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Why Blend in, when you were born to stand out?

Posted by: Chris

Date: 01.04.21


I was diagnosed with autism at age 3, but didn’t know about it until I was 7.


Growing up, I struggled with communication and making friends in a neurotypical primary school was incredibly difficult. I found reading hard and struggled with eye contact. I used educational computer games to improve my reading and speech skills, but was still the victim of merciless bullying for close to 4 years. By the age of 8, I turned to self-harming and required medication to help control my mood.

At 11 years old, I was sent to a special needs school. Here I felt more comfortable and started opening up again, no longer requiring medication. I took up a variety of sports such as netball, basketball, archery, and swimming.

Before my 16th birthday, I was gaining weight due to stress eating, and was struggling to compete in sports; injuring my ankle whilst taking part in a Duke of Edinburgh Award basketball tournament.


At 17, I discovered catering after binge watching Hell’s Kitchen and MasterChef, and watching my Dad cooking at home. I found a catering course at Sheffield College and decided to give it a go. After just 2 weeks, I already knew it was what I wanted to do.

After 3 years of college, I left with a Diploma and found Blend Kitchen – a social enterprise that employs and trains those furthest from the job market including those who have struggled with homelessness, addiction, mental illness, and those who have come out of the criminal justice system.


The past 2 years at Blend have helped me to secure a career that I hope will last a lifetime, and through my increased experience, I am able to help support people like me and hope to continue this in the future. 


Richard Tomlinson