Interview #4 - Jade Pitchford-Waters Autistic Advocate

In the 4th installment of our interview series, we met with Jade Pitchford-Waters to discuss the barriers and success as an autistic adult. Also, we discuss inclusion for assistance animals and accessibility in the UK versus the US.

Have you heard of the sunflower lanyard in the UK to identify people with invisible disabilities? Learn more here:

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The transcript starts here.....

>>Tas 0:08

Today we are with Jade. And she has been kind

enough to meet with us and talk about her

advocacy work, what she does as an autistic

adult for her community, and some other fun

things that we will talk about today. So I

guess the first question if for our audience,

you could share, what is it that you do for

a living?

>>Jade 0:33

so I work in local government in Adult Social

Care. So we have an autism hub for autistic

adults about a co occurring learning disability.

So I coordinate that hub and signpost, people

and help with advice and guidance.

Tas 0:47

Wonderful. So with that being your, your career, what is your focus? As far as advocacy? Do

you have a specific type of advocacy that you are really passionate about?

>>Jade 1:02

I think at the moment, because of

having an assistance dog, it's kind of, it's

kind of focused on that, but I've just got

a new diagnosis of Ehlers danlos, I'm kind

of starting to learn about that. And maybe

I kind of like drift into that as well. I

mean, I talk about autism a lot, especially,

because a lot of people don't think having

autistic. Because they think I so mask so well.

so well, and that I kind of like to just challenge

people a little bit. So I do a lot of training for different, like mental health services

and stuff where they always throws them. When they find out. I'm autistic after I've been

talking about autism for like an hour.

>>Tas 1:39

Yeah, that is something we really relate to,

because we have that same reaction from people.

And so we have done that, as well, as specifically

when we've done advocacy, as far as in our

community with transportation. We did a poll

a couple years back, and we just walked up

to random bus drivers and said, What do you

know about autism? And then people would share

their opinions. And then we say, I'm autistic.

Does that surprise you? It does, it really

does. surprise people. So we relate to that

for sure. And so as far as advocacy goes,

What is your personal philosophy on inclusion?

For people that are autistic or neurodiverse?

As far as education, employment health care?

(technical issues with the audio) Oh, sorry. Oh, hold on, let me know, soon.

Please. Audio work today. Okay, there we go. Um, as far as your personal philosophy, for

Oh, can you hear me?

>> Jade I can hear you.

>> Tas As far as what's your personal philosophy as far

as inclusion for people that are neurodiverse, or autistic in regards to just everyday life,

education, employment and health care services that neurotypical people have access to?

>>Jade 3:07

I think I'm very into, like, my laws around disability. And previously, I worked in education,

and there's quite, there's quite a set laws for for education for young people and what

they should have access to. And that that's, I think people have fought for that for quite

a while. And that kind of just feeds into what I think. So it's just about everything being inclusive. And there shouldn't be like excuses, like why you can't, I don't know,

put a ramp in and why you can't make an adjustment for someone like this, you should just do

it. And I get really frustrated when people don't. And I think I know, I know, there's

bits where I should improve on being inclusive. But I like I'm trying to, but I think it's

just about always trying your best. And if you're not sure, asking people is really key.

>>Tas 3:58

That's so true. Have you seen any improvements as far as your experience and your community? Have there been some, I guess, strides of inclusivity that have been tried in different areas?

>>Jade 4:14

No, it's not as good as it could be. I'm hoping

it might change in September because there's

a new law coming out around autism. So I'm

hoping that will push some more change. I

mean, in healthcare, they've brought out a

bit of guidance, which tells professionals

how they what they need to know about autism and how they need to work with autistic people. But because it's so new people aren't fully following it yet, which is frustrating,

but I think it will get it's just I think it's starting to be on people's agendas suddenly

over this past year.

>>Tas 4:48

Definitely. I think one thing we've noticed,

is post pandemic. It's kind of opened a lot

of people's eyes. I saw someone put it really

well. They said the pandemic has helped employers,

and just for health care and employment realize

that they can be inclusive. They just didn't

want to before. And so it really revealed

that there's so much more that can be done.

And for inclusion, so. And with your personal

experiences you've earned various higher education

degrees you have, would you like to share

with the audience, just briefly what degrees

you have and what they're in.

>>Jade 5:44

Um so I have a Bachelor of Arts in fine art. I have

a foundation degree in special educational

needs and disabilities. I have a postgraduate

certificate in special inclusive education.

And I was doing a postgraduate certificate,

which in teaching, but I dropped out of that,

because it's just with the pandemic, it was

just too much.

>>Tas 6:07

Yeah, definitely it. We understand having

to sometimes pause things. And that was a really

stressful time for sure. So that's definitely

understandable. And but you have earned so

many degrees. So one of the things that we

have noticed is, there can be some stigma

around being autistic and actually going into

college and being at university. Were there

any barriers that you faced during your educational

journey? And how did you overcome them?

>>Jade 6:42

I mean, I didn't have my diagnosis. When I

was at university, I knew I knew I was autistic.

But I was just struggling to get a diagnosis

because the system has kind of low. But I

think I really struggled. So my first degree

I ended up, I mean, after the first six months,

for the rest of the three years, I didn't

go in, because it was just too much. And it

was too stressful. But I think they realized

that I don't think they don't if they knew

I was autistic, but they realized t