Tag Archives: asperger’s syndrome

My role on Holby City helps change attitudes about autism – Jules

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This story is part of 30 Under 30.

 

Jules is an actor and a regular on Holby City. He also happens to have Asperger syndrome, which is a form of autism.

As part of 30 Under 30, we chatted to him about acting, attitudes and how Access All Areas helped him break into the industry.

My love of acting came from watching a lot of Steve Martin movies which made me feel really good. I also loved going to the theatre and the cinema. I watched lots of films and always thought I’d like to do something like that. Acting made me feel good about myself. I think that really inspired me.

I did a course through Access All Areas, who also now act as my agent. I made some good friends during that time and it was a really good experience because it helped my acting. I improved so much. It meant I could get to the next level.

Landing a role on Holby City

I got an audition thanks to Access All Areas who also now act as my agent. I was fabulous (as always!) and I passed the audition with flying colours. It was very challenging at the beginning because I was walking into something completely new. As the months went on I became comfortable and settled in well and I actually really like it now. I think I’ve come a long way in the last year. I always jump out of bed with enthusiasm, even though I’m leaving at half 6 in the morning.

I play Jason Haynes. He has a different type of Asperger’s to myself. I think he’s a lot geekier than I am. He’s a very nice man but he lacks confidence. I feel like I’m playing a completely different person. That’s why it’s interesting. It’s really fun on set with the cast and crew. It’s a long day but it’s good. I always feel very proud of myself at the end of the day. I feel like I’ve tried my best and done a good job. I like that lots of parents with autistic children have enjoyed it. It’s a great thing that I’ve been able to do.

Jules, a young disabled man, plays a character smiling and lying in a hospital bed on Holby City

I hope attitudes in the industry get better

There was a point where I was very frustrated with the industry because I was seeing all these films that had a character with autism and it was so often played by a neuro-typical person. In Rain Man and Black Balloon, for example, the actors in those two films don’t have the condition. It’s frustrating that directors and producers don’t do enough research because there are people out there with the conditions that can play these parts.

It’s important for disabled actors to play disabled characters, and I think they can play characters who don’t have a condition too. I want the industry to be a little bit more understanding and to not ignore autistic talent like it has done for far too long. I would say it’s improving now but it could get a lot better.

I think it’s really good that shows like Holby City are starting to look into diversity more. When I first started I saw one negative comment on Facebook, someone who followed the show who didn’t understand Asperger’s. But everyone else has been really supportive.

It’s great to have role models

Steve Martin, John Travolta and Morgan Freeman are some of my favourite actors, and Kevin Spacey, Tim Robbins, Jeff Bridges – I’ve got lots. Jim Carrey as well. All these people make me so excited to be an actor and it’s really great to have these role models because I happen to think that actors and comedians are the best people in the world.

I hope that I’m seen as a role model. I hope that I’m encouraging people with other conditions or people who are on the spectrum and have autism or mild learning difficulties. If they watch me on Holby City I hope I’m showing them that it can happen for them and they shouldn’t lose faith and hope. I’m sure they can do it if they put their mind to it.

I think that I’ve done a good job at making people more aware of autism and making it relevant in the acting world. I’m showing that if people with autism want to do this kind of work they can, and it’s not impossible.

My advice for other young disabled actors

Keep a positive frame of mind and try your best. Of course there will be hard times but you’ll get through it. Try your very best to get where you want to go. Sometimes it doesn’t work out the way you want but maybe it just takes time.

Holby City has been the highlight of my career. It’s a very rewarding job and I’m hoping that it will lead to other work in the future. It’s been my first big break really. I’d love to do movies here and in America, more TV and theatre. I’d like to do a whole variety of things.

Jules is sharing his story as part of 30 Under 30. We are releasing one story a day throughout June from disabled people under 30 who are doing extraordinary things. Keep up to date with all of our new stories on our 30 under 30 page.

Yep, my brain’s not normal… I’m in Mensa – #EndTheAwkward

Sheena smiling at camera in the countryside
Sheena

A chance encounter with a bullying ex-boss, gave Sheena the opportunity to challenge his definition of ‘normal.’

Sheena, who has Asperger’s syndrome and fibromyalgia, shares her awkward moments in support of our End the Awkward campaign.

In the early 1990s I had a manager who I got on with in many ways but who would delight in telling me, in front of other staff, that I was ‘weird’, ‘abnormal’ and that my brain didn’t work like a ‘normal’ person’s.

This was before the Disability Discrimination Act and the Equality Act gave disabled people more power to challenge discrimination. I felt powerless to do anything about his behaviour.

After a few years, I was moved to another building within the same organisation so I no longer had to suffer his torments.

In 2004, I found out I had dyslexia. It was a revelation. Because I couldn’t spell, I would stumble when reading certain words, and mix up words when speaking. I thought I really wasn’t very intelligent, despite getting through university.

But the dyslexia diagnosis debunked that myth. It gave me the courage to apply for membership to a certain well known organisation for people with high IQs. I was accepted and so was my son.

Revenge – a dish best served cold

Fast forward to the summer of 2006 and after leaving work one evening, I bumped into my ex-manager, the one who said I was ‘abnormal.’

Now they do say revenge is a dish best served cold and I’d waited a long time for this opportunity, so I called out to him in greeting and after exchanging pleasantries, the conversation went like this:

Me (as if an afterthought): “Oh, by the way, you’ve not heard which society my son and I were invited to join… well, actually we were ‘cordially invited’ to join, have you?”

Him (warily): “No…. which society?”

Me: Mensa.

Him (with a rictus smile on his face): “Congratulations.”

Me (playfully punching him on his arm, my voice bright and breezy): “You see, you were right all those years ago – my brain really doesn’t work like a ‘normal’ person’s.

And with that I walked away, floating on air, without a backward glance.

“Can you pass me that, please?”

I was in a sports shop and needed something from a top rail that I couldn’t reach from my wheelchair. The first member of staff who happened by was the store manager. I asked him if he could pass it to me: he said, “Of course, but where is your carer?” I replied: “They do let us out on our own sometimes you know!”

“Poor you”

I’d reverse parked into the designated spot on a bus. The elderly lady sitting opposite me said in a voice loud enough to be heard by the entire length of the bus, “poor you, fancy being in a wheelchair at your age.” The man sitting next to her, her son I assume, looked mortified. I responded in an equally loud voice: “Not at all, I have the disability anyway; having the chair has given me back my freedom. Without it, I’d be housebound.”

She then apologised and said she hadn’t thought about it like that. Incidentally the entire bus had looked shocked at what she said, and I got nods of approval and smiles. I didn’t take it to heart, she said it without thinking and there was a compliment in there somewhere – I was over 40 at the time and hardly a whipper-snapper!

Magic moments

It’s important to mention positive moments as well as awkward ones. I’d like to share a couple with you here.

At Christmas, I used to decorate my wheelchair with tinsel round the spokes and lights around the arms and side panels.

Waiting at the bus stop one evening in the dark, I heard a man’s voice behind me – he was talking to a child. “Look at all the pretty tinsel. Can you see it, isn’t it pretty? And look at the lights around the arms.” I started to turn them on and off to make them flash. “Look they’re flashing now, aren’t they pretty?”

I didn’t say anything, but did turn round and grin at the man who smiled back. It was wonderful that he had taken time out to show my decorated chair to his son. Hopefully with parenting like that, his son will grow up to be totally accepting of disability.

On another occasion, I wheeled past the entrance to a long drive way that had a big arch at the end. As I was going past, a teenage girl dressed as a goth was coming down the drive through the arch and so saw my chair side-on, “Wow that’s one cool chair,” she said. I grinned and thanked her.

Do you have an awkward story to share? Submit your awkward stories, and we’ll publish our favourites on our blog and social media.

Find out more about how Scope is ending the awkward this summer.

I feel like I’m going in the right direction – Felix’s story

Twenty-five year-old Felix, from East London, recently completed First Impressions, First Experiences, a pre-employment course for young disabled job-seekers. In this guest post for Learning Disability Week, Felix explains how employers’ attitudes need to change, and the importance of role-models for young disabled people. 

Felix blog
Felix is optimistic about his future career

When people think of disabled people they usually think of somebody who’s using a wheelchair. If they took their blinders off, they would realise that there’s so much more to it than that.

The first thing we need is for employers to be educated about disability.

But the other thing is for disabled candidates to strike up the confidence to tell the employer: “This is my condition, this is the support I need”. I feel like I can do that now.

First Impressions, First Experiences

Before I joined First Impressions, I was working for a firm in East London. It didn’t go well, and I realised that while my Asperger’s syndrome isn’t something I should be ashamed of, it’s not something I can just ignore. I needed some support.

Doing things like CVs and interviewing techniques has been very useful. I’ve learnt things I hadn’t even heard about, like how to disclose that you’re disabled in a positive way. First Impressions also set up a work placement for me in an office, and from my first day there I knew it was going to be a good experience.

I wasn’t just left in one place – I was in marketing, HR, IT and the general office, so I got the chance to experience different areas and juggle different things.

I definitely feel I could do that kind of job now – I can pick up the phone and talk appropriately, I can sort through mail, I can do admin and so on. But my ideal career option would be a job which enables young people to realise their potential.

Felix sitting at a boardroom table talking to an employment advisor
Felix talking with a Scope employment advisor

What I’ve learned over the past six months

You can’t compare yourself to everybody else. Can you imagine how bland and boring the world would be if everybody was the same? Everybody brings something new to the table.

You may feel that the world doesn’t understand you, but it doesn’t mean that you have to let your life go downhill.

But you do need guidance, and this is where mentoring and ongoing support becomes handy as well.

Having role models is good too – you see someone like Nick Hamilton, the racing driver who has cerebral palsy, and you realise that what you want to do is possible, you just need to go about it the right way.

I feel that what I’ve learnt from First Impressions I can build on in the future.

I’m working towards being in employment. I’ll have to be tough, because I’m not quite where I want to be yet, but I feel like I’m going in the right direction.

Find out more about Scope’s employment programmes.