Monday, November 16, 2020

When life gives you lemons, make kits

This school year, Max was supposed to be getting hands-on work experience. But: pandemic. Although his school building is open for learning, he's been virtual. That's been going well—his teacher is phenomenal, and Max is very responsive—but getting work experience virtually is quite the challenge. 

For the last couple of months Max has been doing data entry tasks using Google spreadsheets—he logs tallies for stuff like school attendance and lunch choices. He's really good at it, although he considers it boring. Can't blame him there.

Given that Max is likely going to be learning at home for a big chunk of the school year, I was hoping for some creative ways that would enable him to practice work skills and I asked the administration for suggestions. One of the teachers who coordinates the work experience program came up with an excellent idea: have Max assemble custom kits to approximate filling orders. 

Dave picked up the supplies from school. Max's first job: to put together first aid kits in the eight silicone bins provided. The school gave us cotton swabs, bandages and cotton balls. A card provided visual instructions:

Max also received laminated "order" cards, numbered 1 to 8, with different configurations of supplies.

Grasping the cotton swabs and bandages proved tricky, so Max worked on it during his OT session at school. Next up, he tackled a school supply order, and I helped him during my work lunchtime. Max had to divvy up markers, pencils and erasers. Those erasers were tricky little suckers, and grasping the slim pencils did not come easily, either. But Max would try, try, try again. And then, holding onto the items for dear life, he'd drop them into the bins. A few times he said, "Go upstairs!" As in: "Return to your office attic, Mom, cause I've got this." When he was done, he flashed me the biggest victory smile. Next time, I'm leaving him alone. 

We're picking up two more kits at school this week. One is a gift card kit; Max will have to divvy up assorted fast-food gift cards into bins. (Max, ever the hungry teen, is surely going to insist that we load money onto some of them and use them). The other kit will involve utensil assembly—he'll have to group spoons, forks and straws. 

Educating and engaging our children during a pandemic is a huge load to bear. Thinking out of the box and advocating for our children is more key than ever. As usual, it takes a village, and I'm seriously grateful for Max's.


  1. What a great blog you continue to write. And what a wonderful school you have found for Max. Very cler idea to , as you out it, have Max make kits.
    Ellen, do you ever come into Manhattan? I know it is getting cold, but I'll meet you most anywhere and we could have a socially distanced walk. Or if you have any interest in modern art, I could bring you in as my guest to MoMA as I'm a member. Alas, I do not text, but please email me at

  2. This is such a great idea! I've been trying to figure out work-a-rounds for my son missing out on learning and social skills, not to mention his daily living skills training/practice (he hasn't been going in to his day hab through all of this). But I never really thought about the job piece - I just assumed that wouldn't be possible this year. Thanks for the great ideas - will definitely be discussing this with my son's program! - Alyssa

  3. This is such a wonderful update and brought a big smile to my face. Very happy for Max and such a wonderful way to keep him learning and engaged during these challenging times. It really does take a village and how great for him to have this and for you to be a leader of the village!


Thanks for sharing!

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