Posted in Autism, Down syndrome, Education and Special Needs

Blog #103~Vocations for a Person with Special Needs

Blog #103~Vocations for a Person with Special Needs

Some 20 years ago when my son was born with Down syndrome, I wondered what kind of job Nick could do when he became an adult. I found myself gravitating to the checkout lines with the baggers who had Down syndrome.  Like a stalker I watched them work and interact with customers.   I’d ask for a carry out so I could chat more and offer up a huge tip.  I found a lot of hope in such moments.

Those dreams were crushed when autism ravaged my son’s mind and body. His speech would not come as it should have.  His behaviors were strange with all the stimming and worst yet, they became unpredictable.  Autism robbed his chance of being the best that he could have been with just Down syndrome.

Hope came back while Nick was in high school. In Blog #57~Community Jobs and Nick,  I wrote about what jobs he held out in the community. The link is @

Nick working at Re-Store (Habitat for Humanity)…..

Nick packaging door knobs_Habitat_4 (2)

Nick takes a lot of pride in his work.  Okay so, he might have pulled a fire alarm at his vacuuming job at a nursing home (woopsie).But for the most part he participated well in all his jobs.

Nick working at Tabor Hills 🙂 ………..

Nick tabor hills

Fast forward to the present, Nick finished high school and attends a post-secondary transition program. In this program the students work in house on job skills, are employed in the community, and some take college classes.  While Nick participates in production and vocational work in the school building, he no longer works out in the community.  His unpredictable behavior, especially the fire alarm pulls (30 since third grade) put him at too much risk to hold a job.  Reality has sunk in. 😦

I’m not going to lie. It’s a kick in the gut. The daunting task now is to come up with a plan.  How will Nick occupy his days once the bus stops coming to the door (at age 22)? I reached out to some of his teachers from high school awhile back.  (Originally I planned to make Blog #100 to be “100 Cool Things About Nick” That was way too ambitious and long.)  But here are a few things they sent to me that fit nicely here:

From Mrs. Hunt (his primary teacher and case worker):

Nick has great functional skills! I’ve seen him help with a variety of chores and complete personal care routines better than some typical teens! Nick is a hard worker and loves to vacuum. Nick has a hilarious sense of humor! His laugh and smile are contagious, even when he’s being a stinker- which makes behavior management even tougher. Nick is clever and perseveres. When he’s determined, he’s going to have his way. Elbow bumps- this is how I know who has a good relationship with Nick. His elbow bumps make a person feel awesome.  I love that the last time I saw him, he still gave me one.  I love that Nick is a typical young man at heart- burps and fart jokes so funny.” 

Being silly with Ms. R, his aide in high school 🙂

Devil horns

His vocational teacher, Ms. Stoodley offered up some ideas for possible jobs for Nick: 

  • Dancer
  • Happiness Creator
  • Adult Education Educator (all of us that he has taught and made better)
  • Vacuuming expert
  • Fire alarm Coordinator
  • Siren Director 
  • Professor of Dumping
  • Screw Sorter Assistant


I am slowly digesting the fact that Nick may not be able to work in the community. We need to look at his strengths, then create a meaningful day for him where he is productive and happy.  He is a “happiness creator” even in the midst of creating chaos. So yes, there is uncertainty regarding his future.  We have 17 month to figure things out.  Stay tuned……

That’s what is in my noggin’ this week,



Teresa is the Author of "A New Course: A Mother's Journey Navigating Down Syndrome and Autism" and the mother of two boys. Her youngest son, Nick is 29 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). Teresa's passion is helping others understand and navigate co-occurring Down syndrome and autism. She is a DS-ASD consultant, advocate, speaker, and author. Follow Nick's world on Facebook, Instagram & Pinterest @Down Syndrome With A Slice of Autism and on Twitter @tjunnerstall. For more information and media links, visit

4 thoughts on “Blog #103~Vocations for a Person with Special Needs

  1. TJ Very interesting and the challenge seems daunting. If anyone can do it, you will! I believe your powers in Nick’s world are endless. Joleene

    Sent from my iPad


  2. We read this together.. Dana, my mom and Steve!! We all are going to pray for a future vocation for Nick.. And we will all help by keeping our eyes and ears open for any ideas or oportunities… Cuz we lovya!!
    Thanls for sharing your heart.. We feel it!!
    Big hugs! Wait.. I know a Grape stomper for your private wine company!!

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