Alexander and AJP Dreams

Alexander lives in Scotland. When he was 1-year old Doctors said he would never walk, talk, read or write. As a child he went to special school but found it frustrating as it had low expectations of children and young people and didn’t stretch them as a result.

Mainstream kids choose their options, but special needs kids are only offered limited options

At 15 Alexander was worried about his future. He had lots of aspirations but couldn’t see how to make them happen. With the support of an excellent careers adviser he started to develop his skills and confidence and make links to people who might help including people at local charity Edinburgh Development Group (EDG). A person-centred planning exercise helped Alexander explore his strengths and to recognise and share his dreams including a wish to learn how to act. Alexander spent time at a ‘special needs’ college on a pathways acting course but found it didn’t stretch him. With the support of EDG Alexander began to explore other options, first on an internship as a development worker where he learned a lot about himself, then realising that self-employment might be a possibility.

It was a light bulb moment – I thought….I could do this as a job!

Alexander and AJP Dreams

With help from EDG, Alexander sought help from the Princes Trust where he enlisted on a business development course with Business Gateway and gained a grant of £250. From this early work Alexander realised he needed to develop his own skills and confidence if his business was to be a success. He found a second drama course where he worked hard to develop his body language and listening skills, voice projection and comic timing. With his personal skills and confidence developed and early business planning completed Alexander, with ongoing help from EDG decided to launch his new venture. He gained help from several organisations to source funding, develop his business and to find customers.

Alexander now runs his own business called AJP Dreams. He uses his personal experience to inform and inspire others. He does this by delivering presentations, sharing his story, contributing to person centred planning work called Big Plan run by the Thistle Foundation and doing consultancy work across Scotland.

I have gone from being a frustrated young man to be a successful businessman in a few, not so easy, steps. When I think back to where I started, I know it is all about determination and knowing when to ask for and accept help

What helped?

Alexander is clear that getting the ‘right sort of help’ at the right time is key to his success (and to the success of anyone else considering making a similar journey). He is also clear that the journey to running your own business and/or living your dreams can be challenging but that important lessons are learned through overcoming these challenges.

Even though I was failing I didn’t give up…because I was learning

Alexander gained help and support from many different people and organisations including Edinburgh Development Group (EDG), Rosie his careers adviser, Scottish Consortium for people with Learning Disability (SCLD), Nigel formerly from MiEnterprise and now a freelance business adviser. Alexander also gained help and support from his parents.

Challenges

Alexander was challenged by the fact that there were low or no aspirations for young people in special needs education. He also struggled to always get the right help at the right time on his journey.

Achievements and impact

Alexander has created the life he wants to lead. He has his own business which is established and sustainable and he is paid for the work that he does.

Every couple of days I get a call from someone wanting me to do some work. I have changed my world a little bit at a time. I love my work

He has helped other people to achieve their dreams and has made a difference to their lives. He is an inspiration to other disabled people and their families. A father of a disabled daughter said to Alexander’s Dad ‘Alexander is my Daughter’s hero’. Alexander is influencing people and organisations and having a strong impact as a result. A member of Scottish Parliament saw Alexander deliver a presentation and was influenced to question the wording of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act away from ‘care and cherish’ and towards more aspirational language.

I am helping other people and changing my world a little bit at a time

The future

Alexander is committed to ‘flamboyant dreaming’ both for himself and other disabled people. He wants to do more work in this area to benefit himself and others. He has ideas for new presentations including one that challenges the perceptions of learning-disabled people.

I finally know why, I am on this earth