Yesterday, Mary and I went to an appointment to close her case at the State Rehabilitation Services office. This agency helps people with disabilities, addictions, and other barriers to employment find employment. They have funds to help with education, transportation, testing, driver’s training, bus training, etc.
When Mary graduated from high school in 2005, the State Rehabilitation Services offices took over her transition services. They paid for neuropsych testing to evaluate her skills and her ability to complete job training or college, and find employment.
When we met with the case worker eight years ago, Mary was very quiet. When the caseworker asked Mary a question, Mary looked at me when answering. She did not connect to the case worker.
During the past eight years, Mary has completed an Associates degree in accounting at the community college, and a Bachelor’s degree in accounting at a local private college. We hovered at first, but with my help and the help of her caseworker, she accessed disability services at both colleges. She learned to navigate the bus system to get herself around town when we could not provide transportation. After college, she found volunteer positions at the YWCA and then at a homeless shelter. The volunteer position at the homeless shelter turned into a part-time job. She worked with Goodwill to develop job skills and Goodwill helped her find a part-time position at Habitat for Humanity. Between the two jobs, she works 14 hours a week.
Last week, Mary’s caseworker contacted Mary to set up an appointment to close her case. I wanted to go with Mary in order to question the caseworker and help Mary to understand her rights and what the next steps might be if she needed help in the future. Mary wanted me there as well.
This is the amazing part: during the meeting, Mary hardly looked at me, unless I was talking to both of them. She looked at the caseworker while speaking to her. Her caseworker complimented Mary on her confidence and communication skills. This is a significant. I was struck by her progress. I imagined Mary interacting with her coworkers.
On the way home, Mary said that when she meets new people on the job, they often ask her if she is from another country. She tells them that she is an American. I have a hunch that her speech impairment combined with the effort to overcome the autism effect leads strangers to conclude her speech differences are the result of speaking English as a second language. They don’t assume that she has a disability. I am excited about this.