Alex's 6th grade special ed teacher asked me. "Um, I guess, OK." I responded.
We cleaned, fixed and stocked the machine. We wrote some basic programs for restocking and counting the money, and jumped in.
6 months later, I was blown away. Counting change? Fluent. Stocking independently? Yep. Filling out the inventory sheets? No problem. Going to the machine independently and doing the entire job himself? Yep.
"What's going on here?" I said to myself.
For the past year we had been struggling. After years of intensive therapies and 1:1 work Alex was getting resistant. Is this puberty, am I programming incorrectly, is his classroom wrong? I was rethinking everything. Then Jennifer suggested we look for more jobs (the one we had was working well), OK I said, lets give it a try.
3 years later, I can't quite believe it. Alex is in his community, doing meaningful work. He is having work on his language and social skills in real environments. The people around him are learning about what Autism does and doesn't look like. Most of all, Alex seems proud of himself.
I have a short term goal and a long term goal for this website. The short term goal is to share what were doing with others. I think this model has value to the community. I'd like to let other parents/caregivers see how it this can be done. My longer term goal is to turn this into a non profit that helps support other young adults looking to build their skill set by working in the community.
The Chinese Garden is stunningly beautiful. It's a formal garden tucked in downtown Portland. The amount of woodwork is astounding and a wonderful place for webs, dust and critters. This job was the most nerve wracking for me in the beginning. Alex can be very jumpy and kinetic. The garden is beautiful but fragile. Things have worked out and we have learned a lot.
It's a small job, but were excited to have it and see where it may lead. About 5 years ago I started to worry about how our kids look to others as they become adults. Quirky 5 year old looks cute to most, Alex at 17 and 170 pounds it can be a different story. Portland Police officers gets a chance to see what Autism looks like up close, I'm motivated to see where this partnership leads.
The North East Emergency Food store is located inside Luther Memorial Lutheran Church in NE Portland. I love this job for the variety of tasks. Each time Alex goes there is something new to do. I think Alex appreciates the fact that each shift is slightly different.
I included this because it shows how I try to program. Watching this video your might think, 'don't use your hands, step on the box' or 'your folding that wrong'. We obsess on goals that lead to independence. We stay out of the way for as long as possible so that Alex can navigate the task. I love that he keeps trying, stays calm, and figures out how to finish the job.
To Whom it may Concern,
We are seeking a two week unpaid internship/volunteer position for Alex Irvin. Alex is a 14 year old boy with Autism from South East Portland.
We are looking for local businesses, like yours, which Alex regularly frequents, open to supporting his connection to our community. Alex is an intelligent, sociable, and happy young man with a broad skill set. We have had several successes with part time jobs, and are in search of new possibilities.
Alex will be accompanied on site at all times by Jennifer Kapnek, a specialist, fluent in his abilities and challenges.
Alex's skills include, but are not limited to; organization, stocking, and sorting. We are interested in building his strengths in a clearly defined job(s) which can be accomplished in 1-2 hours during the business day, several times each week.
We regard this as an excellent opportunity for everyone involved, and sincerely appreciate your consideration.
Alex's Mom (503) ***-****