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Celebrating National Disability Employment Awareness Month – Perspective from Els for Autism Employee Merrick Egber

I would like to take this time to appreciate October’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month by recounting the importance of working for the Els for Autism Foundation, starting with the initial impact of my hire.

I started working through an exchange I had with our Executive Director, Dr. Marlene Sotelo when I wasn’t sure about what else I could do since I had graduated from college but was still working a retail job with very little hope in my future. While I had received the degree I wanted to have because my communication wires were crossed, I didn’t graduate feeling fulfilled that I could do what I really wanted to do: Host a Radio Show. I had also thought of a job in data entry, but that would’ve been impossible due to my lack of skills and experience.

What Dr. Sotelo and the Foundation saw in me was something that I saw in myself, a quick learner with the potential to maximize practical learning experiences into something that I could transform into one of my new strengths, someone who appreciated handling a variety of work-related tasks, and someone who could use some of my academic backgrounds, and talents left uncultivated elsewhere, into something transformative for myself and others. I couldn’t articulate any of this to anyone at a job interview, nor could I explain to individuals how, in my group of neurodiverse individuals, I was more of a rare breed. What felt like a series of character flaws building up inside of me, ended up feeling like a loss to any company that rejected me beforehand.

I have used my role to understand my condition better, and to understand other people who have the same, or similar, diagnoses in a much better way, to become more of a champion of those who can remind me of myself. It is a common feeling, in me, that when we succeed, we don’t just succeed for others, I feel that I succeed too. While I may be an Administrative Assistant, it doesn’t stop there for me, and while I may have been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, it doesn’t stop there for me too. My position has more layers than this title can possibly realize.

When I was first given the news of my diagnosis, which would explain a healthy amount of my earlier years, I was disheartened thinking of what I couldn’t do, rather than what I could do. I had worked, for a while, to be seen as the same as my peers but to also understand that I’ve had extremely intelligent, motivated peers who have the same condition as I do, even those I went to school with, may create a distinct perspective on my own world. There are futures for everyone with a disability, for everyone with autism, in the workplace, in the career field, and I’ve come up with a new inspirational quote to end this article with – if at least one person believes in you, you can do anything, and sometimes that one person, the only person you may need, is yourself.