Getting on your feet while transitioning from high school has never been easy; finding that first “real” job, navigating through college courses, or living on your own has always presented unique challenges. However, for youths aged 18-21 on the autism spectrum, getting that first start can be even more daunting.
Mitchell Worthington is a young adult employed at PRIDE Industries’ Roseville facility with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS). Asperger’s is an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a distinct group of complex developmental disabilities. Symptoms can range from very mild to severe, including difficulty with social behavior, communication deficits, fixated interests, and/or repetitive behavior. Studies have shown that continued employment can help ease AS symptoms and improve functioning in daily living. Furthermore, individuals with AS can make excellent employees due to their careful attention to detail and quality of work, and are often underutilized resources.
FINDING A PATH
After graduating high school, Mitchell started looking for employment opportunities. His case worker at Alta Regional Center referred him to PRIDE Industries; he became an employee in October 2011. Mitchell was first placed in the electronics department, but he aspired to find a position that would better suit his interests. With help from his case manager Justin Underwood, Mitchell explored different job options. He was placed in PRIDE’s shipping fulfilment operation, where he helped to pull orders shipped domestically and internationally. Mitchell thrived in the position. “It is these expanding opportunities at PRIDE that keeps me interested,” he says. “It allows me to learn and grow.” Justin describes him as a “real self-starter.”
When a landscaping position opened up at our Roseville facility, Mitchell stepped up to a new challenge. He arrives at the PRIDE campus at the crack of dawn, Monday through Friday. Despite the early start time, Mitchell has proved to be a reliable and motivated employee. In his new position he trims trees and shrubs and helps to keep the grounds in impressive shape, providing a beautiful welcome to guests and customers. He feels proud of what he and his co-workers have accomplished. “You wouldn’t think it…but man this place needed some cleanup,” Mitchell proclaims. “This should be good for business.”
He will soon have the opportunity to provide landscaping services at other PRIDE locations and is being trained on new landscaping tools and equipment.
When asked to describe himself, Mitchell says that he is “just like any other guy my age…I like shooting, hiking, and being outdoors.” Like many other young 20-somethings, Mitchell is starting to plan his future. With some job experience on his resume, he was able to get a part-time job at a local retail store. He currently lives with his family, but has set a goal of finding his own place and living independently. Mitchell is also enrolling in community college classes for the summer semester, and plans to explore a major in either mechanical or chemical engineering.
PRIDE is proud to employ and encourage people like Mitchell. Often, individuals with ASD just need the proper supports and a chance to prove themselves in employment. For Mitchell, employment provides the path to increased independence, self-sufficiency, self-esteem, and involvement in the community.