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Gwent Resident Overcomes Autism Spectrum Disorder's Barriers to Follow Career Dreams

After repeatedly being told that her Autism Spectrum Disorder and sight and hearing impairments mean she could never work in an office, Alys Key made it her mission to prove them wrong. Now, having completed a six-month work experience placement with the Patient Experience and Involvement Team at Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, Alys has realised that her dream of a job in administration is well within her grasps.

Alys, who is from Pontypool, said:

“I studied business admin at Pontypool College because I knew I wanted to get into office work. Upon leaving, I did some volunteering placements but they never lasted long because there wasn’t much I could do.

“Because of my hearing impairment and my Asperger’s, it’s hard for me to process things on the phone. So if someone would call me and ask me a question, I’d have to make sure I’ve heard them correctly, think how I’m responding to them, and because that takes a lot of time, people think you haven’t heard them so they’ll talk again and I’ve got to think again.

“I was constantly told ‘because you can’t use the phone, office work is a no-go really, it’s not appropriate and you should look somewhere else.’ But I knew that I could do other things in the office. I can communicate in person, via email and via [Microsoft] Teams, so I knew I had the communications skills there, just not necessarily on the phone.”


Having approached Aneurin Bevan University Health Board to secure a work experience placement, Alys completed a six-month placement as an administration assistant within the Patient Experience and Involvement Team, at County Hospital in Griffithstown, Pontypool.

Alys said: “They were very helpful. I explained the issues and they said ‘no problem because you can pick up messages, you can email someone, you can do Teams Meetings’.

Kathryn Thomas, Project Manager for the Patient Experience and Involvement team, was there to mentor Alys. Kathryn said:

“We were able to adapt and support Alys with her requirements and her requests, talking to her, finding out what it is that we needed to change or look at to support her. And it was easy. These were all small changes that made a massive difference, and from her starting to her ending – her confidence and communications skills are brilliant. She was able to do what she wanted and actually prove a lot of people wrong – that although with her impairments, she was still able to do an admin role successfully and do a good job.”

Adapting Alys’ working environment to accommodate for her impairments included using a larger computer screen; increasing font sizes; using tinted glasses; and communicating face-to-face or via MS Teams as opposed to via the telephone. Throughout her placement, Alys was able to learn new skills by completing tasks such as data entry, assembling resource packs, scanning, photocopying, and assisting the team in preparing for conferences and events.

Alys was delighted with the support and encouragement she received from the Patient Experience and Involvement Team to help her overcome the barriers she’d previously faced. She said:

“Ever since I got here, everyone’s been friendly and approachable, wanting to know my strengths and weaknesses so they can help me where they can. I was never afraid to ask for help. It’s helped me realise that my dream of having an office job isn’t unrealistic and given the right support and the right environment, I can achieve it.”

“I’d encourage anyone to do work experience here. It’s given me tonnes of confidence – I thought I already have confidence, but I have even more confidence now. Being here has shown me that I can get the right support, and that the barriers aren’t necessarily barriers here because they’ll be able to find ways around them.”

The experience was equally rewarding for the Patient Experience and Involvement Team.

Kathryn said:

“The team learnt from Alys’ time with us as well. We were able to ask Alys what worked well for her and what we could change. We were able to learn her ways, her techniques and actually improve our services as well to support that so we were able to make changes and adaptations with our documentation all from Alys’ views. We’d ask her for her views and opinions on things to help us develop as a team as well.”

Now, Alys hopes to secure a permanent position in an administration role, and feels she has gained the right skills, experience and confidence to reach her future goals.


Aneurin Bevan University Health Board is celebrating National Work Experience Week - find out more about our Work Experience offer:  Celebrating National Work Experience Week - Aneurin Bevan University Health Board (