Answers by Nick Brown Shenita, mother of Shonn
How did you hear about ACEing Autism?
I heard about it from another organization called LWD (Learning With Disabilities) and thought it would be worth a try.
How did your son do in the first couple of sessions being in a new environment?
My son does have anxiety sometimes, especially when he first started with the program, but the instructors and volunteers made him feel welcome and provided an environment that was fun, encouraging and goal driven. It made him feel very comfortable and excited to be there! I never would have thought he would grow to love the sport so much.
What has your experience been like or what are your hopes for people with ASD in the workplace?
There was a time I saw a lot of negative things for people with ASD in the workplace. I have seen some positive changes but there is still a long way to go. My son did not like some of the things he heard some of his friends mention about how they were treated in the workplace. It was one of the reasons he started his own art business and promotes inclusion so others can see how much they may have in common with individuals with ASD. I personally would like to see some workplaces accommodate more individuals with ASD, they would see that they are capable of doing more than they think if given the chance.
Shoon has his own art gallery/studio in Newport News and has satellite locations with other artists in Virginia Beach and Hampton. He does art classes for special needs individuals, children and adults. He also does sip and paint and fundraiser event art classes. He also is co-author and illustrator of a book where he talks about Autism in his own words called Sj Strong by Gail Wright. He likes trying to inspire others with special needs to find their talents and get involved in the community.
Can you talk about obstacles and opportunities within the workspace?
Unfortunately some obstacles are some workplaces think that assembly lines, workshops, janitorial services etc. are the only places some people with ASD are capable of working at especially if they are lower functioning. There is nothing wrong with these jobs but some individuals are capable or may crave to do more and are not giving the chance. One good thing is I have been seeing more opportunities where there are some good programs that are providing individuals with ASD peer training, on the job training etc. to help find what strengths they may have and put them in that environment so they can be productive employees.
What would you like people to know about people with ASD in the workplace?
I would like them to know to have patience. Another thing, some individuals with ASD are some of the hardest working people I know. They try to please and take their work seriously. That is a good attribute to have. If given the chance they can thrive just like any other employee..
Anything else you would like people to know about autism?
Be kind, Be patient, and get to know the individual. My son Shonn would tell you all people with Autism are not the same. Get to know the person for who they are…you might make a new friend for life!