Well, let me start by giving my disclaimer here: I support people with autism, I love people with autism and I have enjoyed every moment of my career supporting and learning from people with autism.
Okay, so that being said, I hope that maybe I can convince some of you to consider a career in which you can wake up every day looking forward to going to work. I hope that you can feel as though you have never worked a day in your life because when you LOVE what you do - you actually WANT to do it- it does not feel like work! This is the dream.
I have some friends who went on to careers in business and related fields. They may make more money than I do but what are their outcomes, where do their efforts lead them? Most often to make money for someone else and there is often pressure to make more money over time. They lose sleep, they feel anxious, and they worry sometimes about losing their job due to the competitive nature of the field.
If I could go back and rethink my career choices and my decision-making over the years, I would still choose this path, and I believe I am the one who is richer for it because I make a difference every day in the lives of people with autism and their families and as they say MasterCard can buy everything else but that is... PRICELESS.
Are there days that are more difficult than others working with individuals with autism? Of course, there are always days that don't go as you planned or that a student is having a much more difficult day than you had anticipated. But when you help solve the issue or support the student through the behavior you feel a great sense of accomplishment. And then there are the good days: the first time a child imitates a sound or word or says Mommy to his Mom without you prompting it. There's the day when a job site calls and asks for your student to come, and volunteer, today because they really need his help. Or when a student graduates and goes on to work independently. I especially love when a parent contacts me to tell me when a child was truly able to enjoy a family vacation for the first time because of the intervention that he has had. They go on and on. That is what motivates me.
I have been known to say that I like people with autism better than people without autism. Why? Because they are honest, kind, and loving and they work harder than anyone I know. I love seeing them make accomplishments and the smile on their face or the pure joy in their laughter.
At this point in my career, I support Directors and Coordinators, Behavior Analysts, and other clinicians in their work with individuals with autism. It is so rewarding to know that I can help support them and in turn help the child and their family.
I am also a faculty member at Hofstra University and have the opportunity to reach so many students who then go out and have an impact on so many of their students. So in my career, I began working 1:1 with individuals with autism and have over the years moved into positions that allow me a broader reach and I believe a larger impact. But I always continue to work on the clinical end either with advocacy, clinical cases or working with other clinical staff, or supporting the development of behavior plans more directly and teaching in higher ed. The moral of the story is that there is plenty of opportunity for growth within the field and if you are interested and want to learn there is always a path for you.
I hope some people reading this are considering taking the career-changers leap or just starting a career with students or adults with autism. It is truly an honor to support such amazing people and it is a most worthy career choice that I would recommend to anyone who has a caring nature, an inquisitive mind, and the ability to see the strengths where others may see deficits.
If you would like to learn about career opportunities you can start here with Eden II programs and if you are outside the NYC or LI area and are looking do reach out to me as I may be able to connect you to a colleague in another state.