November 9, 2012

Employment is a right for people of all abilities!

Part of Alex's gap year plan is to work. We encourage all of our children to work and this means Alex too. Courtney works at the climbing wall and the research lab at Penn and Tommy works at the Paradise Bakery in Aspen. Our kids do this on top of school and their other responsibilities, but we believe it gives them confidence, accountability and most importantly spending money.

Alex is no exception, and never has been or will be an exception to the expectations we have for our kids. We try not to give her anymore slack than her siblings. However, I must interject my husband and kids think I give Alex too much slack...I argue that I have to pick my battles...another day/another blog.

There are many organizations that provide supported employment options for people with disabilities, these include nonprofits as well as government agencies. In our small valley we have three choices, none of which appealed to me or Alex. Alex does not like to fill out oodles of paperwork, be on long wait-lists or participate in programs that include only people with disabilities being treated like they have disabilities.

This ruled out Alex working with these three entities, so we did what we always do....ASK. Ask is such a powerful tool for people with disabilities, and one of the reasons speech is SO important. When a person with a disability can clearly articulate and ask for what they want it can be very easy...just like me and just like you. If not, many of our community members are misunderstood and their contributions under-estimated......another day/another blog.

We are lucky to live in a small community, but that should not preclude any one from asking...I approached the owner of a family owned pizza restaurant, the child care facility at Snowmass Mountain (Alex has worked there two winter breaks so far) and the owner of a local clothing store. This was really a non event for these people, Alex had interviews and was hired immediately.

Alex is only working at the Pizza restaurant now, Snowmass will open Thanksgiving weekend and the clothing store is closed for the off-season. This turns out to be a good thing because Alex does need some support in her job. She needs to know the schedule for the four hours she is at the restaurant and she needs to know not to talk to the customers the whole time. Having mastered this Alex is an ideal employee and had been asked to up her hours (she is on a trial one day/week schedule)

Employment can be a little tricky for people with disabilities. Employers often want someone around to call if there is a "problem" as well as providing training (supported employment). Employers are also willing to offer "internships" galore, or not pay their employees with disabilities a fair salary (there is a federal employment law that supports this). .....another day/another post.

This is not the case with Alex's employer, they train ALL of their employees and have never called employees Moms. As far as paying Alex, this was never in question, EVERYONE who works at Timbo's pizza gets paid.

Yesterday, Alex go her first paycheck, and although she is not officially on payroll, she was paid a fair wage. Alex does not want to deposit this paycheck, and instead would like to frame this remarkable accomplishment and achievement. I am hoping she will be happy with a framed color photocopy. She needs spending money, just like her siblings!

Way to go Timbo's Pizza and Alex!!!!


  1. Hooray Alex! Colour photocopies rock! What a great milestone.

  2. Just curious why they do not have Alex on the regular payroll?

  3. Alex is not on payroll yet for a few reasons I supported. Currently she is working only 4 hours a week and this will increase in the future. She also has some obligations that will mean missing work - training camp in Lake Placid in December and then the Winter World special Olympic Games in South Korea in January. I felt that until she has a schedule that has more hours and is more consistent it is not fair to ask a small family run business to put her on the official payroll....that will be the next adventure,


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