Good People

For almost two years now, my son Jack has wanted a job. He wanted to work.

I still don’t know why he chose the place he did—a local pasta restaurant in the center of town.

He went online to their website and researched the requirements.

Carefully, he printed out the application. He sat at the kitchen counter and answered the questions about his age, birthdate, and previous experience.

He asked if he was a US citizen. I assured him he was.

They hired him.

For over a year, he has washed dishes from 4:30 – 6:30 every Tuesday afternoon.

He wears a t-shirt emblazoned with the company name and logo, Table 8 Pasta.

This probably seems pretty simple. A teenager wanted a job. He filled out an application. They hired him. They gave him a t-shirt, and every week he showed up to work.

Except he isn’t an ordinary teenager.

He is a teenager with autism.

He has very little working memory, and crushing anxiety, and a tendency to, uh, obsess about certain topics.

He doesn’t read social cues.

He doesn’t like a busy environment, or people bustling around, or the sound of the phone ringing.

The concept of money is nearly meaningless to him, and he has no restaurant experience.

Still, he wanted to work.

He applied.

It took him four tries, two pencils, and a lengthy explanation of US citizenship to get the application right.

We drove into town, and dropped it off to a young girl standing behind the counter.

He waited.

He worried, because that’s what my boy does.

He worried they may never call and they would never hire him.

He worried he made a mistake on the paperwork.

They called.

They hired him.

The owner called and said they didn’t have a lot of experience with people who have autism, but they were more than willing to give it a try, and see how it goes.

He washes dishes.

He wakes up at 6:00 am every Tuesday and puts on his t-shirt. He wears it to school. When he gets home he reminds me he has to go to work and he will not be home for dinner.

Many times, he reminds me.

I drive him, because Jack driving a car is a little out of the question right now.

I drive him, and if I’m not ready to go by 4:02, he gets a little, uh, antsy, even though it’s only a 7-minute ride. He starts to pace. He goes into the mudroom and finds my shoes.

He wants to work.

He wants to wear a shirt that matches what everyone else wears, because there is no other instance where he is connected to a group of people by something as ordinary as a piece of clothing.

This week was just like every other week.

Monday night, he laid out his shirt before bed.

The next morning he reminded me he had a shift after school.

At 4:02, he shifted and paced until I found my keys.

I dropped him off and watched my tall son walk through the doors.

This week was like every other week, except when I picked him up, he had something exciting to share.

“Mom. For me. A promotion.”

His face was lit up and his eyes were bright and he was smiling. My boy was smiling.

“Now I will make. The PASTA.”

He is a teenager with autism.

He has a job.

He got a promotion.

Now, he makes pasta.

“Mom. For me. This is important.”

People are good.

Written by, Carrie Cariello

Carrie Cariello is the author of What Color Is Monday, How Autism Changed One Family for the Better, and Someone I’m With Has Autism. She lives in Southern New Hampshire with her husband, Joe, and their five children. Carrie is a contributor to the Huffington Post, TODAY Parents, the TODAY Show, Parents.com. She has been interviewed by NBC Nightly News, and also has a TEDx talk.

She speaks regularly about autism, marriage, and motherhood, and writes a weekly blog at www.carriecariello.com. One of her essays, “I Know What Causes Autism,” was featured as one of the Huffington Post’s best of 2015, and her piece, “I Know Why He Has Autism,” was named one of the top blog posts of 2017 by the TODAY Show.

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Finding Cooper’s Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you’re never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village….all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to our journey. You can also follow us on Facebook, subscribe for exclusive videos, and subscribe to our newsletter.

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Finding Cooper's Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you're never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village....all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to my page!

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