Examples of Structured Community Work Opportunities for Individuals with Classic Autism
Rocky also lived in an RHC in the Puget Sound area of Washington. What was different for Rocky was that he had lived their nearly his whole life from the age of four, to 42 years of age. Rocky is non-verbal though he does have a few random expletives that he shares when he is not happy. When I met Rocky he was living in what was called the “Lodge”. Each resident of the lodge had their own bedroom and bathroom. This was different from the cottage options that most of the other residents of the RCH had with shared sleeping areas and bathrooms. In Rocky’s youth his family came to visit him a few times a year, as he grew up his family’s participation in his life subsided greatly.
The first time I visited the sheltered work shop that Rocky worked in, I was talking with the agency director when I heard a loud sound, utterance. The director looked at me and said, “oh that’s Rocky!” We continued our conversation when I heard the loud utterance again, this time with more volume and repetition. Again, the director said, “oh, that’s Rocky!” My curiosity got the best of me and said, “what’s going on with him?” She reported, “he does this occasionally.” We weren’t back to our conversation five minutes when we heard, “f*#ker!” At that, the director jumped from her seat and ran towards the warehouse, telling me, “it’s Rocky and he is not happy!” Rocky was in the bathroom, yelling and kicking the walls. Three staff stood outside the bathroom until Rocky stopped. Rocky appeared from the bathroom with a noticeable contusion on his forehead, sweating and red eyes. His staff took him back to sit at his work station that was off in a corner away from the other workers in the workshop.
After an hour of staff debriefing by the agency director, we had the opportunity to resume our discussion. This time we talked about the specifics of Rocky’s “behaviors.” She reported that the only instructions they had received from the RHC on supporting Rocky during these events was to take him outside for a walk. Unfortunately, those supports typically led to Rocky hitting his head on the concrete curbs and kicking himself in the shins resulting in a lot of blood and crying. She indicated they were frustrated and frankly frightened for both Rocky and his staff.
It was soon after that incident that I developed a visual schedule for Rocky that detailed his work schedule. We also gave him a “bathroom card” for him to use at anytime, rather than needing to wait for his staff to notice him. Within one day, Rocky’s aggressive behaviors went from multiple occurrences daily to zero for the next nine months.
We revised tasks in the sheltered workshop and developed strong, processes and procedures for independence and choice. Being able to check into work, independently get to his first work task and start work. The tasks structurally designed so Rocky could visually see; what work, where to work, how much work, what does finished look like and what was next.
During those nine months working with the workshop, Rocky and other workers we revamped with processes, procedures and visual supports. Rocky became the hardest worker and his productivity soared above all of the other workshop employees. The structured work strategies that were designed for the workshop were then replicated to a nearby Community Based Assessment site at a local sheet metal fabricator. Rocky was exposed to new tasks and new experiences using visual routines and processes that he accepted and thrived with. Rocky’s work schedule was adapted and designed to provide naturally motivating tasks, after non-preferred tasks that kept Rocky motivated and able to complete all of his assigned work tasks without prompting.
Soon after the CBA was completed, Rocky was hired by that business. Rocky worked 3 days a week for 5 hours a day for over one year. His tasks included; picking up recycling bins (that I established for the company), hammering metal shale/debris from the metal cutters, sorting materials that the metal journeyman brought back from the shipyard and sorted scrap metal into gauges with a micrometer to reduce metal waste and time for the company.
Rocky not only gain a functional way to communicate, his confidence soared. Within 3 months of his hire at the sheet metal shop, Rocky moved from the institution into a community residence. His (aging) mother was naturally frightened of this prospect, but could not dispute the fact that he had a paid job and his behaviors had virtually disappeared. Rocky continues to successfully live and currently volunteers in the Puget Sound community.