Expanding the Workplace

I received the most wonderful phone call this week, one which bolstered my faith in humanity! The father of a young son recently diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder called me from his workplace at a Davidson County hotel where he is the Assistant General Manager. They had a job opening, and he wanted it filled by a person on the spectrum. As he explained to me, he spoke to his boss about this possibility, got his cooperation, and wanted my help in getting the word out. He said he particularly wanted to help someone who may not have been able to keep a job elsewhere because he felt that the “family-oriented atmosphere” at their hotel would be conducive to success. After discussing it with him, I had to agree, and immediately started contacting possible candidates.

What makes this gesture so special is that it is not coming from a big company or major disability agency that has all the protocols in place to hire people with disabilities (and, God knows, we need those people!). This offer came from someone who, because of his own personal connection to autism, was able to visualize a different approach to a need that was presented to him. More of what I would call a “grassroots” approach to hiring. I want to clone this individual!

I’ve posted quite a few innovative approaches to employment that have been popping up all over the country, from parents who’ve started cottage industries to give their children with disabilities a chance at a satisfying and productive life, to small and large companies who’ve made changes in their hiring practices to include people of all ability levels. My son’s former therapist is starting a company that will not only employ those with autism but create housing for them as well. There is now a faith-based program which pairs people with disabilities with employment through churches in the area. The list goes on.

Having worked in the disability community for the past 18 years and been a parent to my son with autism for the last 25 years, I can’t remember a time when so many opportunities for our young adults have presented themselves. With the constant increase of autism diagnoses over the last two decades, it was probably inevitable that this would happen. I’m just so grateful that it is happening now when so many of our kiddoes are transitioning out of school and into the workplace. Thank goodness there appears to be a workplace to transition into!

If you are interested in finding out just what is available in the job market, please get in touch with me here at Autism TN. If you work at a company or have your own company, please consider our population when you next have a job opening. It’s been well-researched that people on the spectrum, with some small accommodations, can be some of the best employees you’ve ever hired. We sure wouldn’t want you to miss out on that!



    Janet Shouse | February 16, 2016 at 5:36 pm

    Thanks, Carolyn, for sharing this good news!

    Lisa Cloud | February 12, 2016 at 5:29 pm

    It is wonderful to hear that there are people giving opportunities, not because they have to, but because they WANT to!!! Thank you for sharing this story Carolyn. I would love to patronize businesses that are employing those with disabilities. Would you let us know of any when you hear? Thanks!

    John Shouse | February 12, 2016 at 1:18 pm

    Yes!! This is indeed wonderful, and a great example to which all of us can aspire. Just the simple question, “What can I do, here, right now, right where I am?” Making a difference in the world STARTS with making small differences wherever you have influence. Few of us are ever in a position to make sweeping systemic changes that impact huge numbers of people. But ALL of us are ROUTINELY in positions where we can change lives in small ways, one at a time. Bravo!!

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