Thursday, November 2, 2017

Retail assembly, building maintenance: This can't be his future

You know you've lucked out when your child regularly says, "I love school!" Max's transition to high school has gone incredibly well. He's made new friends, gotten into the swing of classwork and homework and is enjoying social events like evening parties and hangouts with teens from other schools.

The other day, I stopped by for an IEP review. We had one last spring, but needed to revisit it for the new school. I'd gotten a copy ahead of time; I always request it. I know some schools draw up IEPs during the meeting, but the ones Max has been in tend to put a draft together ahead of time and I find it far easier to have time to read, digest and react to it on my own time.

Most of the IEP tackled the usual areas: reading, math, social studies, science, occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, phys ed and health. But there was a section new to me about the school's program that helps teach students life skills and prepares them for jobs. Max seemed to be behaving well and focusing. But my eyes locked on the sentence that noted the tasks he's doing fall under the headings of Retail Assembly, Building Maintenance, Office Skills.

Close to fifteen years after having Max, my heart still sinks when I think about the limitations of jobs that will be available to him, even though I rationally know there might be options out there that don't yet exist—or that we could carve out for him. But I was surprised to see job types listed that largely involve fine-motor skills.

Max's usage of his hands has come along. He has achieved a rough pincer grasp—instead of picking up objects using the end of his pointer finger and his thumb, he grabs things by wedging his thumb against the base of his finger, along with lots of determination. His left hand is the more functional one, and he tends to only want to use that one. "Use both hands, Max!" is a phrase often heard around our house. Right now, we're working on getting him to unbuckle his seat belt, open the automatic door of our minivan and step out on his own.

As we all know, a job should play to your strengths. And I am pretty certain that work involving manual labor is not in Max's future, firefighter aspirations aside. I figure we might be able to find a way for him to pitch in at our local station or with a volunteer fire department, and then he'll have a another job, although Max is not yet convinced.

As we drove home from an event last night, we discussed exactly how he'd like to work in a fire department. He said he'd want to drive the truck, a new answer—usually he's said he would not want to be behind the wheel. Trying hard not to be a buzzkill, I pointed out that driving a fire truck might be a little hard for him and asked if he had other ideas. So then he said he could sit in the back of the truck, his usual response. To be continued.

Yes, Max is just a freshman. We have time before we have to figure things out. There will be other skills he will be learning in the program. And to be sure, there are benefits that come from "building maintenance" and "retail assembly" skills that would apply to all sorts of jobs, including focus and diligence. But I know that Max is a person who thrives on the confidence of knowing he can do stuff, along with familiarity. It seems like it would make sense to at least start thinking, early on in his young adult life, what kind of work could play to his biggest asset: his personality.

Max's charm, sweetness, smile and happy-go-lucky ways have won people over since he was a few months old and had the Early Intervention therapists wrapped around his chubby little finger. He's a people person, and that's exactly what I said at the IEP meeting. Max had come in by this point, and I explained to him that we were talking about jobs.

I acknowledged that he wanted to be a firefighter, and also noted that it would be good for him to have a job where he could be around a lot of people because he was so good at making friends and people liked hanging out with him. "Right?" I said. "Right!" he responded. The teacher consultant running the meeting was going to relay my message to the person in charge of the life skills program. I'm looking forward to hearing back.

While I can see Max doing some sort of office job, if he chooses to, "retail assembly" and "building maintenance": not so much. I don't yet have other thoughts about the kind of work Max might do, although one occurred to me over the summer. A new restaurant is opening in town and the owners live in our area; I met one at a party, and as we talked I started wondering if Max could be a host. But would he be able to grab the menus and present them to customers? (Probably.) Would he get bored after a couple of hours on the job? (Maybe.) Would he get tired standing on his feet for a while? (Definitely.) And then I was back to fantasy square one.

There will be plenty of school guidance, job coaching and brainstorming in years to come, I know. But I'm going to start beating this drum now.

To be continued.


  1. My office building (and I believe almost all office buildings in NYC) have a "fire safety director". I'm not sure what they do, aside from making announcements alerting the whole building every time an alarm goes off on any floor, but it does seem to be a full time role.
    There are also consulting companies that come around 3-4 times a year to conduct fire safety information sessions and drills (mandatory in NYC). A lot of the employees are retired firemen.
    Those are 2 fireman related jobs that are possibilities. There are likely other roles not dissimilar around the country.

  2. I think Koshkakot and I are thinking along the same line. What if you create an online community project...initially, of course, for MAX (because, Max!) but it could grow to support others. Think about Max's greatest strengths and those areas of struggle (very short lists, too be manageable). Then ask everyone in your various circles to think about Max as they go through every day and ask themselves questions such as...Is this a career Max would enjoy? Is this a place Max could assist someone? Is this a place that offers meaningful experiences and real work Max would love? Some ideas: assisting a FedEx UPS kind of person - he knows his way around, would enjoy delivering packages and meeting new people as well as developing relationships with regular customers, would make the driver more productive and efficient as he or she gets next delivery GOSd and ready...maybe an assistive. Device specialist in a school district, supporting young kids as they learn to use and be comfortable with whatever tech brings them by shadowing through school days, working with parents and families to help them use devices....maybe a consultant to a large restaurant chain, helping them test new recipes, create dishes for others with fine motor challenges, understand the supports that having available in a restaurant would really help others, helping design and test layout to provide less stressful environments for sensory kids....Ithink there are real places that could, should, and hopefully would use a true expert (by experience, not education) in he's areas. Hospital chains could use the same support as restaurants....

    1. Hmm.

      Wasn't Gus the doorperson good at this sort of job?

      And I like the idea of device specialist/consultant.

      Pittsburgh Employment every two years has these conferences about these kind of jobs.

      Consultant! That is a growth industry!

      Yes - architecture and design and user interface/experience.

      And I agree about hospital chains - private medicine is more and more important.

      Insurance / investment need more friendly faces and good heads.

    2. T Shimel, excellent thinking. Yes, at some point we should definitely do this with Max's school/circle of family and friends. We did some life planning before he graduated middle school, and this would be the next level.

  3. I think the majority of high school freshmen are unsure of their futures, disabilities or not. Even some high school seniors are and people beyond that.

    1. Very true, Kathryn. I'm just doing my usual parent thing of looking into the future!

  4. Max WILL BE working in the field of "safety" be it a fire department or something related. managing safety inspections for buildings, overseeing spreadsheets for smoke detector and fire suppression equipment inspections, doubt his passion will be put to work. he's got the drive and that'll keep him in the field he desires. But WHAT do i know....these are just some thoughts based on my experience in apartment management dealing with inspections...someones got to be reviewing that database etc.

    1. Yes, I think doing something in the field of safety or a field in which he will help people is a real possibility.

  5. Did the school staff explain why they initially indicated "retail assembly" and "building maintenance?" There may be good reasons for it. Or, as would be my concern, they chose it partly because there are existing employment programs for disabled adults in your area that primarily involve retail assembly and building maintenance. Keep asking questions as you are doing, and keep everyone focused on Max's strengths and wishes ... even the ones that don't initially seem realistic.

    A bit of context: "Transition Planning" like this is a requirement that was added to the IEP process I believe in the late 1990s, to address the serious problem of disabled students graduating or aging out of school without ever having had conversations about adult life, much less preparation for it. Making sure it is done properly, honestly, and impartially is an ongoing challenge.

    1. I remember this too.

      It was added at least before 2004 with the second reauthorisation [1997 was the first one - and there were lots of changes and growth.

      Big shame that deVos deleted them all and the relevant points and history.

      "Theological vandal" as David Perry says].

    2. Good questions, Andrew. I had a really helpful conversation with the school last week, and the answer is both these are jobs that exist but because they are also letting Max try his hand at different things. The person is all for customizing work for Max as he goes along, that was a relief to hear. You can bet I will keep asking questions! Thanks, as always, for your wisdom and support.

  6. We are struggling with this exact issue, but our son is a junior. They have just moved him half-days to a vocational school, and his jobs there do not play to his strengths at all - all menial, final motor tasks that cause him to struggle and be bored simultaneously. It is really hard when your child doesn't fit the mold of what they already provide for others, and no one seems to want to think outside the box. When we explained his love of and proficiency for computer-based work, the teacher excitedly said they have a computer course . . . on how to refurbish a computer. Again, final motor skills he doesn't have. It is so frustrating.

    1. Can he work in a pair or a team and direct someone to the refurbishment? Or write a set of instructions - a one-page profile for computers and this particular computer and how it's supposed to work and how it does work?

      The information cycle!

    2. I was sorry to read this, Carol. Is there any way you can get them to bring in an outside expert for computer training that goes with his skill set?

  7. Max will likely qualify for SSI once he turns 18. This will help him in that there are many work incentives that can be combined with Vocational Rehabilitation services to help find or create a job that will fit Max's needs and interests. You may even be able to help him start his own business. Considering that Max is very much a people person a position like host does sound like a potentially great option. Perhaps he can only work part time but that is okay, if he can do something he likes.


Thanks for sharing!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...