I first met Will in 2016 when we spent a week together on a life skills/coaching course.
I was struck by how energetic and determined this young man presented and was curious to get to know him. He was extremely well-spoken and we soon discovered that we had both had similar experiences in our lives, which prompted the immediate conversation.
We exchanged numbers and then thought nothing more of it for a time.
When we did reconnect we discussed running workshops together, however, it soon became apparent that we were comfortable in each other’s company and after about 6 months of me visiting Will in Cardiff, we decided a full time working commitment would be possible.
When I started spending more time in Wales, and as I got to know Will, I gained a greater understanding of the difficulties his conditions created for him and the struggles he has had to be accepted in society. I also started to realise I couldn’t always understand what he was saying, which despite me knowing about the Aspergers, struck me as odd, as he presents as extremely articulate. However, communication is a 2-way conversation and as I was soon to discover, there are so many layers and subtle nuances to communication and everything is not always as things may seem when taken at face value.
I also noticed a kind of unspoken language, where people seemed to know what the other was saying without saying it. Something I don’t remember being really aware of before, maybe it had always been there and was so normal I simply had been oblivious. I had not knowingly had problems with accents or communication as more often than not I would end up speaking with a tinge of the local accent within days of being somewhere.
I was confused, as up until that point in my life I thought I had been able to communicate fairly well. Although, I had become aware at university that I had terrible listening skills, as more often than not I would be distracted by my own thoughts of what I needed to get for my shopping.
Then I started to recall times in my life whereby I had conversations in which I wouldn’t make sense or had absolutely no idea of what was being said.
So coming to Wales and working with someone who has a social communication disorder was a big step in understanding deficits within my own communication.
With Will, when we had issues communicating I often asked myself what can I learn here? There were times when we would both experience huge frustration in our conversations, however, Will was really good at helping me overcome this, by becoming better able to talk through things. And likewise, he also was very good at helping me realise that the frustration we both experienced was with ourselves and not with each other. Which is a massive step in not making disagreements personal and or emotive.
Working with Will has been an absolute privilege as I have gained so much insight into the different levels and ways of communication. His patience with me and allowing me the space to grieve my parents whilst at the same time giving me an incredible opportunity has been so greatly appreciated.
In helping me recognise my strengths, in helping him gain a focus in his life and in coming to terms with not being Wonder Woman, and trying to excel in all areas of my life, (which often subsequently left me ending up not getting much done as a result), I have also regained a focus in my own life.
We have gained so much from working together and although it hasn’t always been easy, it has been an extremely worthwhile journey, one which needs to be shared with others, as we both have absolute certainty in our hearts this can change the lives of so many others.
Will is an inspiration, someone who has gone through so much in his life and yet been able to acknowledge his challenges, be open and honest about his vulnerabilities and truly overcome adversity to develop himself and become the person he is today.
To be able to support him in developing Living With Aspergers to bring about change for future generations is an absolute honour and I am excited for what the future may hold.