How a Derbyshire teenager with autism has ‘found somewhere he feels he belongs’

A Derbyshire teenager with autism has seen his mental health and well-being given a boost thanks to his involvement with a leading company.

Tuesday, 13th April 2021, 12:26 pm
Updated Tuesday, 13th April 2021, 12:31 pm

Zak Martin, of South Normanton, first met the Costain highways team at an event in 2013 when he was nine-years-old.

He is very interested in engineering, particularly anything to do with motorways, and he amazed the team with his remarkable depth of knowledge and challenging questions.

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Zak Martin on a site visit with Costain.
Zak Martin on a site visit with Costain.

In 2018, Zak was going through a hard time and having to leave mainstream education – so his mum, Marie, got back in touch with Richard Paddey, Costain’s highways customer lead.

She knew how much Zak loved engineering and thought that focusing on this would help him feel better.

Following careful in-depth planning, Zak was invited to his first site visit and loved it.

A spokesperson for Costain said: “Zak’s enthusiasm, knowledge and love of engineering was clear to everyone who met him, and the whole team were keen to continue supporting him.

Well done, Zak!

“So Zak started to visit the project regularly, focusing on different aspects of the works each time.

“His mental health and well-being improved considerably as he had something he loved to focus on.”

“Over the last three years, Zak has made many visits to Costain projects, continuing virtually during the pandemic, and the impact on his confidence, learning and development have been remarkable.”

Marie said Costain has ‘restored our faith’.

She added: “Zak has found somewhere where he is included and feels he belongs.

“Costain has opened up unimaginable doors for us – they’ve made the difference and we will both be eternally grateful to the amazing people within the team.”

A message from Phil Bramley, Derbyshire Times editor

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