When Liam first came to the VIVRS office he was very apprehensive about being involved in an employment program due to the anxiety associated with Asperger syndrome. Liam often felt like an outcast in social situations and had difficulty connecting with new people. His home was a safe, non- judgmental environment for him, one that he did not feel comfortable leaving.
To allay Liam’s anxiety, the VIVRS worker met with Liam at his home, until a trusting relationship had been developed. The employment specialist focused on being a calm, patient listener, and Liam was encouraged to share his interests. The worker listened to what was meaningful for him, rather than what she saw as being meaningful and this was pivotal because it created a sense of comfort for Liam, allowing him to express his true passions.
For many years, Liam has been teaching himself about Biology, from Skeletal Articulation to Zoology. He has collected the skulls of various bird and mammal species, and can eloquently discuss the uniqueness of each specimen. The Employment Specialist believed that Liam’s special talent in this area could be carved into a meaningful job. Through Discovery, a process of exploring Liam’s skills, interests and needs, a solid vocational plan was developed that reflected Liam’s uniqueness.
Although stereotypes exist around people with Asperger syndrome, there are employers who are aware that people with autism have valuable talents that can benefit their companies. As part of Discovery, Liam and his VIVRS worker visited the Museum of Natural History at Vancouver Island University. Liam had an instant rapport with the Lab assistant: a quiet, caring person ready to lend a little assistance when needed. Liam felt at ease with her and in the museum environment.
Liam began by volunteering at the museum, but when the department saw how beneficial his presence was, they worked with VIVRS to create a paid position for him. Liam works as an assistant, creating a digital inventory of the Museum of Natural History’s invertebrate collection. This was a project the Biology department had wanted to complete for years, but did not have the time or a student with the right skills. This position is a perfect fit with Liam’s interests and abilities.
As Liam has become known within the department, other professors have asked for his assistance, and he has been encouraged to work on a degree or audit their courses. Liam is enjoying his success, thriving in his work environment, and starting to make future plans. The confidence and self-esteem he has developed through this job and the EmployAbility program will support Liam in whichever direction he chooses for the future.