Business Disability Forum in association with the Royal Bank of Scotland in Edinburgh is delighted to be able to offer new career development courses specifically designed for disabled people. The programme will be delivered by highly experienced personal development coach and Business Disability Forum Ambassador, Phil Friend and his non-disabled colleague Dave Rees, a trained expert in neuro linguistic programming.
Read about Jack Whyman Farina’s experience – in his own words – of the programme below:
“I work for RBS in Finance as a Reference Data Manager. We look at the systems and general ledger of the bank and end to end systems to ensure everything is going smoothly. If everything is working you shouldn’t need to know we exist
When it was first suggested to me that I should go on Phil Friend’s career development course for disabled employees I didn’t think I would get much from it, I was quite content and didn’t think there was much for me to learn. It was talking to one of the co-chairs of ENABLE, the staff disability network that changed my mind. If a senior manager like him had found it useful who was I to say no to going? He said the course had given him a greater understanding about other people. Learning more about empathy made him approach situations differently and he felt it gave him an additional string to his bow.
I wasn’t 100% sure what I was expecting from the course. I was a little worried that it was going to be a bit too basic. I was content with who I was. I’ve contacted organisations outside RBS for advice such as the Number 6 Autism Initiative charity in Edinburgh where I met someone who helped me to understand my diagnosis of Asperger’s. Basically I didn’t have high expectations of the course.
My biggest fear was that it would all be classroom style learning. At school I found this style of teaching really difficult because I learn in a very interactive and cognitive way. I have dyspraxia as well as Asperger’s so a “copy and paste into your notebook” way of learning really doesn’t work for me. At school, homework that should have taken twenty minutes took me two hours. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Phil and David, his co-trainer, involve everyone from the outset and the whole course is completely interactive.
People with Asperger’s stereotypically find empathy difficult and I found this the most challenging part of the course. I was feeling quite content with who I was but I was with individuals, all at different levels within the bank who were at very different stages of their impairment. Some were very raw and upset and others, like me, were happy and content with their lives. I was worried that I wasn’t going to be able to empathise because I wouldn’t understand their situation. I think the dictionary definition of empathy is very arrogant. How can anyone know how someone else feels?
I still don’t believe I know how others feel but the biggest breakthrough for me was learning about the Kubler-Ross Grief Curve on the course. Phil and David showed us a visual bell curve and graph. The Kübler-Ross model talks about the five stages of grief that most people experience when faced with any sort of loss such as a bereavement or relationship breakdown, job loss or acquiring a disability. The five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
It was a revelation for me and I learned too that I’m different. I go from shock to acceptance skipping the other stages and then move onto how to get on with it. This struck me so hard because they explained by way of an example. If there are going to be redundancies in an organisation, the manager gets told first. They then go through the curve earlier and are ahead of staff who find out later so when their staff are going through denial and anger, the manager might have moved onto acceptance and will want people to get on with it when they are not ready. People need time to go through the curve in their own time. This was huge for me because I don’t go through that curve but I got to see what a neuro typical person would go through. This helped me to see that although I think I’m being constructive and moving forwards, others might need longer to go through stuff in their head.
People on the course were at different stages in their lives. We all learned the same information but everyone took something useful away from it. The course worked for people who had just acquired their impairment through to people like me who had a lifelong condition. That was why it was so impressive
I would 100% recommend this course to other disabled people. I have a mentee who has Asperger’s and I’ve signed him up for the course. He’s probably not as far through the cycle as I am and still feels nervous about his condition. I took so much from that course and for him to be able to get those things that I’ve tried to say to him re-affirmed in a far more eloquent way will really assist him.
Since the course I have been promoted from Systems Analyst to Reference Data Manager. That was not all Phil’s doing, I played a part (!) but the course helped me to articulate things I was already confident that I could do. As a Manager I can now cascade what I’ve learned to the team. It’s not about saying things exactly the way Phil did but evolving and taking what was on the course and putting it in my own words. I use stories from my own life to help other individuals with their work and environment.
I was diagnosed quite late when I was 22. I’m only 25 now. The reason I got diagnosed was because of my partner. There were things I didn’t understand about her and that she didn’t understand about me. My diagnosis was an Epiphany. It allowed her and me to do some research and work out how we should go forward and deal with each other. We now have an amazing relationship and hardly ever argue and when we do, it’s very matter of fact and we agree to disagree. That was a huge moment in my life and I feel like this course was the next chapter. It took me from a basic to an intermediate level in my understanding of myself and to the next level of growth.”