Autistic Play, Employment and me.

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In a few weeks time i’ll be starting my ‘summer of adventure’. I’m leaving my BBC job to focus on having great adventures.

Adventure is a big topic for me. It’s the foundation of my happiness. I am innately curious and I love to explore, discover and map environments around me.

Adventure is deeply connected to play. I am very playful and always have been. In my life play leads to adventure. Adventure leads back to play. The smoother the cycle between play and adventure, the happier and more productive I am.

Autistic play

Like many autistic people I don’t ‘play’ in the traditional sense. I rarely do ‘pretend’ play. My Lego models are of working things rather than models to be used to play out an imaginary scene.

Here’s an example of my playtime. I created a miniature Lego gearbox. It provides a reversing mechanism by exploiting the fact that opposing bevel gears rotate in opposite directions. I invented a unique solution to the problem. It was joyful to create, iterate and improve.

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My play is focused on making things and learning. I love to ‘play’ with mechanical things like bikes and cars. I play with bikes by building things and seeing how they ride. Bike parts are just a different type of Lego.

The same is true with technology and code. Trying things out and taking joy from discovery, learning and applying my curiosity. I love to play on the computer.


The best employment for me Is at the intersection of adventure and play.

With my old BBC job as a research engineer I’d play with technology in order to work out how to remove the barriers, reduce exclusion and enhance accessibility.

I’d then have tons of adventures travelling the world to talk about it and share what we had done.

That role came to end this year and I’m moving on to something new. The new project was born of play. I learnt all the major technologies playing with a file containing the first billion digits of pi.

The project is providing me with a sandbox for play and creating opportunities for the adventure I crave. It’s already taken us to the US and Sweden to talk about our collaboration approach at various events. It also happens to give me an income.

Playtime has been the foundation of my career. It’s how I have developed my skills and knowledge.

And me.

A joyfully curious, playful and bouncy Jamie is a happy Jamie. My works needs to reflect my needs.

This is key for me. Put me in the wrong role and I will rapidly burnout, become overwhelmed and muddled. I need a work environment which is safe, open and enabling.

By embracing my autistic, neurodivergent and playful nature everyone wins. I have a playful life I love, my employer benefits from my unique collection of skills and experiences. It’s joyful.

By aligning my employment with adventure and play I create the conditions needed to thrive. I find it to be a magic all of it’s own.


Spaced Out & Smiling is about exploring the fun side of Autism, and trying to understand what it means to be Autistically Happy.

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Jamie: @JamieKnight
Lion: @Lickr