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An inspiring story of workplace inclusion

West Lea is an organisation dedicated to helping young people with Special Educational Needs or an Education and Health Care Plan. They offer individuals aged 16-24 the chance to gain work experience through their Supported Internship Programme with partner organisations.

We’re thrilled to have recently welcomed Ellie to our team as a cleaner in our London region through the internship programme offered by West Lea. Ellie, who lives in North London, faces challenges with dyslexia and global development delay. She also has epilepsy and experiences absence seizures where she may appear to be daydreaming, but she cannot listen to what is being said. Despite these obstacles, Ellie aspires to attend university in the future. She believes that gaining experience in a professional setting will equip her with the necessary skills to achieve her academic goals.

During the initial stages of her internship, Ellie faced challenges in finding her way to work due to her lack of familiarity with the area. This unfamiliarity led to her feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of commuting. Fortunately, Djanila, her dedicated job coach, provided invaluable support through personalised travel training sessions. With Djanila’s patient guidance and encouragement, Ellie gained the necessary skills and confidence to navigate her daily commute independently, empowering her to travel to and from work with ease. This tailored approach not only eased Ellie’s transition into her internship but also fostered a sense of independence and self-assurance in her ability to tackle new challenges head-on.

When Ellie initially joined the team, she shadowed Djanila to gain a thorough understanding of the tasks and expectations. Through observation and guidance from Djanila, Ellie gradually grew more comfortable and familiar with her duties, gaining the confidence needed to execute them independently. This gradual transition allowed Ellie to adapt at her own pace, ensuring that she felt secure and capable in her position. Ellie shared how she appreciated this approach, acknowledging, “My dyslexia and global developmental delay may mean I don’t pick things up right away, but the team has been patient with me. When I’m shown repeatedly and given the chance to practice, I begin to understand and improve.”

When asked how Churchill has supported her during her internship so far, she replied: “Churchill has been incredibly supportive, particularly in accommodating my epilepsy and understanding my absence seizures. They have been exceptionally welcoming and friendly, making me feel like an integral part of the team by introducing me to other team members.”

Djanila explained how they ensure Ellie has extra time to learn new skills and patiently explain things to her, empowering her to work to the best of her ability and reassuring her that she’s fully capable of doing the job, even if it takes a bit more time. Ellie shared, “I found certain tasks challenging, like sweeping and mopping, as I hadn’t done them before. I tended to bend my back a lot because I’m quite flexible. Djanila taught me the correct technique, and now I’m standing straighter, and my mopping has become much faster.”

Ellie shared her struggles with self-doubt, expressing how she never wants to disappoint anyone. As a result, she sometimes repeats tasks multiple times to ensure she gets them right. Her conscientious nature and commitment to meeting expectations shine through, illustrating her determination to perform at her best despite grappling with moments of uncertainty.

Through partnerships like the one with West Lea, individuals like Ellie are provided with invaluable opportunities to gain confidence, develop essential skills, and thrive professionally. Ellie’s story underscores the importance of patience and tailored support in accommodating neurodiversity in the workplace. Djanila’s unwavering support and guidance empowered Ellie to navigate challenges, build resilience, and ultimately excel in her role.

By fostering a culture of inclusivity and embracing the unique strengths of everyone, we can cultivate environments where everyone feels valued and empowered to reach their full potential.

If you missed our previous blog on our partnership with West Lea, you can read it here.