Mr. Responsibility

Posted: September 3rd, 2009 under employment, socialization.
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One of the things people sometimes complain of with persons on the spectrum is their “rigidity” and their strict interpretation of,  and adherence to, rules.   Rules they’ve internalized, that is.  But the flip side of “rigidity” is “reliability”–a trait prized by employers.    I was strongly reminded of that today, when our son left me an email (at 7:30 am, that I didn’t see until much later) that he was going out with the man who takes him to interview for other jobs–and I knew he needed to be back in the afternoon to work a shift at his current job.

I worried all day that he had forgotten about the shift, because Thursday’s an unusual day for him to work.   I couldn’t find the cellphone number of the person who had taken him out and convinced myself that I should not interfere by calling the service provider’s office to get it from them…after all, he’s got to learn it’s his responsibility to remember these things…etc, etc.  Typical mothering worries.

Half an hour before he was supposed to show up here so his dad could drive him to work,  I caved and called his house.  He answered.   I told him I’d seen his email and been concerned, but (I said) of course he’d remembered and I should’ve realized he would.  “Yes,” he said, in the tone of voice that meant he was smug about it.

In fact, he has missed only one day of work in 18 months (that we insisted on because he was sick and we explained that if you have that kind of illness you must not work in food service.)  He always shows up here on time, with his uniform (and it’s always clean); he calls to find out his schedule each week himself; he does what he’s supposed to do when he’s supposed to do it.

There are advantages, and his managers at the pizza place recognize that.

There are still gaps in his understanding of the world, and gaps and lags in his ability to communicate with perfect clarity and ease, and do everything most young men his age can do easily and quickly…but when it comes to being reliable and responsible…he’s got that nailed.


  • Comment by OtterB — September 4, 2009 @ 8:24 am


    Congratulations to him, again. I sometimes think that my 15-year-old daughter, who is not technically on the spectrum but shares some of these issues, should be aiming at a job of Inspector of something-or-other. She never fails to notice things that have changed or aren’t exactly the way they are supposed to be.

  • Comment by Elizabeth — September 4, 2009 @ 8:38 am


    As a society (culture?) we’re not good at fitting abilities to tasks, esp. when we look at those with labeled disabilities. I noticed early on with M- that his therapists always wanted to see him in terms of what he could not do, not in terms of what he could. That being said, some would “encourage” him by praising (over-praising) in my view) insignificant effort rather than focusing him on a specific element of the task to be improved.

    People on the spectrum have abilities, not just disabilities–but the ability to focus on a task, stick with it, notice minute errors and changes, are often re-labeled when the person is. I wish I could find the illustration from a magazine for parents of disabled children that had a list of such terms–I do recall that what in a “normal” person is called “persistence” is called “perseveration” in kids on the spectrum. But there was a whole list (covering more than just spectrum diagnoses) and it was hilarious. Oh, I think “I’m fascinated, you’re fixated” was one of them, too.

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