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!
We’ve covered jobs 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 he 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!”
(Not to blame anyone, but the initials of the name of the thrift shop are H and W and it’s on East 23rd Street in New York.)
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.
(PS: I went to the following site to pluck quotes and such, but it seems too good to offer except in its entirety: http://dps.missouri.edu/Autism/Adult%20Autism%20&%20Employment.pdf . Comments are also welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org ).