Induction into Autismland

In the business world, new hires undergo an orientation process called induction. I believe that neophytes enter Autismland in a similar way, except instead of stepping up to bat as salaried employees, we slip through the back door as parents, siblings, extended relatives, teachers, mentors, spouses, and friends.

Truth be told, the pay is crap and this specialized training feels more like hazing at times, but without the kegs, Everclear watermelons, and hangovers. (<-- Kidding. Everclear watermelons included.)

Apparently, induction is just a piece of knowledge management.* Nailing the induction phase results in the reduction of staff turnover (divorce?) and in the improvement in markers of performance, attitudes and organizational commitment (happiness).

Let's conceptualize induction visually - as a map - by planning an imaginary trip on your favorite smartphone. *cough-iPhone!-cough*

  1. Discovery Phase: Autismland is the blinking blue dot- it’s where you are now. Hi!
  2. Development Phase: Drop a red pin where you want to go, and click for directions. Usually, several routes appear: some are direct, some require tolls, and some snake through scenic byways. It’s all about user experience. Choose wisely, Grasshopper.
  3. Orientation Phase: Prep work complete- you’ve got your snacks, tunes, and a full tank of gas. Once you back out of the parking lot, pick right or left. You won’t know if you’re going in the right direction until the blue dot starts to move. This stage is about buckling up your belt and charting a course.
  4. Operation Phase: Drive, course-correct, drive.
  5. Evaluation Phase: Review your route, adjust for your next trip.

As a good employer or as a parent of any child, the focus is on the development of the whole person, and the red pin usually hovers over something like independence, happiness, productivity, belonging, security. And we generally know what it takes to get close: a healthy, supportive environment, unconditional love/worker appreciation, a stable home/work life, laughter. There are mile markers along the way: first playdates, sleepovers, elementary through high school, college, job, a place and family of their own. Still with me?

Zion National Park

But with Roman, we’re going analog. We’re working off a paper map without a key. No scale equivalencies, no mileage, no turn-by turn directions, no traffic updates, no advance notice of accidents or roadwork ahead, no adaptive maps or helpful talking reminders. The landmarks are foggy. We break down, drive in circles, get lost, refuel, and we keep driving.

Let’s face it: we’re winging it. We’re heading to home base in the longest baseball game ever, just hoping that when we slide into the plate, we won’t end up short and tagged out. Because: awkward.

Here is the one thing we know for certain: on May 5, 2023, we’ll HAVE to be at the red pin. That’s the day Roman turns twenty-one, and strikes out on developmental services. We’ve got eight years to slide into home plate. Play ball!


* Yeah, I didn’t think I was doing that knowledge thing right. I definitely need a manager.

PS Here‘s a map to my Autismland onboarding process:
    1. Discovery Phase: Preschool teacher concerns resulting in the guided tour of Roman’s official combined PDD-NOS/ADHD diagnosis and bonus Epilepsy onset at age 3 (boo!) --> brochure hoarding, library fines, karma questioning, and weight gain. :(
    2. Development Phase: Funneling into the state developmental disabilities system, transfer to a specialized preschool, delayed public school kindergarten, seizure surgery, insurance sorting --> informational reading strikes, bad attitudes and wine-induced sleep.
    3. Orientation Phase: Psych evals, identifying learning styles, accommodations, school meetings, IEPs, treatment plans, in-home support staff. Work flow adjusted as needed, rinse and repeat. --> Netflix queue consists entirely of two genres: either kick-ass action or comedy. No drama allowed. But chocolate is okay.
    4. Operation Phase: Skills training time: individualized special ed with one-on-one aides, OT, speech therapy, therapeutic horseback riding. --> Progress is made. Abject fear dissipates, sense of humor makes a shaky return.
    5. Evaluation Phase: Share feedback, recap growth and plan future efforts. --> Hello, blog! And chocolate.

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