by Cory Favalora, ABA Therapist – Northeast Arc’s Autism ABA Services

Working with adults with autism and other intellectual disabilities (ID) sometimes can be challenging but yet an extremely rewarding opportunity for those in the field of human services. Amongst this population, children are a consistent and primary focus of agencies and individual providers, who find the chance to still shape behavior at a younger age encouraging. This often leaves adults with disabilities at a disadvantage, and agencies who provide services for adults are typically short-staffed in this area of work. Setting the standard perceptions aside, supporting adults can be an equally rewarding experience when compared to their younger counterparts. There are a variety of benefits to working with an older population that some may wish to consider when entering into the field yet may not be readily recognizable from an outside perspective.

Do you like movies, books, video games, music, and pop culture? Most people do, and this includes our adults. Some providers find so much success because they are able to share their personal interests with older individuals within the population. This, in turn, provides the adults we work with a great chance to practice appropriate socialization skills that could better prepare them for employment, being in the community, or even life in their home. Some examples of this type of support may be as a one-to-one companion for an individual who simply does not have as much community access as they want, or as residential services staff, where being able to set up fun and safe activities allows you to express your creativity to a great group of people. While socialization is great, the adults we serve may also require assistance for more practical skills such as cooking, cleaning, travel, money management, and gaining or maintaining employment. Many times, these are skills which we, as employees, may have and excel at, but might not realize can be useful as a teaching opportunity for others.

Some roles may even provide an opportunity to do a mixture of activities, both practical and social. Imagine as part of your companionship work you have an individual who you can take to the gym and then go grocery shopping. You blast some of your favorite tunes on the way to the gym, while also working on travel safety by identifying landmarks and streets within the neighborhood. At the gym, doing laps around the track, not only are you both getting a work out, but together you are helping the participant by discussing a new recipe they’d like to try. More music and discussing plans for the new movie opening this weekend on the way to the supermarket, where the meal for tonight, tacos, has been decided. At the supermarket together, you work on money management by staying on budget, and as much as you both want the fancy guacamole, you chose the cheaper option as it fits within the spending plan. Upon returning home you get cracking on some cooking skills, and joke about whose turn it is to cut up the onions. Finally, it’s time to eat, relax, and throw on your favorite TV show.

The great thing about the scenario just described is: One, that’s an actual job. You, as an employee, can do all of those things. Seems like a fun little Saturday afternoon with some simple errands thrown in, except you can get paid for it! Two, you provided a great service for a person who is incredibly appreciative of your time and effort and will use those valuable skills to increase their own well-being and happiness. So many young adults, from teens just getting out of high school, to adults, and everywhere in between, require the type of great support that we as providers can give. The best part is that this can be accomplished in dozens of different ways, from job coaching, residential staff, day program staff, and as an independent provider. Part time, full time, anytime is a great time to see what your skills can do to help a person with a disability, and hey, you will have fun along the way too!

To learn more about Northeast Arc’s Autism ABA Services, click here.