An Interview About Late Diagnosis and Being Autistic with Jon Pitt, CEO of Crystal HR and Payroll
31st March 2023
We are delighted to announce that Crystal HR and Payroll, a business in Willenhall near Wolverhampton, has made us their Charity of the Year!
On the 14th March, they held an autism awareness coffee morning in their offices. There was a great array of cakes and sweets for donations in aid of us, together with lots of coffee, tea, and juice drinks for their staff along with other businesses within their office building
Daniel, our Digital Media Producer, went along to meet the team and find out more about why they had chosen Autism West Midlands as their Charity Of The Year!
Jon Pitt, the CEO, spoke about his own personal experience of being autistic, how he became aware of it, his personal challenges and how he now copes with his diagnosis.
Dan: Hi Jon, please tell us a bit about yourself and the business that you have created?
John:My name is Jonathan Pitt, the company is Crystal HR and Payroll and we run payrolls for other businesses. We have been going since 2009/2010 when I started as a sole trader business after I took voluntary redundancy and did some book-keeping and accounts work, I looked into payroll and that’s pretty much where we are today.
D – So what kind of work would you describe you are doing in the industry?
J – We are a professional services company, so we provide full HR support and payroll support for small to medium sized business. All our people are fully qualified and trained.
D – So when did you find out that you were autistic and what lead up to this happening?
J – I found out about 2017, well probably about 2016, when my wife got promoted. She works with special needs children and she had done quite a lot of training up to that point and told me I really need to go and get myself tested for autism or go and see the GP.
Prior to that, especially at school, I had been said to be the ‘naughty kid’ but I was always very quick to learn things and that just followed me all the way through school and college.
I like very regimental things and everything in order. When I went to see the consultant they said they could put me through for formal testing and said that, in their opinion, I was in the high functioning part of the autism spectrum. We went to go and see another consultant, just to get a second opinion, because I just thought ‘I don’t think I really have got autism’ but they gave pretty much the same diagnosis word for word! I then just did a lot of research on the internet about it how it affects people.
Prior to that I thought I was just a bit odd.
D – How did you feel once were diagnosed or you became aware that you are autistic?
J – It answered a lot of questions to be honest with you, especially the more research that I did. This must have been about 5 or 6 years ago and I read pretty much everything I could find on it. The trouble with running your own business is that it is quite demanding in terms of time and it’s only in the last probably 3 or 4 years really that I have actually had time to train my staff and get things in place and start looking at other things. A diagnosis has definitely answered a lot of questions and with my wife being a SENCO she has sort of adapted to it anyway.
I could probably do with some more help and support with it really because I still do not know what I am doing, I am just sort of winging it as I go! I have got a close circle of friends so we all get on quite well together and they are supportive. When I look back now a lot of the things I like to do suit autistic people quite well, it has just been a natural progression really in terms of career.
My wife’s got quiet a big social circle, we go out to parties and I usually try to avoid people and I am quite happy just doing my own thing, or even not going to be honest with you! Over time it’s got better I think- I am still quite a quiet person, I prefer my own company but I will mix with other people.
D – Are you finding that you are now able to manage that better, do you just say, ok I am going to do that for a certain amount of time and then get myself out of it to recover from it?
J – Absolutely, I mean I give everything a time limit now. I mean it is not so bad with people that I know, but with people that I do not know then everything is harder.
Some family members used to take the mickey and they would say “you are quiet odd” but then once my wife slowly started to explain what was going on it became very normal for them.
I think that was the acceptance thing as they did not understand and they just thought I was a bit odd! I started speaking to people more, but I would be just as happy just to sit in a room on my own to be honest! However, I do think you need that support network around as well.
D – Yes that’s the thing I learnt during Covid. Whilst lockdown for me was no different exactly I did realise after a while that although I did not feel I needed it, the social interaction was missing and it was starting to affect me.
What advice would you offer to a person who has diagnosed as autistic later in their life?
J – Probably to go and get the support that they need. My wife has done quite a lot of training so she is extremely supportive. Don’t let it hold you back!
D – What does autism acceptance mean, or look like, for you?
For me it’s people accepting who you are and understand what is happening and why you are the way you are. With my family a lot of them just did not know and they just went round their daily business in their own little bubble.
I have found that people are just not quite as tolerant when they don’t understand things and that was the biggest thing for me. It changed quite quickly once we realised what was going on. Even my own dad said “We knew there was something wrong, we just did want to take you anywhere in case they just slapped a label on you!” Going back 40 years ago labels were just a bad thing at that time. I do think that my autism has helped tremendously, such as with management accounting. I pick things up extremely quickly.
My big problem is that some people would just wing things and take credit for things and I can’t tolerate that. Either you haven’t done the work or you do not know what you are talking about and I would be quiet happy to tell people. I do not know how to control that side and I do not even know if that is related to being autistic or just me!
D – Autistic people do sometimes just verbalise thoughts, they think it and say it at the same time especially if they are in a high anxiety state.
J – Well that is the thing, sometimes I have been amazingly stressed and I come home and I spout off but my wife’s just, well we will remove all of these problems and that’s what we did. We just learnt to deal with it. We also bought a dog and Hollie has been absolutely brilliant! Sometimes, when you are stressed, you just spend some time with her and go up the park.
D – Would you say that acceptance of being autistic is also partly your own acceptance?
J – It is to understanding what is going on because I never really understood.
D – You said that you had a career in RAF? (Jon told me later that he used to fly around in the back of fighter jets acquiring cartography data and ariel photography!)
J – It wasn’t until I went into the RAF that everything was regimented. That was just perfect, in some regards I wish I had stayed with the RAF but I didn’t. I am no better or no worse than anybody else.
I have spent a lot of time avoiding those like the plague, but now I spend a lot of time dealing with them before they come up on the radar and once you get on top of things, it makes being autistic so much easier in your daily life.
D – Some people are very good at selling themselves in a scenario, perhaps in a interview setting, and are very much more confident people, even if they are not actually what they are saying they are. As an autistic person do you find you are pathologically honest?
J – Yes, I find it difficult to lie. I mean my approach to the workplace, especially interviewing, is to learn everything and because you know as much as you can I think that just gives you confidence when you are speaking to people.
I think employers do need more educating on things because I think they are not just looking for someone who can do the job, they are looking for somebody who will fit in with the team. Not everybody will fit in with the team, that’s why we try and have a diverse team at Crystal and like I say, everybody is equal nobody is better or worse than anybody else.
D – Thanks so much Jon for sharing your thoughts and perspectives for World Autism Acceptance Week.