The state of Massachusetts has a program to help adults with Asperger’s Syndrome find employment. We heard about it when my son was about 21. This was after:
- one and a half years of unsuccessful college attendance in Philly
- a diagnosis of AS (finally something)
- a full time job at Brooks Pharmacy Warehouse (they liked him, gave him an additional 30 days over the original typical 90 day probationary period, but he couldn’t meet the daily quota)
- a “temp” job at Staples Distribution Center (this company really plays the game – hires “temps” for 90 days, then lets them go & hires a new batch of “temps”, so they don’t have to pay out benefits – creeps!)
- too long without a job
Since the central part of Massachusetts does not exist for politicians in this state, finding services for my son had been very difficult, especially since he was legally an adult. The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission’s program for finding employment for AS adults was a godsend. The hardest part was for them to find my son a service provider in this area. My son is not good at driving long distances to places he doesn’t know. They finally found someone who was a distance away but willing to also travel and meet my son half way.
Enabled, Inc did a wonderful job finding my son a job at Kohl’s, unloading trucks at night. The part time work supplemented his Social Security disability income. He’s worked at Kohl’s for over 3 years now.
Since AS is a developmental disorder, my son at 21 was more like the typical high school kid. Now at 25, he is looking to become more independent and wants to get his own place someday. He can’t do that working part time and collecting Social Security. He wants to find a full time job to try. So we put a call in to Mass Rehab again. New program director. New provider in Worcester, a bit closer. Start all over again.
Providers that offer job assistance and coaching and also understand the needs of AS persons are hard to find in Central Mass. This job coach is very nice and has been working to help my son find opportunities. But her understanding of AS seems a bit limited and she continues to offer positions that do not match my son’s skills and special needs. Janitorial jobs that are not full time or do not offer good benefits. Other jobs that are part time at places that require customer contact.
Although the degree of disability varies (for example, some with AS cannot drive a car, my son can), there are some characteristics that are “etched in stone” for these persons. Persons with AS:
- think very concretely
- have difficulty with social situations and relationships
- have difficulty with direct eye contact
- cannot read others body language and verbal cues regarding emotion very well
- need very specific directions
- have average to above average intelligence
- do not handle open-ended situations very well
- get frustrated by the difficulty they encounter trying to communicate clearly
- do not tolerate change very well
- find it difficult if not impossible to lie (my son will not answer, rather than tell a falsehood)
- find it difficult to tell you what they think you don’t want to hear (again, silence is better)
- do not handle situations requiring quick decisions well – they need to think things through
There are other things too, but the point here is that, if you know these things about a person with AS, you don’t try to get them a job where they will have a lot of direct customer contact. You don’t try to get them a job that will quickly bore them to death – they aren’t mentally retarded – yes, they like routine, but they also need mental stimulation. We need a provider that understands these things.
So now we have a meeting scheduled with the program director from Mass Rehab, the provider assigned to my son and my son. I’m not sure what will be discussed. I’m not sure if I should insist on going with my adult son or if I should let him do this on his own. It would surely be a test of whether or not he’s ready for more independence. But given the communication issues and the difficulty he has remembering specifics when he’s under stress, I’m afraid the meeting will be less helpful if I stay home.
My “dream” is that we find someone who will work with my son to discover where his talents and abilities lie, then finds him a way to get training in that area. My “dream” is that my son will be open enough to a new experience that he willingly participates in training. My “dream” is that my son finds a job that allows him to have his own place, pay his bills, have insurance coverage and succeed on his own. After all, I won’t live forever. I want to know he can be happy and take care of himself before I leave this earth.
What’s a mother to do?