All about Awareness
5 November 2019 | Scotland
Gary’s devotion to supporting people with invisible disabilities
For Gary Wade, a cluster manager for TSB in Scotland, it’s all about getting the message across and raising awareness of autism.
With the support of his peers he looks to improve the lives of both those with autism and their families by leading a series of online workshops for colleagues to help those affected by the condition.
He helps vulnerable adults open new accounts and improve their banking experience and goes out into the local community to speak to businesses about his personal experiences.
Gary knows how difficult it can be for people with hidden disabilities and their families - his 21-year-old son Tom is on the autistic spectrum, has ADHD and is dyslexic.
“It took us eight years to get a diagnosis and even then, the doctor told us that we were the problem and that it was because we were not parenting him properly,” says Gary.
“It hit me very hard as a dad. But once I got my head around it, I realised I wanted to help support other parents in a similar situation.”
His family’s experiences inspired Gary, 55, to raise awareness and understanding of autism in his community in Aberdeen. He has also set up a local branch of the National Autistic Society which has helped more than 100 families.
“Pretty much any spare moment I have I try and help local families,” he says. “Ten years ago, when Tom was first diagnosed, it wasn’t really open spoken about. Even now there is a lot of ignorance around and a lack of awareness. With the local groups I started we looked to support parents but siblings too as they often feel left out.
“I also found it important to raise awareness at work and have been supported in doing so. As a bank, TSB has been really positive about raising awareness of neurodiversity - or people who think differently - and I am training colleagues how to recognise the signs. TSB wants to be different and show they really care about their customers.”
“I recently had a customer who was swearing at staff. It turns out she had a son who was autistic and she had not slept all night. She was at the end of her tether. I told her, ‘I understand you’. She burst into tears and gave me a hug.”
Gary also works with the charity MODO, to help disadvantaged young people’s understanding of banking and how to protect them from fraud. Gary’s achievements were recognised with a Pride of TSB Award two years ago, and he was nominated again this year.