May 22, 2013 0 Share

Too Many Hats

Man wearing many hats.

When I graduated from college, I found out quickly that to support myself in the “real world” I would have to work two jobs. After working two, sometimes even three, jobs for about three years I could tell it was getting the best of me. Working up to 85 hours per week to pay bills finally got the best of me and I had to quit one of the jobs. I was able to explain the situation to my night job and leave on good terms with the manager. I have found with my job now, I have to be that voice for autistic adults when work has become too much for them. Some of the individuals I work with have two, three, and sometimes four, jobs but they can’t really express when the work has become too much for them. So, I have to look for clues and indications regarding how they are feeling. 

When I first started my current job as a Supported Employment Manager, I had one person on my caseload that had three different jobs in one week. He was working at a clothing store on Mondays all day, working at a warehouse store Tuesdays through Thursdays, and was working at a grocery store on Fridays. This person was very independent and loved working at all of these places, so who was I to say that he had to give up one of the jobs. When this person lost the job at the warehouse store due to downsizing, everyone else was worried about him not working all the time now because that was what his routine was. He was able to tell me that he wanted to work another job and actually knew the job he wanted to do. It was not hard to find him another job, but that is not always the case. 

Another individual was working four different part-time jobs. Coming back from a vacation, I found out that he had been assigned an additional job working in a restaurant. I could tell right away that the individual was working too much because he started exhibiting behaviors that we had not seen since he started our program. In spite of pressure to keep him working all the jobs, I finally decided to pull this man from two of the jobs—a volunteer job and a paid position. 

Needless to say, some people were not happy that I had pulled him from a paid position. But in light of the return to challenging behaviors, keeping five jobs didn’t seem to be the right answer. In the end it all worked out well; the individual became more relaxed and loves what he does now with three jobs. It is nice to know that a parent would trust me enough to find what is best for their child. Especially when the individual lives with the mother and she has to take care of him after work. While I don’t always know what’s right for the autistic adults I work with, I do know that sometimes they need someone to stand up for them, pay attention to what they are trying to tell us, and be a voice when work overwhelms them.