My son, Vincent, had a crisis last year. Thanks to a good team, including the Care Design NY Care Management team, Vincent was able to resume his employment at the Hudson River Services, a company owned by AHRC. They were contracted to provide janitorial services to the FDNY EMS Academy and Vincent loved going to work and being on that campus. He was very disappointed to have to stop working for almost three months when the pandemic struck and voluntarily quarantined in our home, like millions of other Americans.
Vincent’s work ethic is extraordinary, and he kept asking us when he could go back to work. After almost three months, we felt that Vincent could go back to work even though New York City was not fully reopened. We were confident that his employer was taking all the extra precautions to keep employees safe.
Before heading back into the field, Vincent had to overcome some of his sensory issues, like wearing a mask and gloves for long periods of time and modifying his once rigid schedule to adjust to new procedures in the workplace. He was fully aware of the danger of the pandemic but was willing to make any necessary adjustments to get back to his job. A big challenge he faced in returning to employment was wearing a mask and gloves throughout his shift. The essential Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) makes him very uncomfortable due to his sensory issues. But Vincent took the safety requirements very seriously and practiced wearing a mask and gloves at home for one week prior to returning to work. Each day he increased his practice time of wearing the PPE from a half hour to up to five hours, just like he would do during his work shift. He also needed to change his routines, like not taking the bus, skipping dinner while at work, drinking bottled water instead of tap water, and so on. Thankfully, Vincent was able to overcome difficulties that some people on the autism spectrum often encounter - sensory sensitivity and rigid routines. His motivation to be back doing what he loved empowered him to conquer these obstacles!
On his first day back to work, we came upon a ceremony for a recently retired 30-year FDNY employee, who had been there for over thirty years! I asked Vincent if he wanted to take a picture in front of the firetruck parked in front of the ceremony and of course he was glad to do so. I think we both hoped that one day we could be back in the same place together celebrating his retirement after 30 years of service at a career he loves. That would be a dream come true for both of us!
Since he began working, I can see Vincent’s confidence grow leaps and bounds. I believe he has realized that one day he could support himself, have a meaningful career and live on his own. He started by working 15 hours per week, but one month later, his manager gave him more hours because they saw his desire to learn. Now, he goes to work every day with a smile on his face. I am so proud of my son and how far he has come.
For Vincent and our family, this pandemic does impact our lives in many ways, but it could not stop us from pursuing our dreams. Vincent may not be able to verbally give career advice for fellow young men and women on the spectrum, but his actions and persistence speak out for him. If you can protect yourself, we all can overcome this pandemic together. However different the world may look right now, Vincent's actions tell us to not let the pandemic stop you from doing what you love and from following your dreams!
8 Southwoods Blvd
Albany, NY 12211