Ross lives at Sanctuary Supported Living’s Nithdale Road service in Plumstead, South London, where he receives intensive housing management support, including help with maintaining a tenancy and managing money. He is sharing his experiences of living with Asperger’s syndrome to help people better understand it, as he still comes across stigma and prejudice today.
I have lived in supported housing since 1994, as my parents were retiring and moving out of London to the coast.
I had tests as a child with a child psychologist and a paediatrician, as my parents were concerned that I was falling behind in class and they thought I may have some mild learning difficulties. I also have unilateral hearing loss and visual impairment, so we decided to get extra tuition in maths and English.
I was diagnosed in March 2005, as a member of my family had been working with someone who thought I had some of the symptoms linked to Asperger’s syndrome. When the report came back with a positive diagnosis, possibly in the borderline range, it was a relief after so many years of wondering why I struggle in some aspects of life more than a typical person. Asperger’s syndrome is a form of autism, which means we have a certain way of learning and we may not mature as quickly as non-autistic people. It isn’t always so obvious to recognise and is often seen as invisible.
I was advised to search for support groups and after a while, I joined the National Autistic Society. With help from my support worker, we found some workshops nearby, which really helped a lot as it was a chance to meet with others and their parents who were dealing with similar situations. We have certain talents, gifts and strengths that a lot of non-autistic people don’t, and we may see the world a bit differently to neurotypical people.
I am interested in sports and I like to play snooker and table tennis. I also play a bit of guitar and take piano lessons but mainly for pleasure rather than to be terribly brilliant. I have joined a couple of choirs – one is rock and the other is gospel. I have in recent years taken up Tai Chi, a kind of martial art which helps with balance and circulation.
I have lived in my flat at Nithdale Road since 2009. It is self-contained so I have my own space. It has a lounge, bedroom and kitchen, and I can come and go as I please.
My aim is to educate society better about the autistic community because I have still come across stigma and prejudice. I have even been refused service recently because I look young for my age and have also been accused of being under influence of alcohol when I’m not. It is unfortunate and I will tell some people in some circumstances, then they are normally alright and more lenient with me. I am also quite softly spoken, which could go against me.
I hope you have found this useful to read about my journey. I have gained much more confidence, but I still have my challenges in life. Living in supported housing has been great for me and it’s reassuring to know that Sanctuary Supported Living staff are there when I need them.
Rachel Bisase, Ross’s Project Worker, said: “Living at Nithdale Road has given Ross the independence he needs and allowed him to pursue his own interests and hobbies. He’s rightly very proud of how far he’s come and his commitment to understanding more about his autism and raising awareness is an inspiration.”