I've wanted to explain what lead us to the focus on finding jobs for Alex. I decided the best way was to ask myself some questions.
Why are you so focused on jobs for Alex, he's only 16 right?
I agree it's going to seem odd to some people. Alex has always had an independent streak. When he hit 12 I started to sense a lot of resistance. After 10 years of intensive therapy and school, I wondered if he was starting to get fed up with special ed classrooms, aids and therapies. I knew I wanted Alex to be as independent as possible. I gambled on the idea that putting him in jobs would feed his independence and maybe, offer some real life social opportunities.
Well, Alex must be pretty high functioning to do these jobs.
On a balanced day you might think that. On a more typical day you will see all 5'7", 160 lbs of him intermittently running back and forth, speaking some Disney movie dialogue. Alex can speak, it is needs driven speech. We are working on rudimentary conversations and having progress, but it's slow. I'd say we are 40% Disney and 60% balanced right now. Alex seems to shift every 6 months into a new ratio. When he was 14 and puberty hit, things became pretty intense, lots of vintage behaviors came back to visit and we had some anger issues. Things are more balanced at the moment. I'm hoping it sticks for a while.
Does Alex take medication ?
No. Not because I'm anti-meds, I just have not taken the jump. I think about it every 6 months or so. I would definitely mix it in if I felt he really needed it.
Why isn't he just working on job skills in school?
Good question, I'd love if he could work on these skills in school. The long answer would need me to have a glass of wine in hand. The short answer is that our school system is under tremendous stress. Portland Public Schools are underfunded and understaffed. There are some great people working there, but they can only do so much. I decided years ago that it was easier on my sanity to create what I felt Alex needed. Right now it's finding jobs.
So is he in school?
Yes, he goes half days this year.
Are you worried about him missing academics or social opportunities at school?
Yes and no. Yes I'd like Alex to have meaningful social opportunities at school. I'm working on that this year. I'm not worried about academics, I've found it's pretty easy to teach academics at home.
So this whole website thing is just about the jobs your kid has?
At the moment, yea. The website is sort of a video diary of what jobs we have found and our theories. The blog will discuss the Who/ What/ How of what were doing I'd like it to be a kind of blueprint, how we approached people to get the jobs and how we make the jobs work. I have longer term plans. In 2014, PIE will become a non profit. Ultimately PIE will be a local nonprofit focused on putting young adults into volunteer jobs with supports.
OK, so what do you want from me?
I'm looking to connect with other families/ caregivers that are interested in this idea. There is so much opportunity in our community for our kids. You would be amazed. I expected resistance, anxiety and a lot of hand holding from the people that opened their doors to Alex. It's been the exact opposite. I can honestly say that people seem to want to see our kids integrated, they want to help make it happen.