Max starred in the National Autistic campaign Could You Stand The Rejection! After the campaign and the success of the video and the petition that was signed by over Thirty Thousand people the Guardian interviewed Max about his experiences and the campaign itself.
Here is the article.
Watch the eye-opening autism and employment video, and discover its star's inspirational story
An apprenticeship was the springboard to success for Max Green, the star of a new National Autistic Society film on the difficulties of getting into the workplace
When Max Green, a 19-year-old IT desktop analyst, won west Berkshire’s 2016 Apprentice of the Year award, he was both delighted and, he admits, surprised.
Just two years earlier he had left school convinced he was unemployable. “I have autism. I had no qualifications. On paper I had nothing to offer. I was very worried about the future,” recalls Max, the star of a new National Autistic Society film highlighting the difficulties facing those on the autism spectrum when looking for or staying in work.
Max knew from a school work-experience placement that he wanted to work in IT – and that he could do the job – but he believed his autism would prove a barrier. The effect on his self-esteem was terrible. “I felt worthless.”
Max’s first interviews only served to compound his fears. Being in an unknown place, surrounded by noise and bustle, facing new people and fielding a series of questions, is particularly intimidating for those on the autism spectrum who can be extra-sensitive to receiving too much information, he explains. “Despite being passionate about the subject, I always forgot everything I wanted to say. It always went terribly.”
So when Max spotted an advertisement for an apprenticeship with the Sovereign Housing Association in Newbury, he applied with low expectations of success.
“They must just have seen something in me, the determination perhaps,” he says, as he describes his delight at eventually being offered the post.
Fortunately this interview panel recognised Max’s discomfort and was unphased by the fact that he was wearing a colourful checked shirt while the other candidates were in suits. They worked hard to help him showcase his skills, for instance looking at notes he had made during his work experience and asking him to explain specific points.
Max is delighted that this support has continued ever since. He is able to take breaks outside when he feels his stress level rising. He also knows he can talk to his boss privately, should he have any worries.
“Knowing where to turn when I’m not sure how I should react to something is so reassuring,” he explains. Learning the unwritten social rules of the workplace – often so baffling to those on the autism spectrum – and getting to grips with “office banter” are challenging. “People sometimes have to tell me when it’s a joke, but I’m getting much better at it,” says Max.
A series of small changes have helped alleviate some of the sensory issues, which initially worried Max. He has adjusted his hours to avoid travelling on crowded peak-time buses – a previous source of anxiety – and chooses to wear his telephone headset at all times, to reduce noise.
Max and his boss discussed whether they should disclose his autism to colleagues. “There are positives and negatives both ways, but I wanted people to get to know me just as me first. I tell people who ask or who I feel will offer support, but I don’t want people prejudging me or treading on eggshells.”
Two years on, and with his apprenticeship now converted into a fulltime role, Max feels very much at home.
“It feels like a family. I love the fact that most people are aware, that there is so much support, but that they don’t treat me differently. I can do the job just as well as anyone else – if not better!”
Max is joking, but he does believe that some of his success is because of, rather than in spite of, his autism. An unusually good memory, attention to detail and an ability to think in unusual ways in the face of problems are all helpful.
Having felt isolated at school, he particularly enjoys the opportunity to interact with customers in a structured way. “I love helping people and I understand that things can be difficult so I am very empathetic,” he says. “They respond very well to that.”
Alongside his IT job, Max is also a keen part-time actor. “In a way I’ve had to act my entire life, learning to fit in, so I’m quite good at it,” he says. While Max has several TV credits – and the new National Autistic Society film, which shows what a job interview looks like from an autistic person’s point of view – he has also notched up over 1,000 rejection emails. They only fuel a determination he hopes others on the spectrum can share.
“It’s such a waste of talent if we don’t all do what we’re capable of,” he says. “We need to help everyone to thrive. We are dealt our cards in life, but it is what we do with them that makes us who we are.”
Find out how you can help: the National Autistic Society is asking everyone to make one small change to help reduce the overload for autistic people.
To find out more about autism and the change you can make, visit autism.org.uk/tmi