White Dog is certain not many people are aware that October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. The White Dog Army probably would not know it either if Michael did not live with us. For those of you new to us, Michael is my 19-year-old nephew who has autism.
One of the most wonderful things that has happened since he came to live with us almost two years ago is that the White Dog Army has taught him how to be more confident and to be proud of who he is...and not be ashamed. As Quinn tells him, "Everyone has some kind of disability. I have bad hips; Nuka is deaf; YoYoMa is blind; momma needs a wheelchair." Building a family and shoring each other up has been a most satisfying adventure for all of us.
Yesterday was a day of great reward. Michael who is in a community transition post high school program attended his first day of "work." Well, not work exactly but an internship at a small art gallery downtown. This was a "job" that he worked up a resume for, interviewed a couple of times, passed a practicum performance test...and won. He did it himself, not through any contacts or special favors; he was simply the best applicant for the position.
All of the White Dog Army was awake and in review line when he came up ready for his day dressed in khakis, a button-down shirt, belt, and dress shoes. He looked marvelous and best of all, he was comfortable! Part of his illness makes Michael stress about clothing that is tight or hugs his body; he is most comfortable in sweatpants and a t-shirt. But here he was, shiny as a new coin, beaming with excitement!
Each of the White Ones approached him and gave him head butts or licks, or body presses for good luck and then he was off to take the public bus (another relatively new step toward independence). The WDA watched in amazement as he disappeared down the street.
When he returned, he was besieged by Eskies wanting to know what he had done, how it had gone. He quickly told them that he had worked at the front desk as a greeter and had handed out programs of the current exhibit (Super Heroes). Then he quickly rushed downstairs to change into "normal" clothes.
Granted, this is only an internship but to Michael it is a job...and validation that he CAN succeed. The White Dog Army sends special blessings to the decision maker who gave Michael this chance, it may very well change a life.
Of course, we all celebrated once Steve came home.