Work woes for Dorset Asperger's patient
- 3 January 2012
- From the section Dorset
For graduate Martin Hedley who has Asperger's syndrome being unemployed for the past 10 years is a situation he cannot understand.
"I did a degree... but I've got a debt of £14,000 and I'm on benefits - that's completely mental," he says.
He is among about 88% of people with the condition who are currently unemployed in Britain, according to the National Autistic Society.
The 44-year-old singer-songwriter from Weymouth, Dorset, has been out of work since he was diagnosed.
He was previously working as a mechanic and a self-employed wood turner but has struggled to find suitable employment since his diagnosis.
Asperger's is a form of high-functioning autism, which often leads to intelligent and capable people struggling with social situations.
'Like a curse'
Common workplace problems, like a change of routine, can make them stressed and anxious.
"My brain never ever stops analysing things, over and over and over again," Mr Hedley said.
"In that sense it is like a curse because it just never ever stops."
After years of failing to find employment, Mr Hedley decided to set up his own community project to renovate a historic building in Weymouth.
"I couldn't see that I could be employed, but what I could do is provide my own employment and that's how this project started," he said.
He attracted a team of volunteers and used his own skills to start renovating the Old Town Hall in Weymouth into a community arts centre after raising £43,000.
He also got his 15-year-old daughter Rowan to help.
She has first-hand experience of seeing her father cope with Asperger's.
She said: "He's quite child-like in a way, but he's not being immature.
"It is very stressful, you have to always be completely honest and open [with him].
"[The renovation] is a really good thing to be doing together, which I am passionate about myself."
In 2010, the Department of Health published its first ever strategy for adults with autism in England.
It looked at ways to help sufferers find work and has led to Job Centre employment advisers getting extra training.
Mr Hedley has now resigned from the project due to a number of issues but the renovation is continuing.
All this week BBC South is featuring stories from people with Asperger's and high-functioning autism to show what life is like for them behind closed doors.