Job Accommodation

At one of the previous agencies I worked at, we had quite a bit of space in the very beginning as far as our office went. I remember us having several conversations amongst ourselves about creating a sort of “quiet room” for employees to relax in. We also discussed such a room for or clients, who were autistic. We even thought up designs for the space; pillows, dim lighting (no florescent lights), a small relaxation fountain, etc. Needless to say, that lovely vision never saw the light of day.

Employers are required by laws (to a…reasonable extent, I’ll say) to accommodate for people with disabilities and special needs. They are encouraged in the United States to hire such individuals so as to appear inclusive. Ideally, this would happen regularly. As someone who has worked in HR, though, I can tell you that I have often witnessed quite the opposite.

That brings me to the article below. The consulting form EY talks with The Atlantic about hiring and accommodating autistic employees. To do this, every aspect of hiring and retaining had to be re-examined, from interviews, to interviews, to company culture. EY took this into consideration on all levels, and as a result has a more talented and complex employee demographic.

A lot of the tech companies are starting to actively adjust themselves in order to tap into a population who can make great employees if they are given the opportunity. Right now, EY is placing these employees in areas such as cybersecurity. My hope is that other industries will start to create similar programs to recruit and retain autistic individuals.

EY Describes it Program for Autistic Employees

From Down Under…

I came across this article, and realized that it opens up a question that has always been simmering in the American psyche as well. I’ve seen it manifest in parents asking other parents to move their autistic kids to another pool, or another part of the playground, because they are being “distracting” or “bothersome.” I’ve seen it manifest in school systems who repeatedly try to shoehorn all special needs kids and teens into a few special education classrooms with no regard to their developmental levels, with over-extended and underpaid teachers (I mean, I feel all teachers here are underpaid, but you get the idea).

I definitely fall on the side of allowing mainstreaming if the child/teen is ready for it, because everyone involved grows from it. The other students learn acceptance (and may get some academic help from their new peers), and the teachers start learning to interact with a group of students that some of them seem to…I guess fear would be the closest word. Some teachers seem genuinely fearful of having to interact with special needs students; I think it may be because they aren’t really taught or trained on how to interact and teach them unless they take specific classes for it. They’re afraid of doing something wrong.

In any case, this article covers the debate in Australia fairly well. It recently came to the forefront with one senator suggesting that special needs students should not be mainstreamed at all because the other students are “held back” by the amount of time the teachers spend on the special needs student(s). Naturally, that angered a LOT of people.

What do you all think about the mainstreaming question? Yay, nay, or it depends?

Experts condemn Pauline Hanson’s comments about children with autism

 

Purpose

I started an 8 week training on DIR/Floortime yesterday. I am very familiar with the approach, but I still wanted to have more formal training on it and the techniques. The trainer was well-versed in both DIR and ABA, and she strongly preferred DIR (which makes sense if she’s training in it).

After the first training, we spoke casually for a few minutes. She had mentioned her middle son, who is autistic and is now a young adult, during the training a bit. Now, though, as we spoke about my thesis, she revealed something very personal.

She said that while her son is productive (has a job, a girlfriend, lives on his own), he is frustrated that he hasn’t found meaning in his life yet. He doesn’t know his purpose, and this bothers him enough that he mentions it to her. She doesn’t know how to address it with him.

While this is not an uncommon issue with those in their early 20’s (or older, to be honest), it seems especially hard for those who are just trying to navigate a system and society not set up for them. It is hard to focus on purpose when you are literally in survival mode all of the time.

I hope that at some point during the training, I can talk to her further about her son. The fact that she told me this, that our conversation went there, is no accident. This is, in fact, part of my own purpose…to help others figure out theirs.

 

Off-topic: I started a part-time job for income while I start setting up the next evolution of SPARC here in LA. Yes, SPARC is going to evolve a bit. The part time job is exposing me to the agencies and practices that are typical in southern California (which will be very helpful later on). Having seen how agencies work here, I am adjusting to both fit in and stand out. That, of course, will take some time. I am super excited about the prospects, though!

Cats Goes Autism-Friendly!

I got the privilege  to see this amazing play years ago, and loved it. Now, Cats will be adapted for an autism-friendly audience on Broadway this summer.

This is the seventh season of the Autism Theatre Initiative (ATI). The previous season included The Lion King (amazing movie AND an amazing play) and Kinky Boots. See the link below for more information!

Autism-Friendly Broadway

A Letter To Disney

Over the last few months, I have been both amazed and greatly encouraged by the amount of autism awareness that is starting to be raised in the private sector. While other parts of the world have certainly been ahead of us Americans in that sense, we are starting to realize the potential of a workforce that companies have not given much of a chance in the past.

Disney has been a regular source of enjoyment and bridge-building for many of my clients, regardless of their demographics. Being a Disney kid/adult myself, I personally know what impact it has. I remember the joy (again, as an adult) at seeing an African-American Disney princess emerge on the scene with The Princess and the Frog. The Disney brand has significant clout in the world, and that includes the autism world within it. For many of the families I’ve worked with, being familiar with Disney gave a clinician a much greater chance at earning the trust of our clients.

The article below is from an autistic adult who now speaks with corporations and organizations to make the case for hiring his demographic. He also does an aspect of what I like to do, which is train the current workforce on working with autistic employees and coworkers.

A Letter To Disney

LA Versus Bay: Autism

I am FINALLY in LA and settling in while scoping out the apartment scene. I have also been taking the time to look at the various agencies that focus on or at least include autism therapies in their offerings. I have already seen some interesting differences between agencies in LA county, and agencies in the Bay Area, and I’m sure more will pop up (which I will definitely write about). I will stress that this is just based on personal research I’ve been doing on agencies in LA (both before and after moving) and the Bay Area (which I have worked in and for); this is by no means comprehensive or an absolute of the offerings of these two areas. It is literally a “first impressions” kind of deal.

  1. Wraparound services and the concept of such seem to extend beyond the agencies themselves in LA. They tend to partner up with other agencies a lot more, mostly because the agencies down here appear more specialized in their missions. I’ve noticed that in the Bay, many agencies (at least the bigger ones) tend to be one-stop shops in a sense; for example, they will offer intervention or behavioral services, speech therapy, and occupational therapy in one organization.
  2. Because LA county is so freaking huge (and a pain to drive in), the agencies are much more narrow in their geographical scope here. They often have to limit themselves to certain communities, and even demographics within those communities. In the Bay Area, agencies tend to have more geographical reach and usually overlap in coverage areas. At my last job in the Bay, I had clients from Mountain View, to south San Jose, through Milpitas (google a map of the area, and you’ll see what I mean).
  3. The diversity of the type of agencies, at least for now, appears more vast in LA. Up north, there were no known agencies that utilized the Floortime/DIR method, and this was one of the reasons why I felt so left out of the autism circle there. ABA exclusively rules the land. While it also corners the market in LA county, I have found two agencies who use the Floortime method (basically unheard of in the Bay Area), and both have been in operation for well over a decade.
  4. Community outreach and connection is on a higher priority in LA. I’m not saying that it doesn’t exist in the Bay Area, because it does. I am saying, though, that it is more obvious in the agencies I’ve researched in the LA area. The agencies down here overall (and not just special needs ones) tend to create and hold their own conferences, go into lower socioeconomic areas/neighborhoods, and communicate more readily with those neighborhoods. Why? Because individuals in those neighborhoods rose up and decided to carve such agencies into creation themselves.

Overall, the LA area appears to operate a bit differently than the Bay Area, which means I will have to learn the lay of the land first before really striking out to plant my business here. So far, though, I am excited with what I see.

Being Led

I’m sad that I can’t watch this entire documentary (it’s for UK audiences only), but those in the UK can watch it for I believe another two days on BBC One. People are saying good things about it. This segment is a very refreshing look at the father/son dynamic with regards to autism. It is on BBC Stories’ Facebook page.

 

Also, programming note: There’s a lot going on in my world for the next month or so. While I’m determined to commit to keeping up with about a post a week, I may miss one here or there. Once things get settled in June, expect an uptick in activity.