First Day on the Job - Autism Awareness

First Day on the Job

Preparation – We spoke about the market often throughout the month of June. We watched a You Tube video of the market. I talked to the kids about what kinds of jobs they might have to do and what the vendors would be selling.

The Work Sheet – I prepared a work sheet for each child. The sheet had 2 days of shifts on it (July 6 & 12) with their shift broken down into 3 hourly sections. Each time an hour passed, they could check off a box. We found after one box they didn’t need it. There was also a spot for the market manager to sign to help the kids realize they have to check out when work is over, not just leave because the clock says it is time to.

At the end of the work sheet, there is a sentence that says, “I am working for…” and then a picture of what they are working towards. Many people with ASD are not motivated by money itself but rather what it can buy. Since the market is a volunteer position, the kids are earning points towards merchandise they’d like to have. It is delaying gratification and they are excited to be working towards a goal. It is very meaningful for them.

Arriving Early – We got there 15 minutes before the shift began for some decompressing time. Things were quiet and it gave the kids time to collect themselves in the new environment. We may not need this time as the weeks go on once they are familiar with the market.

If a child is overly anxious in new situations, it may help to go to the job site first before the first day of work. I did not feel this was necessary in our case since we had the video to watch.

A Supportive Manager – Our Market manager, Janneane, knows the kids through our skating group. She also has an understanding of the characteristics of autism and has her expectations adjusted accordingly to what the kids can and can’t do. Janneane explains the jobs slowly and also gives a demonstration to there is visual support with her job descriptions.

It is important that employers/managers know a bit about autism and what to expect. Not understanding anything about autism is a recipe for disaster. Too many misunderstandings can occur and expectations can be out of line.

Appropriate Tasks – Marc and Julia were given appropriate tasks that they could accomplish fairly independently. They had to fill coolers with pop and water, pick up pylons once the vendor stalls were full (Marc’s favorite job), ring a bell and say that the market was open, and accompany me while selling beverages to vendors. As the weeks go on, they may be able to handle some new jobs.

Frequent Breaks – There were opportunities to take short, frequent breaks. This was an opportunity to sit for a few minutes, take a drink, and discuss what tasks had to be done next.

What to Improve On

Increasing Independence – I plan on listing the job tasks on separate cards so the kids can follow the steps on their own.

Using the Strengths – Marc carries a clock everywhere he goes and finds comfort in associating a task with a time. I have asked Janneane to go to him when she needs to know what time it is or ask Marc to announce times for jobs. For example, at 4 pm we start to sell beverages. Marc could be telling us when it’s time to start. This will also get him interacting with Janneane.

Increasing Interaction with Vendors – Next week, I’d like to try a script card for the kids so they can ask each vendor if they would like something to drink. They can take turns doing this and getting the drinks out of the cooler.

Trying One New Thing – I’d like to see if we can add a new task each week. Next week is Customer Appreciation Day with a draw taking place. Maybe they can ask each vendor for a donation. This would have to be a script on a card to read until they felt comfortable.

I think we are on to something here with the volunteer experience. Both kids felt very proud at the end of their shift and can’t wait to come back again next week.

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