At War with a Learning Disability

Our organization came across an interesting article from The New York Times Magazine.  A soldier wrote about her experience as an active duty soldier in the army, navigating her military dream with a learning disability.

We focus our work on developing grit and perseverance. These qualities provided Ms. Zephrine with a strong foundation to realize her dream of joining the army, and obtaining her master’s degree in social work.

We are sharing this story as a way to showcase the life experiences told firsthand by individuals with learning disabilities and other challenges. Please note that this is one person’s experience.

Advertisements

“We don’t care about eye contact”

 

Obtaining employment as an individual with special needs is a challenge to say the least.  Think about all of the elements involved in seeking out employment and being hired: the job search, resume, cover letter, follow up, phone and in-person interviews, becoming accustomed with a new routine and new faces.

Employment provides one with a feeling of fulfillment, the ability to be independent, developing new relationships, and face new challenges.  Challenge help people grow.

Please read the article below from the Chicago Tribune.  Thank you EY for re-thinking your hiring processes and employment opportunities!

http://digitaledition.chicagotribune.com/infinity/article_share.aspx?guid=66bd869a-0b4e-4ed3-a958-e33d16ea349e

@EYnews  @chicagotribune

On Giving Tuesday, Donate to Organizations that Fill the Gaps

Options for College Success provides services and support to fill the gap for individuals with learning challenges and disabilities aging out of the school system and launching into their next journey. These individuals stop receiving services through the state between 18 and 22 years of age.  Where do they go next?

These individuals may not be ready for post-secondary schooling nor have the skills to be employed. Employment rates for those with disabilities are very low, and educational attainment is essential to the success of young adults with disabilities because the jobs of the future require technical training and education. Based on the 2017 Disability Statistics Annual Report from the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Disability Statistics and Demographics, in the U.S. 35.9% of individuals aged 18-64 with disabilities were employed versus 76.6% of those without a disability.

At our organization, we customize an individual’s plan based on where they currently are at in development and what goals they look to achieve. We fill the gaps with hands on, one on one support to provide them with the opportunity to live a healthy, productive and independent life.

Please donate to Options for College Success on this day and as we move into the holiday season.  We want to improve and expand our programming to fit the increasing needs of the population we work with.  Your gift, no matter the size, will directly impact the success of our students.

Please visit www.optionsforcollegesuccess.org and click on our donate button at the bottom of the page or send a check  payable to Options for College Success.

Options for College Success

1515 maple Ave. Suite 190

Evanston, IL 60201

Autism and Working

By Marcella Mackowiak

#JayGoltz of the #NewYorkTimes did a fantastic interview with Dave and Anthony, who is on the spectrum. It follows Anthony and is progress on getting a job at Mariano’s in Chicago. We as a community need to keep in mind that people on the spectrum are just as capable as the rest of us. The article below tells the story, and it’s a great read…

https://boss.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/03/19/on-hiring-and-autism/

How do I Understand Autism as a Sibling?

Image result for pictures of siblings who are autistic

By Marcella Mackowiak

A few months ago I found out that my nephew was diagnosed with autism. It was heartbreaking, but I pulled myself together to support my sister. However, she didn’t tell anyone else in our rather large family.

Last Saturday we all got together for my other nephew’s birthday and it was very clear to the other youngsters that something was wrong with my nephew. I didn’t know if I should explain, but my sister jumped in and said he was a little sick. Then she asked me what was wrong with him. I told her. If one of my many nephews had the courage to ask, then I wonder what the other ones were thinking.

Autism Speaks put an incredible booklet out to help siblings understand what autism is. It keeps it very simple by saying things like “autism effects the way the brain work,” “we don’t know what causes it,” and even giving descriptions of what autism looks like. I think that it’s good for cousins as well.

Check out the link below….

https://www.autismspeaks.org/sites/default/files/a_siblings_guide_to_autism.pdf

Advocacy Day Is Just The Tip Of The Iceberg

One of our students is studying Social Work at Northeastern Illinois Univerity (NEIU).  He is working very hard, and becoming incredibly active in the community as he dives into the policies and current issues that impact all people and their well-being.  He wrote a blog post about his experience at Advocacy Day in Springfield, IL.  We are very proud of his dedication, motivation, engagement, and determination!  

 

By Nathan Apelian

Advocacy Day was a very unique experience. The bus left NEIU at 5am, made it to Springfield at 9am, left Springfield at 3pm, and made it back to NEIU at 7pm. During this time I met two politicians and both from my district: State Rep Laura Fine (H17, NEIU Alumni) and Senator Daniel Biss (S09). Both of them are committed to helping people and very nice. Laura Fine’s Glenview office is down the street from where I live and I met her there also. Both I plan to meet again as I want to know their thoughts on bills and what they are doing in the community. I would like to meet Robyn Gabel, Kelly Cassidy, John D’Amico, and Heather Steans in the future as they represent nearby communities.

 

Advocacy Day is just the tip of the iceberg. I wanted to be involved in the social work field because I feel that there needs to be more advocates. Some people just protest, but I feel people need to do more. I am talking about getting to know the community, be involved with agencies, get familiar with the law, get familiar with bills, and to get to know state representatives and or senators regardless of their beliefs. I also wanted to get involved in social work as anxiety is one aspect that I wanted to look into as this affects young people, college students, elderly individuals, veterans, and people that work too much to name a few. In the next couple of years, I look forward to expanding my social work experience at the micro, mezzo and macro levels.

 

For further information on current and upcoming legislation, representatives and senators in Illinois, please visit: http://www.ilga.gov/

 

 

Are we aware yet?

By David Rooney, MNM

Monday, April 2nd, expect to see the Chicago cityscape awash in blue lights for World Autism Awareness Day.  This cool effect promotes a message for acceptance and acts like a beacon for events throughout April.  Families who live day-to-day with ASD often wonder why we need a day, week or month to raise awareness.  Certainly people get plenty of reminders?

Like most anything that consumes us, our lives don’t necessarily translate well to others, especially when regarding social interactions.  And frankly, we need as much compassion and understanding as possible to progress into the coming decades, as we work together to promote independence for our family members.  I’m not addressing the professionals, schools and therapists here exactly but more the neighbors, employers and landlords.  We need them to understand and accept those living with ASD too.

This awareness includes you and me.  It doesn’t take much for us to drift from our mission. Communication works best if we listen as much as we spread the word.  For instance, in our support communities how often do we welcome the outsider?  Of course we remain vigilant to keep our family safe, but do we consider assistance from somebody who genuinely wants to help, or can help but they do not bring direct experience, working with ASD.  We ask, how can they really understand?  When we welcome somebody new into our support community, we raise awareness and can even change minds and lives.

This week is my first-year anniversary working with Options for College Success.  I come from such an outsider’s background.  A Masters with a nonprofit focus helps, but prior to that, my professional experiences draw from careers in the private sector, specifically in home financing and media.  For starters, I know I can help find long term, supportive housing solutions for people living with ASD.  The team here recognize those and other qualities and welcome me.  And it starts with awareness.  We need to spread the word and welcome people from all walks.

On a personal note, my Sister-in-law, Joni’s birthday falls on April 2nd.  She passed away in 2015.  My brother, Larry and his family support my niece, Megan who keeps us aware about ASD.  At Joni’s Celebration of Life, I remember my nephew, Dann reading her posts about coping with her illness and the support, purpose and love Megan provides her entire family each day.  She and her two Cousins, (my nephews) also inspire me to keep up the good work.  Details like these require a discussion, far beyond what first impressions might give and result from an open awareness.

Reminders help too.