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Working with TS.

Posted Tue 2nd Apr 2019 at 08:35
by Paul Ashcroft


Retiree, Paul Ashcroft, talks about his lifetime of working with TS and the positive skills he brought to his roles.

I am now 64 and retired, but worked between ages 18-60, with only a short break (mentioned below). I was perhaps lucky starting my working life in 1972, when unemployment was low and people, by and large, got the first job they sought. That said, and recognising that my choice of the public sector did give somewhat greater chances of ethical employment practice (not that many employers in the private sector aren’t ethical too) I shall attempt to highlight my experience of some of the TS-specific challenges that work brings; and shall discuss what I see as the benefits.

I entered local government in Liverpool, aged 18, in the clerical grades. I did have to deal with a degree of emotional maladjustment (as many with TS do) and was inclined to be more anxious than most 18 year olds. I did struggle to “fit in” at first; but found that a willingness to learn and roll my sleeves up did pay off (as is the wider general experience).

I did find that, alongside a tendency to be anxious, I generally struggled to multi-task - I think that this will be a common experience for TS sufferers, with the influence of OCD. I also found, however, that a tendency to be very analytical and thorough (OCD a factor again?) gave me a strength which not everyone possesses.

I spent 27 years with Liverpool Council, qualifying with a University Diploma, and getting to Principal Officer level (middle management) by my mid-30s. During a period of exceptional organisational instability the late 1990s, I became too ill, with work-related stress, to continue, and retired on ill-health grounds, aged 45. This turned out to be a blessing.

With a good pension (quite early in life) and recovering quickly, once I was away from the abnormal pressures in a very troubled organisation, I returned to work, this time in the NHS, where I remained for nearly 13 years, before taking the option to retire at 60. Although I found both careers stressful at times (who doesn’t?) I would encourage anyone who fears that an illness/disability (TS or otherwise) might be an obstacle to a good career, to play to their strengths; bear in mind that many employers/managers are mature enough to recognise that all employees brings both strengths and weaknesses to the workplace; and also to remember that clinical interventions - pharmacological and therapeutic- can, and do, help, including in relation to work.

I know that many with TS find work extremely difficult, and in many cases impossible. The severity and range of symptoms in each case is clearly a huge factor. I do suggest that the (post-DDA) Equalities Act offers the possibility of better experience of working life for those with TS. I also think that it offers employers the chance to tap into pools of talent which might previously been denied them. In the case of prospective employees with TS, and in the wake of this legislation, perhaps more organisations will be able to avail themselves of staff with exceptional qualities of meticulousness, attention to detail, thoroughness; indeed all the skills of the archetypal “completer-finisher”? (You can probably tell that I’ve attended a few management courses over the years!)

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