Small successes

This summer I took a new job in a new profession. The whole process of applying for, transitioning to, and now learning the job has gone really well, but leaves me with little “bandwidth” to create blog posts! From here on out, posts will most likely be less frequent, or written by guest writers, or reposted from other blogs, or written by me but with less research behind them.

The subtitle of Climbing the Cinder Cone is “Resources for atypical young people.” At present, I don’t have anything to share about programs, therapies, or approaches to try; today, I can only offer small stories of the progress we’ve seen in our older son Nathan. In a way, these kinds of stories are a resource, since they may provide you with Hope – and that can be a Very Important Resource indeed.

Over the last year or so, I’ve shared that Nathan (now in his mid-20s) has been ready to find part-time work. That in itself is huge!

This past spring, he went on his first-ever job interview. After submitting many applications with no result, he was excited about finally getting to the next step.

The opening, at a big home improvement store, included stocking shelves (which is the type of job he wanted) but also customer service (not a good idea). We hoped that during the interview he could talk about his unique character traits and see if, for him, they might adjust the duties to primarily stocking shelves.

We offered to rehearse job interview questions with Nathan, but he declined. He did accept our advice on what to wear. Unfortunately, since he had just cut his own hair, he was sporting a couple of bald patches.

Another concern was making sure he knew how to get to the store. We would be out of town at a funeral on the day of the interview, but Nathan didn’t mind walking the two miles to the store.

On Interview Day, Nathan called us several times; luckily, the calls occurred between events at the funeral. Most critically, right before the interview itself the store had him re-enter almost all of the information from his application. Nathan hadn’t brought the piece of paper where he’s got those kind of details written down, so Mom and Dad had to dictate the answers to him (including spelling).

He called us one last time (between the interment and the reception) to tell us the interview had gone poorly. They’d spoken with him and another candidate at the same time, asking a lot of hypothetical questions about problems with customers and coworkers. He realized at the time he wasn’t answering the questions well.

While Nathan was disappointed to have missed out on that job, he didn’t go into a downward spiral. We told him it was great that he had followed through and had given it his best, despite the difficulties.

A few months and a couple of applications later, Nathan got called to interview for stocking shelves after hours at a large toy store: a good fit for him!

Several things went better this time:

  • He put aside his sensory issues and, for the first time in years, allowed his dad to cut his hair (and afterwards said the process doesn’t bother him any more!)
  • Unbeknownst to us, Nathan had been practicing interview questions and answers on his own.
  • The interview started with a group of applicants being instructed to cooperate in work-like tasks while the HR people observed. Three red flags: it was a surprise to Nathan; he’s never liked group work; and he doesn’t do well with strangers. Despite all that, afterward he reported being surprised with how well he handled himself.
  • He felt good about his performance in the interview.

The last time we can remember Nathan saying he felt good about something he’d done? Maybe at the start of middle school, but probably elementary school – and it was rare even then.

Nathan didn’t get the toy store job either. I’m not sure he’ll be able to land a job without the support of an agency that helps people with disabilities. He runs hot and cold on signing up for help, but is OK with submitting more applications, at his own pace.

He isn’t frustrated, and neither are we. Anyone who has a loved one with a history like Nathan’s will know what it means to see improvements in persistence, grooming, people skills, frustration tolerance, handling unwelcome surprises, and positive self-appraisal.

Five years ago we certainly wouldn’t have believed it possible, but now we dare to have hope for his future.

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About janet565

I've lived in the Inland Empire of Southern California since 1982. Born and raised in New Jersey, I've also lived in upstate New York and in Oregon. My profession involves maps and geography, which is usually very interesting. My hobbies are pretty boring - none of them involve tigers (or ligers) or jumping out of aircraft - so they do not bear mention here. I hope you find the blog useful, and wish you well....

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