Two fathers of Yes She Can trainees share their thoughts on their daughters overcome their challenges.
How My Daughter Got Her Chance, by Terence O’Driscoll
Before my daughter was born, over twenty years ago, about all I knew about autism was what I saw on TV or in the movies, like Dustin Hoffman in “Rain Man” – which meant that I thought that autism was pretty much only something that affected boys. Or, that all people with autism are gifted in math.
As my wife and I started to work together to find help and support for our daughter, we found that, since it was true that autism appears to affect boys more than girls, most programs were geared towards the needs of boys. There were usually some girls in the programs and there were some wonderful teachers and counselors and mentors for Colleen along the way. But, ironically, even though most of these great people were women, the programs they ran still focused heavily on the needs and interests of young men.
Then my wife found Yes She Can’s job skills program at Girl AGain, a resale boutique for American Girl dolls. From the beginning, we knew that this was something that was almost custom-made for Colleen. She has a wonderful imagination and great writing ability and a knack for making you excited about the things that excite her. She also happens to love American Girl dolls, and not just the dolls, but the stories and the history in the books. When she was old enough to read them, she read every one.
At Girl AGain, Colleen learns how to make something old new again and learns the work skills that will enable her to work with a child or a parent to bring that special doll into their lives. She can tell you everything about that doll’s fictional life and help bring it to life.
The job skills program teaches her to buckle down for the tasks she finds difficult, like entering data into the inventory spreadsheet or working the cash register (she certainly doesn’t live for math), and gives her free rein to use that vivid imagination to interact with customers and to write blog entries for the website. Yes She Can’s coaches have helped Colleen address the gaps that are part of being a person with autism, and leverage the strengths that come from her unique way of looking at the world around her.
My daughter is a person with autism but she is so much more than that and, like the other young women in the program, she can give so much to the world if she is just given a chance. We feel lucky to have found Yes She Can and we know that it is giving her that chance.
By Terence O’Driscoll
Hear Colleen talk about her experience with Yes She Can. Watch the video.
Cassidy Develops the “Soft Skills” Needed to Succeed at Work, by Barry Harrison
A few days ago I watched my 28-year-old daughter spend almost 2 hours sitting at her laptop working on a website she is building for a customer of her website development business. This might not sound remarkable at all for a young adult, but for Cassidy, who lives with Autism it is a really big deal.
There was a time when she couldn’t sit and focus for more than 10 minutes without needing a break or getting frustrated and giving up.
It’s no accident that she can do this now. She’s been practicing for a long time. Practice that started when she was accepted as one of the first interns at Yes She Can’s job skills development program at Girl AGain Boutique. One of the first things that Cass did when she came on board there was to work with the director to build Girl AGain’s web store. From there she was given the opportunity to work on their email campaigns, helping track their store inventory and when she wasn’t working on the computer, learn some of the basic tasks of maintaining a retail store.
While she was learning these “hard skills”, something else was happening. She was learning how to be an employee. She was learning how to take direction from a manager, learning to communicate with her peers and so many of the other “soft skills” that so many people take for granted, but are foreign and very challenging for someone that lives with Autism.
There are so many challenges that adults with disabilities face. Lack of employment opportunities is very high on that list. The work that Marjorie Madfis, the founder of the nonprofit organization, and her staff are doing at Yes She Can to help make this problem a little easier for this community is priceless and something I will be forever grateful.
Cass enjoys working. She especially enjoys the paycheck.
She is still shy and is challenged at times when communicating with customers, but she’s getting better every day, and when she gets discouraged, I remind her of where she started and how far she’s come.
Here’s Cassidy and me in a video talking about her experience at Yes She Can
Oh, and if you want to check out her work and throw some business her way you can visit her at Spectrum Internet Design
By Barry Harrison
Barry shared this adorable photo of Cassidy, age 9, when she dressed like her American Girl doll, Samantha.