After the first job search failure we focused on opportunities in Alex's environment. I hoped we could find something during the school day. I could have tried to put this as an IEP goal, but in the end I didn't. It seemed easier to try and dig up some job opportunities myself. here are my top 5 tips:
- I find a teacher that is open/ interested in my kid. I look for Gen-Ed teachers in Alex's environment. Does the math teacher need some organizing? Does the Art teacher look like she could use help with cleanup? Does 'that' teacher know of another teacher that is struggling and could use some help? Finding a connected teacher and using them as a resource is valuable. Once one teacher vouches for you, others become available.
- I make friends with the school secretary. The school secretaries are the nerve center of most schools. They know the who, what, when, where, why's and how's. Treat them with respect, listen to what they have to say and ask for their opinions. These people see the principal and most teachers every day. Get them on your side they will help promote your kid when your not there.
- We take ALL job opportunities. We always say yes to job offers. Even jobs we know are not a perfect match. The goal is to get your foot in the door. The job can always be modified even completely changed after your start.
- We reinforce the teachers. The teachers that give us a chance are usually a bit nervous at first. Sometimes it's their first experience with Autism (these are my favorite because they have no preconceived ideas). I joke that I believe in reward schedules for kids, but more so for teachers. Teachers like to feel that they are making a real difference in a kids life, sometimes they are starving for it. Our kids are wildly reinforcing to these teachers. Thank the teacher well and often.
- Think outside the box. Well, why not just go to the special-ed teacher and ask for these job opportunities? You might ask. Well, you would be right but possible wrong. The school system is a large, complex bureaucracy. I've seen situations where it was virtually impossible for the teacher to get what I was asking for. But if I went and got the teachers/ staff on board then is was all possible. It's crazy, but anyone that has spent time at the DMV or the City Permit Office would agree that large systems are not efficient or linear. Sometimes finding out 'how' to get a yes is the trick.