Saturday, August 4, 2012

Working with a young adult with autism in their own business

Anyone, either parent or educator, clinician or therapist knows that working with an individual with autism can be a challenge and an ongoing effort in out thinking the complicated mind system that is autism itself.

The very core of autism IS to be different, act different, react differently to stimuli and to resist following along with that the rest of the world views as routine activities. A slight nuance and change in circumstances or location can create a whole new teaching experience.

This company was founded with a mission and two purposes actually: 1.  Create employment where none existed before in the creative arts for a young adult with autism, AND who is severely autistic, and 2. Create a company founded for and powered by a severely disabled individual with autism.

Could it be accomplished? I had no idea, I just knew I HAD to try.  There is a saying about envisioning something and then making it happen, and that believe in yourself and your endeavor is the most important ingredient in your quest for success.

I had the belief I could try, I had the belief I needed to try...  more than that I did not have... only hope and faith and love.

Andrew has been officially working in his company now for about a year give or take - it started out pretty rough, just hole punching shapes, putting a few labels together, gluing etc. (Painting turned out to be a bust, he is no Rembrandt, and we are not blessed with "savant skills" that the movies seem to showcase as "typical" for those with autism. He cannot crack a safe, he cannot predict roulette moves in Vegas nor can he bluff you in poker.  He is just a kid with autism and all that that entails.

With that being said, we had our work cut out for us. We knew, however, that on our first visit to the barn t (our make shift "headquarters) that we were onto something because of one reason alone: He smiled for the first time in  6 months.  He smiled and that was a red letter day.  We took that as a positive sign that we were on the right track.

This initial micro start gave way to a new activity and then another until we began to actually have some sort of process and flow to what we did, albeit scattered, based on the Andrew mood of the day. This was surelly not Google where employees have fun while they work. This was a trial by error, fly by the seat of your pants adventure. We continue to fly along on this magic carpet with good days and bad.

We can have a fabulous week of putting paper clips in envelopes, (all decorated  for autism awareness with layers of brightly colored paper meticulously glued in place), only to find that this is, for reasons we cannot fathom, NOT going to fly past Andrew (our chief executive), though he has packaged them 50X before, and he promptly pulls all the meticulously glued and layered papers unceremoniously off the clip and into the special "floor file." (The space on the floor next to his chair."  He does not blink, waiver nor is he deterred from undoing everything I had worked on for the past 5 days... It is only with quick thinking that we rescue these decorated clips from the "floor file" with a quick flick of the wrist as we quickly remove them from his eyesight and grasped.

So... to say we go backward on some days is really to say we go backward on some days. We have to out think him and he often gets ahead of us.

I think of my current life in the autism highway as my own mini survivor challenge, outthinking, outlasting and outwitting  a mind that I still cannot decipher and probably never will.

It has come to that now, with his young adult mind, comes new challenges and new ways to circumfent autism's destructive forces. But I also believe, like Survivor, I will never ever never give up... The win is always in my sights and loss is not an option.

Never give up!  One of our signature items from the shop and one that so far he is happy to package. Perhaps next week those darn strings will need to be removed... we'll be ready.

Cate for Andrew