The shortage of jobs for special needs adults is a huge problem. How many of your adults have jobs? Patrick has a job at Tender Greens, http://www.tendergreensfood.com/tag/point-loma/ for which we are incredibly grateful. He only works 4 hours a week. Hopefully someday that will increase. His Tailored Day program with Creel Industries is only 8 hours a week. It’s not enough to keep him busy. We’ve been contemplating looking for another job for him. Seaworld was hiring summer help. He interviewed at Seaworld. It didn’t go well. The fact that most of our folks aren’t working made a little more sense after this process.
We’d given up on Patrick working at Seaworld. He worked there as a part of the TRACE program, cleaning tables one year the stocking shelves the next. He had a uniform, an ID card. They worked a couple of hours, had lunch in the cafeteria, and then worked another hour in the afternoon. They did this twice a week. He loved it. His TRACE teacher was trying to negotiate a job for Patrick there before he left TRACE but it never came to fruition.
Patrick’s cousin is a summer hire this year. She asked the employment office if Patrick could apply for a job. She was told it was easy process if he’s a rehire. He just needed to find a job on board that he was qualified to do. They would accommodate his need with supported employment or whatever was necessary.
Patrick and I got on their job board. Park Host was the only job out of more than 20 that didn’t require education or strong money skills. The host cleans up around the park and in the stadiums after shows. Something he could easily do. He would need someone to support him initially to learn the job duties. He certainly knows his way around the park.
We filled out the application together. We made an interview appointment at the end of the application. It was a few days away. One of the questions on the application asked if it would be appropriate for a boss to ask him to perform a job that wasn’t in his job description. What a complicated question. I asked Patrick he said “no”. Being appropriate is a big deal in his life. Of course the reality is he would do any job the boss told him to do unless it violated his person. What was he going to do in the interview? He would be allowed to take someone into the interview with him but only he would be able to talk. How is he going to express himself or make them understand him?
The night before the interview someone from Seaworld Employment office called for Patrick. They couldn’t find his previous employee records. I put him on speakerphone and explained I was his mother and he worked there through the TRACE program. Technically he was never an “employee” at Seaworld but through the school district and TRACE. Certainly this woman understood that Patrick has special needs.
The morning of the interview, Patrick donned this beautiful suit. He brought a list of his job skills, what he loves about Seaworld and his education in case they asked him. His cousin went with him. They waited for nearly 40 minutes before he was called in. The interview asked mostly questions that he could answer. A few they skipped over. Lastly the interviewer read the job description and asked Patrick if he could perform the job duties. He replied, “Yes, if it’s not busy.” She told him it’s usually busy in the summer did he think he could perform those duties. Again, he replied, “Yes, if it’s not busy”.
After the interview they were asked to wait another 20 minutes to see someone else. This person was concerned because his cousin had digitally taped the interview so that we could help Patrick with his answers for his next interview. They made her erase the tape in front of them. Then let them go.
A few days later Patrick got a letter thanking him for the interview but said they wouldn’t be hiring him. He was crushed. In my opinion they never gave him a chance. If they are willing to let him have a job coach why wouldn’t they let someone help him in the interview? He was held to exactly the same standard in the interview as anyone else. They didn’t try to communicate with him by asking him simple questions that he could understand. They didn’t know how to relate to anyone with cognitive special needs. I thought Seaworld was a supporter of people with special needs.
Is the same way with other employers? Do they expect special needs folks to give the same interview as the next guy? No wonder our adults don’t have jobs. It’s demoralizing to me.
What’s your experience with job interviews?