I dug through the early job records I had and found this. Our first attempt at a jobs program..... it was a complete failure.
We sent individual letters to businesses we felt Alex was familiar with, (Target, QFC, Whole Foods, Zupan's, Trader Joe's, New Seasons, Movie Madness, Goodwill, Powell's, OMSI, The Portland Zoo, The Children's Museum and the YMCA). We had 4 responses, all were a no.
Rereading the letter, I have mixed feelings, I'm proud of our attempt and embarrassed at our naivety. We were upbeat and well intentioned but setting ourselves up for failure. At 14 Alex could have been too young and we looked complicated, (two weeks only? Autism? A specialist?). We gave too much information about Alex. Presentation of information is tricky, you want to give enough but not flood the person reading it. Too much information can give someone a easy reason to say no, and we got a LOT of no's. I thought going through the front door (filling out an application and asking for an interview) was a bad idea, that it was the fast track to a no. I now know my thinking was flawed, we couldn't go through a side door.
I have a side door approach to most things. In my relationship with the school system I've always avoided going through the front door when I'm trying something new. There are people that are great at writing perfect IEP's, pushing the school system, fighting to get what their kid needs. I'm not that person. It's not that I don't agree with it, I'm just not wired that way (I often wish I was). I'm the person that befriends the staff, that tries to find out who has the ability to get things done and who is the obstacle. I look for the person that can say yes and get them on my side. I used this approach when I started looking for jobs. It. Did. Not. Work.
Failure gives clean information. Something you create for your kid works, great! But it's always a puzzle trying to figure out why. There are so many variables. He was having a good week, he really wanted that reward, he's been sleeping well, he's eating, the teacher was in a good mood, the classroom was mellow. You never really know. When a program is a spectacular failure all you have is information.
We now knew that most of the people we contacted (via letter) had no interest or motivation to contact us. The four that did talk gave us some interesting information. They were intrigued but worried about how it would work. For profit businesses (they said) are not set up to take volunteers. One business gave us a referral to a local organization (not ultimately helpful but polite).
So we shelved the idea and looked in the opposite direction, Alex's immediate environment. Was there anything that looked like a job right in front of us? Of course there was. A year later Alex was working the vending machine, helping a teacher do setup for her after school program and organizing at the Evergreen Curling Club (shameless plug for my husbands favorite hobby).
It was a good move. It gave me time to learn how to train for jobs, it gave Alex the ramp up time he needed. If Alex had a rough day it was ok because he was in a familiar environment. If he had a REALLY rough day, well, it wasn't anything people hadn't seen before.
When we started up the jobs program two years later we went right through the front door.