I am excited to share a guest post with you by writer Jeff Stimpson. He generously offered to share this story about jobs and autism, a very important topic for those of us who have children with autism because after all they are going to be turning into adults with autism before we know it! Enjoy!
My son Alex’s service coordinator dropped by his school the other day. “Alex seems to be doing well there,” she e-mailed. “He was sweeping the floor when I arrived.”
Really? I thought, looking at the crumbs on our living room floor. Knew I had kids for some reason!
Alex does now: setting the table so the handles of the coffee cups face the same way; emptying the dishwasher every morning. I get the feeling he has the skills. “Alex,” I ask as he tucks in the sheets at the foot of his bed, “would you like a job?”
I expect him to parrot back something like, “Like a job?”
“A job to do,” he says, tucking.
We all have a job to do, but sometimes the job doesn’t find us. Writers know about this; I hope Alex doesn’t have to know about it, too. He could probably scrape by the next six or so decades on what amounts to the pure compassion, maybe the pity, of society. I’d prefer, however, that Alex, who is almost 14 is solidly on the spectrum, learn about that spring in the step after a day of good work you enjoy. He has the skills, I think.
Some people also have the attitude, like when a teacher from his school went into a local thrift shop to ask about employment for her students. “We don’t hire the handicapped,” she was told.
“We don’t actually use that term anymore,” the teacher said.
“Well whatever you call them, we don’t hire them!”
LinkedIn connection Jennifer tells me her son started as a cart attendant at a local Target; after three years they added “sales floor” to his cart duties. “He also straightens the store, stocking and fronting items,” she adds. Jennifer advises parents in my position to connect with local stores, making introductions early with businesses that would accept a person with a disability – “really ‘accept,’ not just legally.” Around a student’s junior year, work with a vocational rehab department to secure a job coach and internships.
Jennifer’s son had some “less-than-perfect” jobs before Target, she stresses, “so stay positive and keep pushing.”
I wish I pushed Alex more. The dishwasher is a dawn routine now, true, yet often simple sweeping of the crumbs slips my mind. Instead, I think how he’s on his iPad watching too much “Sesame Street,” and I let him alone. I’m not together enough to be Alex’s dad. I’m not smart enough for this job.
Jeff Stimpson lives in New York with his wife Jill and two sons. He is the author of Alex: The Fathering of a Preemie and Alex the Boy: Episodes From a Family’s Life With Autism (both available on Amazon). He maintains a blog about his family at jeffslife.tripod.com/alextheboy, and is a frequent contributor to various sites and publications on special-needs parenting, such as Autism Spectrum News, the Lostandtired blog, The Autism Society news blog, and An Anthology of Disability Literature (available on Amazon). He is on LinkedIn under “Jeff Stimpson” and Twitter under “Jeffslife.”
If you would like to share your autism story send me an email. My contact information can be found here on my Contact Me page.