One of the first autistic children to have gone through Northern Ireland’s mainstream school system has gone on to launch his own business that brings a fresh outlook to Autism training, thanks to help from the Go For It programme in association with Derry City & Strabane District Council.
The Go For It Programme is part funded by Invest Northern Ireland and the European Regional Development Fund under the Investment for Growth and Jobs Northern Ireland (2014-2020) programme.
Social worker Jude Morrow (30), from Derry, has founded Neurodiversity Training International, a strength-based approach which aims to deliver neurodiversity awareness training to teachers, groups and companies without the negative stereotypes of autistic people.
“I grew up as one of the first autistic children in the mainstream school system here and had a classroom assistant with me right the way up through school,” Jude explains.
“As a teenager and as a young man, I wasn’t overly confident and I always knew I wasn’t like everybody else. My life was like – everybody with their hearts in the right place, trying to help me, and I ended up feeling like I was a broken version of normal.”
Jude says he had still not come to terms with his autism when he became a dad in July 2013.
“My struggle internally was so apparent that even my son could see it, and one day he asked his granny ‘Why does Daddy look so sad?’ After that, I had to come to terms with it and make peace with being an autistic person.”
Jude wrote a book about his experiences called ‘Why does Daddy look so sad?’ and groups began to ask him to talk to them.
“I ended up going into schools and that snowballed into a speaking tour,” he says.
Last year Jude set up Neurodiversity Training International, a CPD accredited training provider approved by autistic people.
“My problem was most training programmes are talking from the point of view of parents and professionals looking from outside. I wanted autistic kids to grow up being proud of who they are,” he says.
“I wanted to bring people and workplaces around to my ideology of the strength-based approach. The focus is on what they’re good at, and it plays to their strengths, not on what they are not, compared with their peers.”
Taking part in the Go For it programme allowed him to source finance and get advice from his mentor on running a business.
The Go for It programme is delivered free of charge by a team of experienced business mentors across all 11 council areas of Northern Ireland. It provides expert advice and help with developing a robust business plan to help turn ideas into a commercial enterprise.
“They helped me to map out a business plan, looking at all areas of running a business from sales projections to marketing and financial forecasting. It gave me a real insight into how to operate a business and a clear pathway to launching the business and things have gone from strength to strength.”
Jude estimates that since launching in August 2020, he has delivered more than 100 remote training sessions to people in countries as far afield as Brazil, Costa Rica, Iceland, Gibraltar, Hungary, South Africa and India.
“There is such a need for it – people are realising the current model of autism is flawed. We want to move teachers away from highlighting red flags to accepting autistic children for who they are. What autistic people need is to be accepted for who they are, not made to be like everybody else.” he says.
Kevin O’Connor, Head of Business at Derry City and Strabane District Council, said: “The Go For It Programme, delivered by Derry City and Strabane District Council, provides new entrepreneurs with accessible, free and tailored support in the start-up stage of their business in areas such as financial and business planning, and sales and marketing to help get their business up and running.
“I wish Jude every continued success in developing and growing his enterprise and encourage anyone thinking about starting their own business to get in touch with the Go For It Programme!”
I wanted autistic kids to grow up being proud of who they are
Claire Costello, Business Advisor at Enterprise North West said: ““We were delighted to be able to support Jude with the launch of his business. You can immediately tell that he is extremely knowledgeable and passionate about the neurodiversity training that he delivers.
“We worked with Jude to turn that expertise into a viable business, by helping him develop a detailed business plan that focused on helping him define his service offering, target markets, pricing and marketing, as well as a two-year financial forecast.
“We are delighted to see Jude’s business grow as he delivers his training all around the world to help autistic kids grow up to be proud of who they are.”
If you have a business idea you’d like to develop or if you are thinking about starting a business contact the Go For It Programme on 0800 027 0639 or visit: www.goforitni.com