered.
I have also recently had reason to go back through my work emails. This is almost unknown for me in a working world where so much is about the present. I came across a number of emails from a beautiful and beautifully polished young woman, then newly married with a young infant. She has also died after an illness that struck her down with little warning. Her voice comes through our email correspondence - corporate, assertive and reassuring in equal measure. It is hard to understand how she could be gone, a woman with such drive and ability, while something as ephemeral and ‘in the moment’ as her emails remain. I did'ent know her well and had'ent really registered her death until then (there was a lot happening in my own life when I first heard) and I sent a very belated email of condolence to her co-workers. When I received the almost instantaneous reply "Those of us who knew her here, really miss her" it brought home to me how transient our working world is - we all like migrants crossing borders into different cultures, hopeful, unsure about what we will find, settling down if we feel welcome or moving on unnoticed.
Many of her co-workers had moved on. Their replacements look out from the organisation's website 'Our People'. I'm not sure if he who loved, understood and worked to strengthen communities all his working life and beyond would have called us, the people who worked for him, that and yet we were 'his people' as were those he worked on behalf of.
They had the same profession but were separated by almost half a century, by culture, passions and life choices. He would have been a fantastic mentor to her as he was to so many. I'm not sure she ever needed a mentor though and the organisation she worked in when I met her was not a nurturing one - you had to be highly competitive to thrive within it as she was thriving professionally.
I've worked in a number of organisations and each has a slightly different ethos and called for slightly different approaches and ways of working - e.g. collaboratively, hierarchically, self-directed, defensively and open - even if the skills called for are ostensibly the same. Motivations also matter (Values) as does money. (A fair day's wage for a fair day's work) I think most people would say they would choose collaborative, open working if they had a choice, all things being equal. Hierarchical, defensive structures are more usual in my experience. Personally I like 'flat organisations' where all voices have value although someone has to lead from the front and whoever that person or group is, they will not always get everything right. Few organisations are like this although many try to give the impression they are. (If they are 'your people' thenwhat do you give your people - a sense of belonging, shared values, care, respect,, support, empowerment? ) I found her organisation almost impossible to work with and, in terms of culture, the polar opposite of the one I now work within. Metaphorically it swam with the sharks and had learned to survive by emulating them. We largely rejected this way of working where we could because we found it unworkable. It creates a world of sharks and that is neither in the interests of the sharks nor the little fry.
Working together was uncomfortable all around. They produced very good work after a lot of challenge that she alone responded positively to. It was left unsaid that we would never work with them again and they seemed oblivious to how unnecessarily poor the experience had been.
I also used to go to meetings when our family reached crisis and after a while I learned to ask myself. “Who in this room full of professionals really cares about us?” if I could identify these people they would be the people I gravitated towards, not the schmoozers and the fixers necessarily although these are useful skills to have, just never enough in themselves especially when there is something fundamentally wrong in the structure or culture of an organisation or system. It is useful to know how to swim with the sharks but bad to be around them for the most part. Caring people are the people I want around me if I have to depend on anyone in a crisis. I’ve been lucky that enough caring, authentic and able people were there at that time to have made a difference. I am very grateful to them for the help they have given me and my family.
Rest in peace David and Aliza. I hope you are comparing notes, enjoying each other's company and having a joyful time. We are poorer without you.