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Behind the scenes with ITV: The positive impact of inclusive working environments

Our Founder Rachel Parker recently had the opportunity of working with ITV and filming a segment that was aired during Autism Acceptance week as part of our social impact work.

A commercial bakery, with two women in it. One baking and one filming and interviewing.

One of our core beliefs here at the bakery is that ‘Everyone deserves the dignity of a meaningful and worthwhile job regardless of their circumstances or background’.

To help make this a reality, part of our social impact work focuses on educating the wider community to create more neuroinclusive spaces. 

Working with ITV was a great opportunity to raise awareness of this, not only with the content aired, but also during our time with ITV.

With a conscious approach from everyone involved, clear communication and having the right support in place, more inclusive environments can be created. 

We spoke with Rachel about her experience through the full process and the key elements that went into making this such a positive experience. 

Before filming with ITV – media training 

As part of the ongoing business coaching I receive through South of Scotland Enterprise (SoSE), I was invited to attend a media training session.

In all honesty, I was a bit sceptical about getting involved with the media, mainly due to how I have seen autistic people portrayed in the past, but my business coach, Tara Bolland encouraged me to go. 

I attended the course with Holly, one of my Support Workers (funded through Access to Work) and wasn’t singled out or made to feel uncomfortable for this, which was a good start! 

The media training day was hosted by Lori Carnochan, a freelance broadcast journalist. It gave me lots of information about what to expect, what is appropriate to ask for in advance of a shoot, as well as a practice run of being filmed while answering some interview questions.

When the room became too noisy with chatter during the lunch break, Holly and I went and sat elsewhere, but Lori was still happy to come and answer the questions I’d noted down throughout the morning session. 

The whole environment that was created by Lori, was really supportive which made it easier to take in the information.

Reassured that I’d now spent the day with Lori and felt like I knew her and trusted her, I then felt comfortable to consider being filmed by her ‘for real’. I discussed with her the idea of doing a piece for Autism Acceptance week, sharing my story and lived experience as a case study to challenge the usual stereotypes.

Before the filming – from pitch to filming day 

From the initial conversion to the filming day a lot of support went into making it possible. 

Abby, another of my Support Workers helped me write the pitch, with some guidance from Lori on what angle to approach and how to submit it.

Shortly after submitting the pitch, the ITV Newsdesk phoned me (I don’t answer phone calls) but thankfully they left a voice message. They were happy to speak with my dad to arrange the initial filming details and further discussions were all done via text messages. 

They provided me with a brief in advance, which included information on who was filming me and the themes of the questions I would be asked. 

I’d expected to be filmed by Lori who did the media training, however, I had instead been assigned Isla Todd as she was much more local. By knowing this in advance I was able to look her up and realised that we’d actually met before through a previous job, which made me feel far more comfortable, than if this had come as a surprise on the day. 

Reading the themes of the questions, I was a bit uncomfortable with some of the language initially used by the Newsdesk, for example I refer to myself as being autistic, rather than having autism.

When I highlighted my preferred language to them, they simply accepted it. They apologised, said they appreciated this being highlighted, and also shared the information with Isla, my assigned reporter. 

From initially being anxious about the language they had used, their receptiveness and acceptance of my feedback made me feel less worried about the filming day ahead. 

Throughout this, I also sought advice from George, a founding member of AVATAR (Autistic Voices Advocating Together for Autonomous Rights). They suggested I send my ITV contact a media communications guide for journalists and suggested some autistic led resources to read in advance. 

George also looked over my rewording of the question themes I’d been sent, and my proposed content for responses. It was really helpful having another autistic person as a sounding board and that reassurance from peer support gave me more confidence to progress with the filming.

Discussing the questions and my responses with George helped me to keep my answers about being autistic balanced and avoid the stereotypical sound bites that get pitched as either ‘woe is me my life is awful’, or ‘I’ve got superpowers and am better than anyone else’. I  have a different balance of skills and that’s not inherently better or worse than anyone else, it’s just different.

The filming day 

When Isla arrived it was obvious she had taken time to read over the guidance sent in advance. She was using my preferred language, was open to being corrected on other points and not afraid to ask questions if she was unsure on any other wording. 

This started things off really positively, it was clear that her intentions were good and her response to adjusting her approach made me feel more comfortable.

On the day I had Amelia one of my Support Workers and my dad with me. I’ve previously been told by other organisations that it’s inappropriate to bring a support worker with me, but this wasn’t a problem for ITV or Isla. 

When we started filming, I found it tricky being asked what was supposed to be the same question in five or six slightly different ways all in a row. I was struggling to  keep my train of thought and not get bogged down in the specifics of the slightly different wordings.

When I got in a bit of a muddle, my Support Worker was able to prompt me and Isla was patient giving me the time I needed. 

I did however struggle with some of the questions that focused on the ‘challenges’ of being autistic. I knew I didn’t want the final edit to come across as ‘ look how hard my life is’.

Being autistic is just how I am, it’s not a problem in and of itself, it’s the expectations, assumptions and reactions of other people that cause the biggest problems. Isla was open to working together to reframe some of the questions to be more neutral so that I could give a more balanced response which felt more reflective of my actual experience.

At one point Isla suggested we took a break as she could see I was starting to get a bit tired and overwhelmed. She offered to go and sit in her car to give me an ‘Isla free space’. The self-awareness of even asking this question in the first place made me feel so comfortable with her.

I was happy for her to stay but we switched off the camera and mic pack for a bit while I drank some water and showed her some of the ‘Untapped Potential’ exhibition, a touring art exhibition we created with local artists and the neurodivergent community to highlight our lived experiences .

In a way I wish we’d kept the recording going as we had such a lovely conversation discussing the project and the portraits. I’m sure that some of the questions that were asked and the discussion we had then went on to influence how some of the interview questions were reframed once we started filming again.

Isla was considerate throughout the whole day, making me feel more comfortable by explaining things like how much of me was in frame, that she wasn’t bothered about my hands having to stay still and revisiting some of the earlier questions once I’d relaxed and got a bit more used to being filmed by her. 

For the filler shots of me baking, we figured out it was easier for me to be shown what I needed to do, rather than get flustered trying to follow verbal instructions, which I might be taking more literally than intended.

Throughout the whole process, I felt she had a genuine interest in learning about my experience, autism and the work I’ve done, which was refreshing.

The final edit

It was a pretty anxious experience waiting for the final piece to air, especially as it got delayed a few times. However, I’m really pleased with the final edit and the overall experience of being filmed by Isla for ITV.  A lot of other organisations can learn a lot from their approach and responsiveness. 

Their approach of wanting to understand and learn made all the difference. 

It’s not about knowing how to do everything perfectly before you can start. What’s perfect for one neurodivergent person won’t necessarily work for another. It is about having good intentions, being willing to listen to feedback, believing what is said, and then responding to the situation.

Don’t get me wrong, the experience was still full on, but it was made possible and manageable for me by the ways that I was supported and how it was all approached.

Inclusivity is a win-win situation

An interview with Dr Martin Valenti (Director of Entrepreneurship for SoSE) was also included in the final piece on ITV. He reflected on how, through providing bespoke support for me, SoSE have learned from my experiences. They understand it’s not a case of being inclusive just because they have to, because it’s their job, or even just because it’s morally the right thing to do. They realise and appreciate the value of a neurodiverse community and that that can improve things for everyone.

Isla from ITV also reflected on her experience saying that, 

“It was a delight to come along and hear Rachel's story about how The Frangipane Bakery was created, from an idea all those years ago to the success it is now. And thank you to Rachel for coaching me through the best approach to interview an autistic person. It's important to me to be respectful to my contributors and make the interview less intimidating, and Rachel helped me with her story, and I will remember it going forward”. 

Providing effective support is not a one-way street. Inclusion, acceptance and accessibility is a win-win situation, which when done properly and honestly benefits everyone. 

How to get involved

Whether you are autistic and want to get involved with the autistic community here in the Scottish Borders, or you know someone who is and want to learn from our lived experience, join the AVATAR mailing list to keep up to date with opportunities and progress.

If you are from the media or an organisation that is keen to highlight autistic and neurodivergent lived experience get in touch with us today. We consider invitations to speak at events, join discussion panels, take part in podcasts and provide commentary on topical news stories.

Keep up to date with all The Frangipane Bakery news via our social media and mailing list (sign up in the footer of this page).


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