Why Autistic Teens and Young Adults Make Great Volunteers

I have been reading a book recently entitled Everybody’s Normal Till You Get To Know Them by John Ortberg. There is a chapter in which he talks about the fact that we (humans) are made for community and that even in the midst of social media and many opportunities to connect, so many people feel alone.

I happened to read this chapter at the same time I came across yet another article in the news about an autistic adult who is very sad because they don’t have any friends. The article went on to talk about how isolated many autistic adults become as they are unable to find jobs and are unable to find programs to help them continue to socialize.

This combination got me thinking about solutions.

How can I, as a parent, help my daughter continue to grow as a person, even if she doesn’t get a job. Then I was struck with an inspiration – volunteering.

There are a lot of organizations out there that spend a lot of time and money helping various groups of people including the:

  • Disabled
  • Mentally ill
  • Poor
  • Homeless
  • Children
  • Teens
  • Elderly

These organizations are always looking for volunteers to help with their programs or specific events. I think that participating in these volunteer opportunities can benefit everyone involved.

I believe that autistic adults have a gift that is rarely found and extremely important to those people who are being helped.

Seeing the individual as a person, not a problem.

I think many autistic teens and adults excel at this. Autistic’s don’t necessarily see what society sees, they see the person. The experience of being marginalized and ignored gives autistics’ and their families a special insight that the general public often doesn’t have.

Everyone can benefit from this partnership. Autistic teens and adults will get a chance to make connections with others, both staff and the people they serve. They will be able to practice and expand their skills, both social skills and job skills. Those who volunteer are no longer isolated and while they focus on helping others, they are no longer focused as much on their own difficulties.

The organizations benefit from finding a volunteer who is less likely to leave unexpectedly and is passionate about their position.

Autistic adults who have never considered volunteering as an option should take a look at their community and the organizations that need volunteers.

Don’t confine the search to religious organizations or high profile organizations such as the United Way. Check with the city, county and state governments as well as local venues like parks, museums, zoos, theaters and retirement homes. These organizations and businesses are often looking for volunteers to help with a wide variety of tasks.

If you have a specific special interest check on organizations around that interest – there may be volunteer opportunities there as well. For example someone interested in trains can find a local hobby train organization and see if they need help.

If a long term volunteer program seems overwhelming, consider a seasonal opportunity around a specific holiday such as Christmas, 4th of July or a local festival.

Volunteering can become a life-long passion that provides a level of satisfaction not found anywhere else.

 

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