Sébastien, with autism, “I feel more integrated”

Sébastien has Asperger syndrome. For the past few months, he has been working at the shop of the Witoa association in Toulouse. Initially a volunteer, Sébastien will soon be hired as an employee. He tells us about his everyday experience and what he gets out of it.
 
Sébastien,
 
How long have you worked for the shop? What do your tasks include?

Since the start, in late November 2015, as a volunteer. The shop opened on 5 December. I do all sorts of things in the shop, like welcoming customers, sales, taking money, orders, inventory management, communications.
 

How did you find out about the shop?

I found out about the project through my Asperger leisure group, . I then met Carine Mantoulan, who is director of the InPACTS association and the shop.
 

How did it go when you first started?

Very well. I immediately felt comfortable. Starting as a volunteer and being able to choose how much time I gave meant I could get used to the project without feeling stressed, even though the idea of joining the workforce always made me feel anxious. At Witoa, they let you do things at your own pace. Before long, I wanted to devote more time to the shop, and in September the association is going to hire me.
 

What is your relationship like with others?

I have a good relationship with the others – Bernard, the project manager who supported us, the other adults with Asperger’s and other disabilities, and the customers. I was also a tutor for a 17-year old, which went really well.

Sébastien shop witoa Toulouse autism

"At Witoa, they let you do things at your own pace"

 

What were you doing before you joined the shop?

I’ve only ever had odd jobs before, nothing serious. The anxiety is mainly due to change and the difficulties of being accepted by the workforce. This is caused by a lack of understanding of autism unaccompanied by intellectual disability.
Over the past few years I’ve been working in favour of the cause of Asperger’s autism, and I take part in work groups to set up support projects for people with autism unaccompanied by intellectual disability.

 

Does the infrastructure and work help you to feel more integrated?

Yes. I feel more integrated simply because I feel useful in the shop and can help customers.
 

How has working in the shop––the first of its kind in Toulouse––helped you?
Working in the shop has helped me to realise I can develop my skills in this new field, and it’s helped me to gain confidence in myself. I’ve had some really interesting discussions with customers and colleagues.
 

What would you like to say or share with people reading this article?
If you’re looking for books or games, come and see us at Witoa! You’ll see what people with autism or other disabilities are capable of. It’s also a show of solidarity because all the profits go to the association InPACTS. And if you yourself have Asperger’s, all the more reason to come along! You’re always welcome.

 

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