One main reasons for starting this blog is to document and share our experiences with the Pathways to Careers program. I believe this program is the answer to a lot of my prayers. Here is the story of how we came to participate in it.
Back in March 2015, MJ and I decided that attempting to complete the courses she needed to get her associates degree in communications was not worth the stress it was causing. She certainly did some outstanding work and had several projects chosen for the juried student art show. But completing all of the components required of large projects and getting all of the assignments turned in on time proved to be serious challenges. Time management and organization skills are typically difficult for people with Asperger’s Syndrome. Her grades were suffering and the stress in our household was too much for us to endure any longer. It was clear we needed to try a different path forward.
MJ felt she did not have the skills to land a satisfying job on her own. And for her to thrive she would need to be in a job that provided a safe and nurturing environment. As soon as she dropped her 2 remaining classes, I looked around for organizations that help people with disabilities find employment. We got on the (long) waiting lists for a couple of organizations. In the meantime, MJ attended a Soft Skills Club, open to everyone on the autism spectrum. Immediately following the first session, there was presentation on a pilot program called “Pathways to Careers”.
The Pathways program sounded amazing. But, they work with the individuals one-on-one so are limited in the number of participants they can work with at any given time. In the first group there would only be 8 chosen BY LOTTERY. The applications had to be in by mid-May and notifications would go out first week in June. PRAISE GOD we were chosen!
The model for this program makes so much sense. They spend a considerable amount of time getting to know the participant, their skills, interests, and abilities and then they match them up with jobs and careers that exist in the communities where they are. There is a lot more to it but basically this is an employment program for people with disabilities that helps develop careers, not just find jobs.
We are just finishing up the Discovery portion of the program. They’ve been conducting interviews with a list of friends and family that we supplied. We chose people that know MJ and something of her abilities. They also came to the house a few times to interview MJ in her own environment and to watch her do the things she enjoys. Mostly, MJ showed off her knowledge of computers and space, shared her artwork, and flooded them with more information about technical things than they needed to know. They also watched her work on a design for a flier. One day they went out to a restaurant to observe her in a more public setting. Once all the interviews are completed, they’ll prepare a report and schedule a planning session with us. I can’t wait to see what they say and what happens next! I will continue to share our experiences as things progress.
If you have a child on the autism spectrum and college is not working out, I encourage you to explore other options. There are other paths to success. If you have access to Service Source, please see if they can help you. I LOVE what they are up to.
“When a flower doesn’t bloom you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.” – Alexander Den Heijer