Getting to Know You
The biggest part of my job is knowing all the individuals on my caseload and what they are capable of doing. A lot of the time it is trial and error, frustration, and ultimately, success once we find out what skills the individuals have. The end goal for me is always to find employment for all the individuals on my caseload, and learning what they are capable of is a great starting point. Sometimes the best way to learn about a new individual is just sitting with them and seeing what they do during the day, and sometimes it is listening to other people who have been around that individual.
When I was first hired as a Supported Employment Manager, the first part of my job was to receive a lot of training on how to handle the individuals and how the company works. After training, I spent most of my time during the first few months reading behavior plans and looking at files. The behavior plans gave me insight into the past of the individuals, things they like and dislike, and ways to help them learn new job skills. I quickly learned that there was only so much I could learn from a behavior plan, so I spent some time just sitting with the individuals and talking with the staff. Most of the staff had been with the same individual for years and was my best source on learning about the individual as a person, rather than simply seeing an overview of behaviors.
I had to put a lot of trust into the staff and their knowledge of each individual when I first started out, and it did help. Over time, I got to know my individuals and also got to know some of the other individuals that are not on my caseload just by sitting with them. Every time a new individual comes into the company or comes from the school we work with, it is a chance to meet someone new and learn new ways of interacting with them. Just recently I added a new individual to my caseload from the school our company works with. In reading up on him, I came to find out that he is the grandson of our founder, which most people seemed to think put a lot of pressure on me. In my head I was thinking, “Well, I must be doing something right to get the founder’s grandson and no one else got him.” So I spent some time sitting with him at the school to learn all about him and the staff he had been working with. I came to find out that even though the individual cannot speak and uses an iPad to communicate, he is very intelligent and picks up on things right away.
Once this young man was in our program, it was easier for me to spend some time with him, and in that time he actually got to know some things about me. I got to learn that he likes jobs where he is putting things together and does not like to get dirty. He would ask me questions about football on his iPad and ask me how my day was going. It is the little things in getting to know someone with autism that sometimes matter the most to them. So for anyone in the business of working with people with autism: Take the time to just sit with an individual and talk with them. I guarantee that you will learn about that individual and maybe even something about yourself you did not know.