December 7, 2011
By Jeff Stimpson
They're talking jobs in Alex's future, as he nears 14 and "vocational" begins to appear on his IEP. They're talking "jobs" in 14 million other futures right now, of course, but as Alex gets closer to adulthood I try to not think about that.
There are various jobs Alex (who has PDD-NOS) can do. Even now in the grocery store he aligns cans so the labels face the same way. At grandpa's lake house, he sets the table for a dozen with the handles of the coffee cups all facing the same way. There are other examples.
Jobs he does:
Alex empties the dishwasher every morning before the sun is up (his school bus comes at 6, and he's often up by 4:30 anyway). “Knives, forks and spoons, Alex,” I say over the lower bin, which I've pulled out after he’s made sure to close the soap box. One by one he drops the utensils clattering into their slots in the drawer. Except for the paper-thin tablespoons my wife Jill paid 25-cents each for, of course. Alex hates those, and morning after morning he tries to slide them unnoticed into the rear end of the drawer.
He does laundry, hauling the heavy cart to the elevator of our apartment building and punching "B" for basement. I still keep an eye on him down there, as it wasn't long ago that he darted for the door and even locked himself in the bathroom. These days, he scoops the fallen socks and underwear from the floor and stuffs them into the triple-loaders. When the laundry’s done, he wrestles the tangles from the washer. Once, when all the triples were taken and we had to use the double front-loaders, Alex stared at the triples then looked for a moment at the doubles. He wanted to understand but the doubles were new to him. He wanted to understand - and I hoped he didn’t realize that other people understand the difference between the doubles and the triples much, much faster than he can.
Jobs he creates:
Sweeping pretzel and cookie crumbs from the cushion of the couch, the floor of the living room, and the bed of his little brother Ned, where Alex perches - never on his own bed - to munch and watch the iPad. “Alex put crumbs in my bed!” says Ned, his arms arcing madly across the sheets. When I was a little kid, I could never sleep when I thought there were crumbs in my bed, either. I don’t like to think about the roaches.
Alex up in the middle of the night and first thing in the morning also means I have to wipe around the toilet bowl. Enough of that, for now. He scatters clothes when he’s picking out what he’s going to wear that day, socks and pants and T-shirts littered around the foot of his dresser like Civil War dead in the Brady photograph around the walls of a fort. Alex scatters Legos and makes Ned cry and then swear. Thanks, Alex!
We learn more about Alex and jobs when we visit his classroom. We learn he orders the supplies for his classroom and delivers newspapers to all the classrooms in his school. We learn too that he sweeps floors and wipes tables in his classroom. Funny he never mentioned that to us.
Jeff Stimpson is a native of Bangor, Maine, and lives in New York with his wife Jill and two sons. He is the author of “Alex: The Fathering of a Preemie” and “Alex the Boy: Episodes from a Family’s Life With Autism” (both available on Amazon). He maintains a blog about his family at jeffslife.tripod.com/alextheboy, and is a frequent contributor to various sites and publications on special-needs parenting, such as Autism-Asperger’s Digest, Autism Spectrum News, the Lostandtired blog, The Autism Society news blog, and An Anthology of Disability Literature (available on Amazon). He is on Linked In under “Jeff Stimpson” and Twitter under “Jeffslife.”
Editor's note: Leave us a comment and share the jobs in your life! Don't forget to sign in before commenting.
Topics:Living with Autism
Please login or register before you comment. Click here to login or register.