Stepping into Work: With the right support behind her, April Ryan is working towards becoming a translator.

Stepping into Work: With the right support behind her, April Ryan is working towards becoming a translator.

My name is April and I come armed with a 2.1 in English Literature and Spanish, as well as qualifications in Catalan, French and Japanese. I also happen to have Asperger syndrome (AS) and developmental dyspraxia.

I hoped to work in translation, but that requires more than simply looking at one text and transforming it into its foreign equivalent. You have to build good rapport with people and know how to juggle projects. My Asperger’s was actively working against these skills.

Disabled, but enabled in many other ways, I was thrown out into the job market. At job interviews (where people complimented my ‘fantastic’ applications) I would stutter and flounder over every question. I started to believe that having AS rendered me automatically

In March 2013 I joined Step into Work Plus, a programme geared specifically towards the needs of job seekers on the autistic spectrum. Being the only girl in my group made me feel very nervous, but within the first couple of weeks we were stuck into every single project imaginable and all became good friends.

We were exposed to numerous tasks and activities. I discovered I excelled in memory and spelling games, but anything to do with spatial awareness and timekeeping, I flunked. Then my team was chosen to create a micro business. Having dyspraxia as well as AS, I would not have thought for one second that I could set up my own business making jewellery. But
there I was, selling handmade bracelets and necklaces to people both in person and online.

I did a work placement with the FACT arts centre in Liverpool and was thrown head first into a gallery role. I learned how to work with people. People – the one group I had learned to fear the most!

I also became an assistant facilitator for Connected, a social group for people with
AS, and started volunteering as a reader in a care home.

Time was set aside for career planning and I discovered I needed additional qualifications in translation. For once though, I did not feel fazed by the challenge of doing something new. I applied for a Masters in Hispanic Studies and received an unconditional offer.

Translation is still my ultimate target and I believe that I will be a good contender for work. I’ve even secured a work placement in Spain during the summer holidays. Step into Work Plus has given me the tools to achieve all of this along with a fantastic network of support. Two years ago I felt too frightened to apply for work and dreaded walking into the
Jobcentre, but now picture this: a girl with AS unafraid of the unknown.

Step into Work Plus is run by the Wirral Autistic Society ( For further information, please contact programme manager Beverley Breen on 0151 5592399

Article first posted in enable magazine – May/June 2014.