My Experience with Job Coaches
In 2001 I graduated from Finneytown High School in the suburbs of Cincinnati, Ohio. I was actively seeking employment because I was turning 18 later that year. I had a job coach/developer/someone like that through Ohio Valley Goodwill Industries who helped me with community job applications before I actually participated in their sheltered workshop the following year. Due to my Asperger’s I take every word I read to the most literal extreme and don’t apply for most of the jobs I see because most employers exaggerate their requirements and I cannot be certain that I actually have the required skills and experience. I definitely don’t have two plus years of experience with the latest versions of Microsoft Word & Excel! It would help if I had someone who actually understands these exaggerated job descriptions and has either assessed or been told what my skills & experience are so that they can help me make an informed decision as to whether or not to apply for a particular job. But job developers who were available to me through the California Department of Rehabilitation (DoR) did not do that. They would just sit there and watch me apply for jobs, and in between our weekly appointments, expected me to apply for jobs completely on my own like people without disabilities do. What a poor excuse of help that was! I’ve had my case with DoR closed multiple times, and until their job developers offer to do more for me, I don’t want my case reopened. Besides that I’d rather try to become able to apply for jobs completely on my own. My condition may always interfere with that, but I still want to try.
The job coach/developer I had was present at the interview and prompted me, “tell the interviewer about this, tell the interviewer about that”. That way I brought up what the interviewer wanted to hear and nothing else. Having my job developer there to prompt me was very helpful. Most job interviews are tight molds for autistic people. We wiggle out of those molds, often unintentionally, and don’t get the jobs because the interview is an extremely hard test of social skills that we can’t help but fail.
In 2007 I had two more job developers through Jewish Vocational Services (JVS), also in Cincinnati, Ohio. They drove me to my skills assessments at Scholastic and Flexi, both of which only lasted a week. I really enjoyed both skills assessments. At Flexi, I was shipping pet accessories. I accomplished a greater quantity than expected once trained. I could not apply to work at Flexi because their workshop was located too far off the nearest bus line. At Scholastic, I don’t remember what I was doing but it was certainly something related to shipping and receiving. Scholastic is outside of Hamilton County, Ohio where Cincinnati is, and I could not apply to work at Scholastic for the very same reason as Flexi. However, Flexi employees said they were scheduled to begin their shift at 6AM Eastern. I cannot be at work before 9AM, and even later if the bus ride is an hour and a half or longer. Many of these shipping & receiving jobs are full-time and I can only work part-time with my autism issues.