My First Client:
The Frustrated Artist
My name is Mark and I’m autistic (Asperger’s). I have been working as a receipt log clerk at a financial services company for the past 13 years. I prepare charts and mail for imaging, file accountability forms, and open and sort mail. I work on a team with co-workers who understand and respect me. I have a regular paycheck and good benefits. And, I like my job.
I also like history. I’ve gone to reenactments of different revolutionary battles. I went to re-make the Battle of Germantown years ago and even traveled to Yorktown, Virginia to watch the re-make of that battle.
I’ve always liked music and spent over 30 years building up an extensive collection of over 30 days of continuous music listening of all genres (Yes, that’s a lot).
I tried DJing but it didn’t work because pleasing a crowd proved to be very difficult; people have the most amazing taste for music. Music could either be a godsend or a sack religion that grates on the nerves of some people. I had to really play what they liked and that was very hard for me to do. And so, I quit being a DJ and now just listen to music with friends and for my own pleasure.
I’ve done a lot of art throughout the years. You name it, I’ve done it; watercolors, oil paints, acrylics, prints, ceramics, and photography. I even had an exhibit of some of my sketches in the Woodmere Art Gallery near where I live. I’ve had a lot of commissions but could not make a living as an artist.
I was unemployed and anxious. I knew that my passion in life was art and music but I couldn’t make a living as an artist. I needed a job with stability and, because of my autism, I couldn’t find a good job with only my family’s help.
A friend reminded me that Rich Davis, the job developer at the business school we had both gone to, had helped her find her job. She suggested that he might help me. I discussed this with my parents and we contacted Rich. He explained that he had never provided private job development services before but he agreed to help me.
Rich met with my family, got to know me, and suggested that the first thing I should do was apply for assistance from the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR). I began that process with my family’s help while Rich and I reviewed my resume and updated it. As Rich got to know the kinds of jobs I wanted, he began contacting businesses on my behalf.
After a while, Rich told me that an employer might want to hire me. He supported me through my interview and I was hired. I had a temporary job for six months working at a company that processed legal documents for scanning. Although it was a temporary assignment for only six months, they said it might be extended.
I did my best, but after six months I was told that they didn’t want me back. I was upset and Rich found out that I did OK but my reading skills were not as strong as they needed. Rich apologized for not finding out about the reading requirement sooner and said he would keep that in mind for the next job. He reminded me that you can’t change the past, only learn from it. I learned that I work slowly but I’m organized, efficient, and I complete the tasks that are given to me.
By this time, I had met my OVR-funded job developer, Bill. I started working less with Rich and more with Bill. I mentioned to Bill that a company where my autistic friend used to work was hiring. Rich knew the human resources people there and put in a good word for me and Bill was able to give me the support I needed to interview for the job. I was hired!
I have been working there ever since. I have a stable full-time job, my pay is good and so are my benefits. I fit in and I’ve made many friends at work over the years.
With my family’s help, I live in my own place, have my own easel and paints, and can start on a piece on my own anytime I want. Do I have a Comfort Job? Yes and no. I like what I do but I love art and music. It would be great to find a job that used my artistic talents and provided a good income. Until then, I’m grateful that at least I’m not a starving artist.
Team member’s perspective: Letter from Mark’s father, May 8, 2008
Rich, I want to thank you for the services which you have rendered to us on behalf of our son, Mark. You have analyzed Mark’s potential as an employee and helped him to determine his strengths and weaknesses.
You have helped him deal with the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) and recommended a firm which could provide job coaching services which were financed by OVR.
You have prepared Mark for job interviews and attended such interviews in support of Mark. You have discussed Mark’s potentials with the Human Relations Offices of various employers before and after the interview.
You have provided Mark with leads to potential employers which resulted in a job for Mark.
Your services have been sensitive, competent, and professional. I thank you for the help which you have given to Mark.