I am proud to say that my son just started his third year at his job. He works part-time in the kitchen at one of our public-school cafeterias. His manager believed in him when she hired him. And this was an incredible chance.
At 21 years old, he had never worked before. Now he has responsibilities just like everyone else. He earns the same hourly wage as his co-workers. It is a wonderful first job for which I am most grateful. It is terrible that only 18% of people with disabilities have jobs.
I recently found out about a new opportunity. I think it is important for parents to always be looking for new experiences for our adult children to explore. When a person with a disability finds a job, the family, job counselor, or the employee often think that’s all there is. The presumption is that it’s fine as long as they’re happy.
But what if they’re not? What if there is no chance for growth? What if the person wants to explore other jobs? They may need support and don’t know where to look. They may need help understanding what skills they have and what jobs are out there. They may also need to learn new skills if they are interested in a different job.
My son recently applied for a program at a local university. If accepted, he will advance his education and gain additional career-building skills. He will have a mentor by his side the entire time. He will learn basic office skills, computer skills, and the right communication skills for the workplace.
If he gets into this program, he will get to know the various areas on campus and can see if there is another job he is interested in applying for. He will have the chance to work in two different jobs with support the entire time. And there is no cost for the program.
Change can be hard for all of us. It can be even more difficult for people with disabilities. It’s important to encourage them to try new experiences, learn new skills and remind them to believe in themselves so they can do more. It will take time to adjust. But with the right support and the chance to meet new people, work in a new environment and learn new skills, it can be exciting.
We are waiting to hear if he has been accepted into the program. If he is, it will be a terrific year of learning on a college campus. Possibly discovering new jobs he may want to pursue. Hopefully, one day he will find his dream job. Until then, we’ll never stop exploring new opportunities.
Would you like to learn more about employment opportunities for young adults with disabilities?
Just when I thought maybe the “autism thing” was calming down. And that maybe I had a few months to catch my breath before researching everything I needed to know about guardianship before my son turns 18. Wham–another big change brought us back to reality.