They Call Me Mr. Steve

 

One thing I have found a dedication to, and wanted to talk about, is the lack of jobs for adults with autism. What we do know is children with autism grow up into adults with autism, and our society does not give them the support that they need to find Employment. Only 14 percent of adults with autism held paid jobs in their communities, according to one May report from Drexel University Autism Institute. Speaking from experience, this makes it very difficult for parents and caregivers to have and keep jobs as well. This is because their time is focused on their adult child receiving gainful employment- which is a full time job in itself. 

I think the number one question I have been asked over the past seven years is if Steven has a job. The answer is still no. For most young people on the autism spectrum, transition after high school can be really tough.Young adults with autism have lower employment rates, and higher rates of complete social isolation, compared to people with other disabilities. It is evident this needs to change now. We need to do better as a society, to help these individuals that are falling through the cracks.

They deserve to have a sense of self worth, just like everyone else.

The transition programs in our schools need to do a much better job helping capable young adults with autism find jobs. Along with that, vocational rehabilitation in every state needs to work with school systems, and put more focus on creating programs and services to help them find jobs as well. If both school systems and voc rehab would come together, and make a joint effort to educate business owners in our communities, I believe their chances of getting a job would go up significantly. These employers need to be taught of the potential people with autism have.

There is also a lack of higher education choices for those on the spectrum.

It would be great if there were more programs in colleges and technical schools that would focus on different skills sets, so that their job opportunities are not as limited. Sometimes the workload in these schools are way too large a task for them to even try- so they don’t. Those on the spectrum have different types of abilities, and they need a type of education that can be modified: so they can reach their full potential. With the lack of services and available jobs, we as parents are left to find our own solutions. This is a very difficult–if not impossible–task, and I have tried to do this for the past seven years. I have contacted more people than I can count to try and help find employment for Steven, with no luck. 

A point that really needs to be made is that one size does not fit all. For some reason, we have become a society that says all people with disabilities have to work in a grocery store. This type of job, while great for some, is not right for everyone. We need to come up with more types of jobs for those with autism, that showcase their strengths and likes. Many individuals with autism have talents with art and math. While my son Steven does not have the motor skills to push heavy carts–or even be safe in the street while doing that– he loves computers and has a phenomenal gift of working with maps and numbers. As a Society– especially employers– we need to look at each person on the spectrum individually and not as one. I have said it before: one person with autism is just that, one person with autism. We have tried to make sure Stevens life has been fulfilled, even though he has not yet been employed. He has enjoyed taking several online classes, and works on his computer skills by writing stories. He also has continued making a lot of charts and graphs of his interests–mainly football–and I am beyond thankful that he is able to do all of these things. 

I will never give up on finding a job for my son, however, in the meantime he is loving his life as Mr. Steve. This is what he told us the kids call him, where he is currently volunteering in a school called Beyond the Spectrum. This is an educational program, which services children with autism and other related diagnosis grades K-12. I am so thankful to them, for giving Steven a chance to show how he can work in a variety of different ways. He has so much pride in volunteering and helping students with their daily activities. The interaction with teachers, therapists and support staff in a work setting gives him a sense of normalcy that he might not otherwise have. In his own words, he loves every single second of it. Although, he has asked to not work too much with the little ones. “

— Kelly

You can read more about their journey by visiting GrowingupSteven.com