Perkins School for the Blind Transition Center

Matching Interests Key to Successful Employment for People with Autism

From my perspective, people with autism need to find ways to get into work that they can enjoy with great happiness. I managed to enjoy working at a childcare center because it was a place that matched my interest in working with children.

Michael Lettman

Michael Lettman

So maybe if people with autism find jobs that are based on their interests, then maybe they would like to work there and gain experience. That way, they will have real jobs or volunteer opportunities at places where they can learn how to work before they’re ready for employment. Maybe they will like their jobs or maybe they won’t, but I’m sure there are lots of chances for autistic people to enjoy their work experience. People with autism want to work hard – even if they are not earning as much as they would like – THE MONEY IS WORTH IT. A lot of autistic people really need it for their future.

I never knew that some people with autism became successful in their lives by doing their own work. I’m very impressed with how some successful people on the autism spectrum can create, own, or run their own company/business related to their successful ideas – like how Satoshi Tajiri created Game Freak as its President and one of its Founders. Here’s a list of some Excellent Businesses by Successful Autistic People.

I feel bad when I hear that a high percentage of people with autism are unemployed or underemployed. This is NOT OK because everyone needs to work.

Enjoying My Early Work/Volunteer Experience

During my student days at P373K (The Brooklyn Transition), I attended a Head Start class that volunteered at the Northside Center for Child Development. That class was taught by Heather Lifland who made sure we enjoyed our work as helpers in preschool classes. It was an excellent work experience for me and I truly enjoyed it. It really felt like I had a real job (a job that I wouldn’t mind having in my future). I was assigned to work in a UPK (Universal Pre-Kindergarten) class which was taught by a teacher known as Ms. Leda. (I don’t recall her first name). I’ve had some good times being a helper for the young students, whom I referred to as “My Adorables.” I did have some struggles which gave Ms. Leda some hard times when she was trying to do her job as a teacher. Ms. Heather Lifland helped me get better at my job for Ms. Leda and her young students. As a helper, I cleaned tables, swept the floor, sorted their work into folders, read a few stories to the children, put up the cots for their nap time, and joined them on their outside walks. I was a happy student working as a helper in a UPK class at a childcare center for my final three years with P373K.

Then Came “Change”

Summer School (2014): I had to be sent into another room with different teachers and different young students which was a “change.” I was upset because I wanted to be in the same room with the same teachers and the same children until their graduation, but they wouldn’t let me do that. I couldn’t accept the “change,” but after speaking with Ms. Lifland, along with a few weeks in the new preschool class, I managed to recover from the “change.” I enjoyed being their helper, even though it took a while for me to adjust to not being with Ms. Leda and her students during those summer school days.

Summer School (2015): I was assigned to work with someone in the kitchen of the childcare center. It was another “change,” but I managed to not get too upset about it. I sorted bottles and other kitchen supplies, helped clean the plates and utensils, and helped deliver the food to the classrooms so the students could enjoy their breakfast, lunch, and snack. I didn’t get to be with any Adorables during that time, but helping with their meals was very important, so I truly enjoyed helping out in the kitchen.

My “Final” Goodbye to P373K: As I’ve been happy with my Adorables graduating, I eventually had to graduate myself and I wasn’t sure if I was that happy about it since I had to say goodbye to my job as a helper. Just like my Adorables, it was time for me to step into the next chapter in my life, but I was going to miss working at the Northside Center for Child Development.

AHRC NYC Quarter Page Spring 2021

College Life During Pandemic

I’m currently working on my future career goals while attending AHRC New York City’s Melissa Riggio Higher Education Program at Kingsborough Community College. Thanks to the Assistant Transition Developer named Frank Laskowitz, I’ve completed an excellent resume which shall start things off for my career path. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, my career planning got ruined, but Mr. Laskowitz encouraged me to attend virtual career fairs to find any opportunities in remote work/internships. I didn’t find much, so I began searching in new ways.

Thanks to Professor Susan Carpenter and Professor Eric Conte, I found a remote internship working with a first-grade student as an assistant teacher which relates to my career interest of wanting to work with children. I’ve updated my resume with this internship, and I’ve really enjoyed working with a child, even if it was remote via Zoom.

During the month of World Autism Awareness (which is April), Kingsborough Community College had a virtual recruitment week for students to interview with employers for work opportunities. I decided to try it out by arranging to meet with employers from the Quality Services for the Autism Community and SKIP (Sick Kids [Need] Involved People) of New York’s Community Center. Unfortunately, the employers were unable to attend, so I was advised to send them my resume and cover letters. After hearing back from them, I didn’t get many results. However, I did enjoy my remote job interviews with them to prepare for future employment.

Future Career Goals

I’ve been trying to find new work experiences before I choose to settle into a real job, and it sometimes makes me miss my old job back at the childcare center. I’d prefer to be happy in a job even if it pays less than I’m hoping for – it will at least be the official job that I’ll end up having for my future. I plan to get a job with good hours that I would enjoy. I wouldn’t mind the hard work, especially if it involves my interests (children, trains, or even my project on autism) so I can be happy in my work life.

 Career of Interest (1) – Children: From my experience at a childcare center, I might like a job working with children so I can improve my skills as a helper. I would enjoy supporting young kids or serving food to them when they need it. I also wouldn’t mind an opportunity to work with autistic children to see if I can become a big help to them as a mentor, which is what I’m aiming for with my autism project.

Career of Interest (2) – Trains: I’ve enjoyed trains since I was little, so I might like working with New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority, since I’ve enjoyed researching what they do. Some of their jobs might be very complicated (like driver or conductor), but maybe I could work at transit locations, organizing things, cleaning, giving out directions for lost passengers, or advocating for transit accessibility.

Career of Interest (3) – Autism Project: I might like a job that would allow me to expand the reach of my autism blog and YouTube Channel, while helping the autistic community. For my project’s purpose, I would like a job in advocating, interviewing, making videos, and working with autistic children. Perhaps I could work with a business or nonprofit organization, or anywhere else that will open some doors for many people with disabilities.

As an Autism Advocate, Michael Lettman hopes that there will be many job openings that will accept people with autism as wonderful employees. He also hopes to find a fulfilling career that will keep him happy for years to come. You can learn more about Michael at his Living with Autism blog. You can also check out his Living with Autism YouTube Channel.

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