By Adria Nassim
Ever since I was a child, I loved to write stories—a passion that would eventually become my career. As a child, I also learned how to convey the unique needs linked to my disability and to cultivate diverse friendships. Now, as a staff member for the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community, I use my experiences to guide young people with disabilities, and I encourage parents and caregivers to recognize and nurture their child’s talents. With patience, persistence, and staying open to receiving support, I believe everyone can find fulfillment and joy in a workplace that fits their unique strengths.
Expanding my early interests prepared me for my career
Even though I wasn’t writing for a newspaper or magazine at six years old, there were certain things I remember about my childhood that helped me prepare for employment years down the road. I always had a big imagination as a kid, and I loved to write stories. By about age five or six, my parents and teachers would comment about the stories I had written and encourage me to write more. I felt so proud when I wrote something, and people liked it and wanted to read it. The encouragement of my writing continued into my teen years, and by college I looked at writing and public speaking as a way to build a career and make money.
I was also told at a young age that I had a disability. My parents explained to me that I might need help with some things that other kids might not, but that it was okay to need help or do things a little differently than the other kids. As a result, I had lots of practice expressing my wants and needs to others when it came to my disability.
As I got older, my parents also started to talk to me more about my disabilities and how they affected me day to day as far as what my challenges were and how I could advocate for myself in specific situations. When I was hired by the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community in July 2017, I felt very comfortable going to my supervisor and talking about my support needs at work.
Interacting with peers with a diverse group developed my social skills
I spent a lot of time around kids without disabilities growing up and did extracurricular activities with them. I swam year-round on a swim team with other kids without disabilities and spent most of the day with them in school. I also had a younger sister without disabilities, and spending time around typical kids allowed me to expand my social and emotional skills into the greater community and have a chance to practice them.
My parents also made a point to consistently reinforce and model age-appropriate social behavior both at home and in public which also helped me become more proficient with social skills early on. As I reached young adulthood, this evolved into individual and group social skills therapy sessions for young adults with autism.
In general, I recommend that parents and providers recognize skills and talents in young people with disabilities and to encourage them to pursue them. As much as possible, try to focus on what the young person can do and what they are good at.
Finding your own path is important
Allow them to explore a variety of jobs and interests so that they know what they like in a job, what they don’t, and what kinds of things work well for them in the work environment. Also, being open to support and suggestions from others can be helpful.
Every person’s journey in employment is unique, and a job that is a great fit for one person may not be the best fit for another. Be patient and persistent in your search. Keep looking until you find a position you really enjoy that fits you or your child.