Blog

The Effects of Covid-19 Lockdown on one Autistic

When we first went into lockdown, I thought how wonderful that would be;

no social interaction, no face-to-face business interactions, just sitting quietly in my house all day with my furry cats, Kevin and Woof.

This could not have been further from the truth!!!

Zoom and more Zoom and even more Zoom. The wife even Zoomed me today to help me wrestle a website into submission. Now don’t get me wrong, I love Zoom, it’s a brilliant piece of technology and we couldn’t keep our business going without it.

We see all our clients over Zoom, along with our business networking, which is proving to be quite profitable. We joined the Federation of Small Businesses this week thanks to a lovely gentleman, Lee Harrington, that we met through the Twilight networking group.

I think a lot of people who have no personal experience of autism believe that autistics don’t particularly like social interaction or eye contact, but for some of us that couldn’t be further from the truth. Though I don’t particularly like large social gatherings, and wouldn’t dream of going to a nightclub, I do like to be around people especially if I have a role to play. In the past when I used to go to church, I was always in charge of serving the tea and coffee. And when I used to do face-to-face business networking, I normally had a role, collecting the money, leading the group or the whole area, sometimes even all three.

During lockdown I have really missed people, and even though I enjoy Zoom it’s not quite the same as sitting in the same room with other human beings. I am not looking forward to not being able to have my friends come over for coffee or a meal for the next month.

Luckily my hairdresser managed to squeeze the family in last night for home haircuts, so we don’t all end up looking like hairy monsters like we did last lockdown.

Sadly, we’ve had to cancel a five-day holiday to Camber Sands for the second time. We’ve also postponed visits to both mine and Jane’s parents until hopefully we can travel to see them before Christmas.

But this post isn’t all doom and gloom, all of our clients have agreed to go on to, yes, Zoom, making our income secure. Today Jane finished her corrections for her PhD. One of our young men is still able to go to work and the other two are still studying. We have each other, we have our family and friends, to Zoom with. We can still go shopping and go out walking for exercise. At the time of writing, we all have good health with no Covid-19 symptoms, nor do any of our family and friends.

So, within our own little bubble life is continuing, with love and maybe the odd disagreement, but overall, we will survive, no, more than survive, this epidemic.

As you read this, we send you love, kindness and the hope of good health. Follow the rules, stay safe, be kind to one another. These days will pass, and things will return to normal; we don’t know when, but they will.

The Changing Face of Business Networking

 

With the many restrictions, due to COVID-19, across the country, business networking has had to change.

Back in the day when I started my networking journey I physically went to small, local breakfast meetings. As my experience and confidence grew, I tried networking groups that had multiple meeting points across the country. Here I found the format very similar to the more localised groups but, in some cases, the companies were outside my scope. For instance, the IOD (Institute of Directors) is a great group of business people but bigger than my then very small telecoms and IT business could expect to do business with. Likewise, a networking group that specialises in the smaller, arts, crafts, and home based companies may also not be suitable for some businesses and services.

It is extremely important to know your demographics when doing business networking. A great pitch is not enough if you cannot deliver the goods.

In todays market there are still a few socially distanced groups meeting to have breakfast together, but on the whole most groups have gone onto internet platforms like Zoom, sadly without food ☹

So, what do you need to know about attending business networking groups?

Firstly, research the groups available to get one that’s a good fit with your chosen market and yourself (some groups will allow you one or two tasters). So for me, after attending a few other Zoom networking meetings (other virtual platforms are available), I found my home at the business networking group called Twilight https://www.i-nutrition.co.uk/twilight-networking-events/. One of the advantages of this group is the option to turn up 15 minutes early and meet with two other businesses in a small group room. This also helps in getting known and knowing others and judging how inclusive and friendly the networking group might be.

Secondly, check how much it will cost you to join your preferred networking group. Some groups charge a membership fee plus a meeting fee, whilst others only charge you for the meetings you attend, as with Twilight. To join this week’s meeting, click here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/twilight-networking-zoom-meeting-thursday-22nd-oct-2020-from-545pm-tickets-108749354246

Thirdly, prepare your pitch. Sixty seconds is the normal amount of time allowed. The format could be similar to this; your name, the name of your company, and what your company provides. If there’s a specific type of client you’re looking for this would  be a good time to ask. Always be polite, try to avoid acronyms as most people don’t know what they mean, and most importantly avoid the words; just, should and umm! It is also helpful if you can speak without reading from a script. Oh! And smile 😊 Many groups also have a 10 minute slot for one business, at each meeting, to give a longer explanation of what the company does. This can usually be done with or without PowerPoint slides. You will need to let the group leader know that you would like to do one of these slots as there may be a waiting list.

Next think about the 1-2-1s you would like to have. This is the most important part of business networking. Look for companies that you feel you have a mutual two way link with. It is not just about selling your products, it is also about helping others sell theirs. It might not be a product you require but it may be a product one of your clients might benefit from. Though I am relatively new to Twilight, I have already had a couple of 1-2-1 meetings, and have four more booked into my diary. Zoom also has a chat function which Twilight posts into their Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/groups/twilightnetworking making it easy to connect on LinkedIn and Twitter as well.

And finally, support your group and their leaders. Invite other businesses along, promote using social media platforms and blogs, and if there are any problems deal with them privately with the relevant people, never, ever in public, as this will reflect badly on you and your company.

It would be great to see you at one of the Twilight meetings I attend fortnightly https://www.twilightnetworking.co.uk/ (the next meeting is on Thursday 22nd October at 5:45 PM) It is easy to book on (see Eventbrite link above). It only costs £5 per meeting, with no additional fees. The group is light and friendly but serious about doing business.

Joyce CoomberSewell

Alien in the House

Are you an older person who has always wondered why you’re a little ‘weird’ and ‘odd’ compared to the other people around you?

Even as a child I wondered if I had been dropped by aliens from another planet. I always felt like I was on the outside of every group, be it school, St John’s Ambulance Brigade, Girl Guides or at 15 years old starting work. This progressed throughout my life, in my marriage(s), having children, even running my own successful company.

 

Then the grandchildren arrived…I have 11 grandchildren and 6 are diagnosed as autistic. Aha! and here all was revealed…

At 1st I thought there was no point in being diagnosed at my mature age, late 50’s, but then I realised that I could be the example these young people needed. Being autistic needn’t stop you being happy and having a fulfilling life.

To be honest it was not an easy straightforward process. I started this adventure by going to see my GP and being referred for an initial assessment. In my early 40’s I had already been diagnosed with a higher than average IQ and dyslexia  and now they also added ADHD and dyspraxia. To obtain an autistic diagnosis I had to wait for another appointment further up the medical chain.

Some months later this appointment, with 3 questionnaires, came about. The medical chap asked me what my 1st thought had been when I met him. Now I know the ‘correct’ answer should have been something safe, maybe complimentary, but I was here for an autism diagnosis, so I decided to be honest!!!!

My thought, I said, was “why hadn’t he ironed his shirt?”

You can imagine this did not go down well with this young man, as he stroked the front of his very crinkled shirt.

One of the questionnaires was to be filled in by someone who knew me between the age of 5 and 12. Whilst this might have been possible for some, me being slightly older with no living parents and only estranged siblings, this was not possible.

Eventually my letter came to say though he was 98% positive I was autistic because of not having the questionnaire filled in he could not give me the diagnosis.

And so, the processs had to be restarted. Back to the GP I went and this time I was referred to the Maudsley Hospital. 2yrs later, now being over 60, I received an appointment with again the 3 questionnaires, 1 of which I still couldn’t get filled in.

This time, the 1st appointment was all about copying shapes, making up stories from pictures and general  chat. Several months later my 2nd appointment arrived, this time with a psychologist, no crinkled shirt this time.

A couple of months later my full diagnosis arrived.

Now you might be saying “that’s a lot of rigmarole to go through”, but there again my grandchildren are worth it, plus so am I.

I have discovered a lot about myself over the intervening years, why I am the way I am, why people react around me the way they do, why I think how I think, why I stim, why I mask. This has all helped me feel less ‘weird’ less ‘odd’.

So, if you relate to any of this maybe it’s time for your adventure of getting diagnosed.

It is that time of year

It is that time of year when we are thinking of starting or returning to University. Hopefully Student Finance England have approved your application, but did you know that you can also apply for DSA – Disabled Student’s Allowance?

To qualify for DSA you will need a current, medical diagnosis. This can include physical as well as neurological conditions and mental health issues.

Once your application to DSA has been made you will be required to attend an assessment with a local assessors’ company. This appointment is extremely important as the assessor will be looking at what you need whilst undertaking your course. At this point I would like to add if you are already part way through your degree you can still apply for DSA.

There are many things that the assessor can recommend for you. These might include; a laptop, software, a guide, mentoring, a reader or scribe, study skills, in fact the list is extremely long and will be fashioned to your particular needs.

Once your assessment has been completed the assessor will send the report to DSA where it will be looked at and approved where possible. DSA will then allocate different companies to supply the recommended equipment and support. This will be sent to you by letter, called a DSA2.

It is then your responsibility to contact the companies allocated to arrange delivery of equipment along with training on how to use the equipment. You would also need to contact the companies allocated for your support needs. For example, if you are allocated mentoring, study skills or any other services with CoomberSewell Enterprises, you would then ring us on 07789685185 or email us on info@coombersewell.co.uk to arrange an initial meeting to discuss dates, times and venues for meetings. Due to the current Covid pandemic we are meeting all our clients on Zoom (except for library assistance, of course). Meetings normally take place once a week during semesters, at a mutually agreed time. After each meeting your non-medical helper would complete two pieces of paperwork, one is an overview of the session and the second is to document the date, time and location of the meeting. These would then be posted to you once a month for your approval and signature. On your returning them to us we would submit an invoice to DSA for payment.

It is important to remember that although you are not paying, DSA is, you will have entered into a contract with us for services, so signing and returning is your part of the contract.

We hope that with this explanation of the DSA system, you now feel confident to start or continue this part of your University journey.