Autistic & Employed: My Journey - Chapter 2

Written by Greg Smith - Chocolatier at Harry Specters

Autistic Chocolatier

In September 2017, my Dad was attending a local food fair at Colchester Utd football ground where he met Shaz Shah from Harry Specters. They got chatting about my autistic diagnosis and my job hunt, at which point Shaz called me to share more information about the great work that Harry Specters do.

I was so excited about the opportunity and immediately emailed Shaz to ask if I could come in and see how they operate. After meeting the Shahs and going into the factory for the tour, I was offered a two week trial period working in the packaging area - I had finally begun my journey towards paid employment.

I spent the first few days meeting the team and making up chocolate boxes for online orders. Everyone worked hard on their shifts and it was nice to see us all using autism to our advantage. The last few days of the trial I spent learning to make corporate logo white chocolates. It was a challenge at first, but I enjoyed the learning curve and felt a real sense of achievement once I got the hang of making the chocolates!

In October 2017, my trial came to an end and the Shahs offered me a part time job from Monday to Wednesday 10am to 5pm. I was overjoyed and gladly accepted the offer, my first ever paid job! I had learnt a lot about myself and was excited for the next chapter.

As I settled into my new environment, I continued helping the packaging team but eventually Shaz and Mona encouraged me to continue practising making chocolates to master the basics. I was more comfortable working with the packaging team - the work was repetitive and simpler to understand, which suited my autistic brain - but I was ready for a new challenge in making the white chocolates. It was a real test of my listening skills and patience if things went wrong, and I learned how to take advice and not crack under pressure. I also got the hang of “sealing” chocolates, which was like putting the icing on the cake at the end!

As Christmas approached and more orders came through, I started making milk and dark chocolates as well as white. Of course, there were mistakes along the way but I kept learning as I went. During those first three months, I learnt so many new skills and really got to grips with the job. I was very glad to be part of a great cause and to be working with other people with autism.

Published by Shaz Shaz

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