Daily Archives: August 21, 2007

Job qualifications.


Actually I do have something to write about, I just forgot it. I hope I haven’t already written about it and forgotten. If so, I’m writing it twice. I planned before to write about it and never got around to it (or else got around to it and then forgot).

I was talking to my case manager the other day about the job my support staff do, and the sorts of experiences that do and don’t tend to qualify them for the job. And they’re not what most people tend to think. I in fact prefer people who have not had a ton of human services experience before, because that often means a lot of things to unlearn. (There are of course exceptions.)

The people who tend to do the job best are people who’ve done jobs that have involved practical, often physical work that requires them to be observant of their surroundings and adaptable to situations that might crop up, through their own thinking rather than through a rote script someone’s written for what to do. So the characteristics that tend to be good are practicality, observance, and adaptability.

Those things mean that even if someone’s never heard of autism before, they’re more likely to observe a situation and figure out what to do in it regardless of what they’ve been taught. They mean that if they’re pushing my wheelchair up a hill or something and start bumping into a lip in the sidewalk, they aren’t going to continue ramming me into it until I fall out, they’re going to figure out on their own how to tilt the wheelchair backwards. And they’re probably not likely to store things out of my reach, either. And if they do, they’re likely to learn not to pretty fast.

Those “little things” are more important in everyday life than whether they understand the theory of any given disability category, or than whether they can spout all the politically correct words about disability, or whether they have 20 years of experience “working with” autistic people or whatever. Most of the best staff I’ve had have started out knowing very little of any of that stuff, but seen the situations and adapted to them as they happened. And some of the worst have been the ones who would seem the most qualified to a casual observer. I bounced this off my neighbor, who also has support staff, and she agreed. The qualifications for this job are not always what people think they are.