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Building Autonomy Through Opportunity

Text by Jonah Languay & Michele Matthews

Neurodiverse adults are available and want to do meaningful work. With support, some will be very successful. Jonah is one of these people. At 22 years old, Jonah who is autistic, has been doing volunteer work at a local food bank since January. I accompany Jonah, and with minimal supervision and direction from me, he has become very dependable, very productive, and much liked among his co-workers.

Jonah who is verbal but experiences some challenges with communication, completed the following to explain things about his work:

When I’m working at the food bank, “I feel happy.” My favourite job is “packaging potatoes.” “I work from 9:30-12:30 and take a 15 minute break at 11:00.” I set a “timer” so that I’m not “late to start working.”

Jonah continues to express himself by circling the following points on a piece of paper:

“I do a good job!”

“I remember what I have to do”

“I like going to work”

“Working makes me happy”

As the number of neurodiverse individuals reaching adulthood increases steadily, it is crucial that more opportunities for building autonomy through meaningful work experiences are available for them. It is beneficial for the entire community when everyone has equal access to opportunity.

With the right fit, individuals are able to contribute in positive ways, and with opportunity comes the chance for increased autonomy in life. This is true for all of us and is no different for the neurodiverse.

Having a work place where he is accepted and needed has given Jonah more confidence. He is happy when working and proud of his accomplishments. He says he is not nervous. When asked for final thoughts from Jonah, he gets very excited, jumping up and down saying “I do so good!”

Jonah Languay is 22 years old, funny, hard working, a fast learner, loves videos and texting, and is autistic. He is a regular participant in Autism House activities.

Michele Matthews is a teacher and has been working in Special Education for 35 years. She is a board member and volunteer at Autism House and she is Jonah’s aunt.

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