All day long, every day, Jackson is “working” on projects in his office. (His father and I created what we thought he would use as an art studio, but he quickly dubbed it, “My office.”)
Most days, he goes to school or camp, pays attention as best he can, and yet as soon as he’s home he “gets to work.”
“I have a lot of projects to do,” he says talking about his work. Here is how he describes himself: “I am an international entrepreneur. Because I draw, make seating charts, art, designing, languages and history.”
Years ago, when I was more worried about Jackson’s future more than I am now (knock on wood we will be able to find him a college that will provide some accommodations), a friend observed upon seeing the piles of papers on his desk that Jackson had a great work ethic. Before she mentioned it, I hadn’t thought of the projects as something related to work, I saw it as an obsession that was an outgrowth of autism. Loads of people would see it that way and yet, he has all of the same steps in project completion that any working artist or entrepreneur has–he creates an idea, he researches it for supporting evidence, and then he works on the project, sometimes for years and then finishes the project.
If I and later, an employer, can view Jackson’s “obsessions” not as splinter skills, but as real talents, like observing what he does in his free time and trying to connect that to a real world profession or area of study, then Jackson and people like Jackson will have a chance to be integrated into our workforce. Many kids, teenagers and adults with autism have specialized obsessions that could be channeled into real-life jobs or areas of study. And people with autism, with their intense focus on their interests are exhibiting a similar skill that our society so values in an entrepreneur–someone obsessed with seeing a self-created project through to fruition.