My name is Grayson and I am a 16 year old autistic self-advocate in Lexington, Kentucky. I am a junior in high school, and my district has been in remote learning for the past 12 months due to COVID. My resource teacher has been a huge help with learning at home and planning for life after high school ends. Our district provided access to an online employment planning program, where I was able to inventory my skills, find careers that suit my strengths, and make a plan. I also have a transition planning meeting with my IEP team and an Office of Vocational Rehabilitation counselor scheduled this month.
Because of my disability, I do best when I know what is coming next and have a clear idea of what I need to do. Being able to get comfortable with new environments without pressure helps me be successful. Participating in community activities as a volunteer has made a big impact on my employment skills. Though volunteer opportunities, I have learned to participate in team meetings, plan and work cooperatively toward goals, and interact with a variety of different people. Being involved in community efforts has allowed me to build a resumé, develop contacts, and opened doors. This is what led to my part-time job, assisting with social media accounts and website for an inclusive higher education project. My co-workers taught me everything I needed to know to be successful at my job, even how to use Zoom for meetings – which came in handy when the pandemic started, and my school went online! I don’t think I would have made the switch to having high school classes online had I not developed those skills in my part-time job. Working while in high school is a way for me to develop skills that I will need the rest of my life.
My advice to people that are looking to get a job is: get involved in the community in things that interest you. Whether that is with working with animals at a humane society, serving food in a community kitchen, or volunteering with youth sports – there are many ways you can develop your skills, build your resume, and make personal contacts that open up new opportunities.
At 16, I am still not quite sure yet what I want to do with the rest of my life. Which is why it is so important that I be exposed to different environments and experiences. These experiences are how I will find my path.