Krystyna’s Story – Working with Autism
May 16, 2019
by Joshua Cook

Krystyna’s Story – Working with Autism

Meet our customer Krystyna – a highly intelligent, bubbly young lady from the NSW Central Coast. At just 20 years old, Krystyna has developed an attention to detail most people could only dream of – a trait she’s hoping to use in her search for employment.

But while her ability to retain information is incredible, Krystyna openly admits she struggles in social environments – a trait many people with Autism tend to share. Not only does this make it difficult to form lasting relationships, but it also makes it quite hard to find employers willing to look beyond her Autism and accept her for who she is, which is exactly why she turned to Breakthru for assistance.

Krystyna’s story began when she first reached out to Breakthru in early 2017. It was around this time that Krystyna was intent on finding a job, so she was looking for a provider that could help place her into a suitable role to highlight her unique abilities. This is when she met our fantastic Support Worker & Job Coach Donna, who has been guiding her through her employment journey ever since.

Looking for work

Just before meeting Donna and the rest of the Breakthru team, Krystyna had initially applied to work at a local retail store. With no prior employment history to show, Krystyna was understandably nervous, but she managed to impress the retail manager with her incredible long term memory skills.

Despite the challenges Autism presents to Krystyna, she’s blessed with an ability called Declarative Memory. Much like photographic memory, this means Krystyna is able to recall past information with ease. By applying this skill in her interview, Krystyna could quote unique facts about Portgual (the retail manager’s home country) that the manager herself didn’t know – which allowed her to start building a bit of a rapport and generate interest from her potential employer.

But although she knocked the interview out of the park with her practical long-term memory skills, she was sadly unsuccessful in obtaining the role due to the manager’s concerns surrounding her anxiety.

While disappointed, it was not the first time Krystyna had been knocked back. So with some new-found interview experience under her belt, she forged ahead, more determined than ever to find a job where she would be valued and respected just like anyone else in the workplace.

To assist with her job-seeking journey, Krystyna reached out to Donna shortly after her retail interview and arranged a meeting to discuss community & employment supports. After a short initial meeting with Donna, Krystyna identified that she would love to work in a library as she would feel safer in a calm, quiet environment.

Donna thought this was a fantastic idea, as Krystyna has already demonstrated she would be able to remember a plethora of information that no other ordinary employee would be able to match. The job would also have less emphasis on social interaction – which would help with Krystyna’s anxiety levels – but would include just enough social activities to help her build capacity in that area as well.

With this in mind, Donna quickly worked with the rest of her team to secure a work experience placement close to Krystyna’s home at Kincumber Library, which young Krystyna was ecstatic to hear.

Building Capacity

Krystyna’s first day at Kincumber Library was an exciting one. With new skills to learn and people to meet, Krystyna was quickly beginning to feel overwhelmed and anxious. Thankfully Donna came along for the day to help support her, which calmed Krystyna throughout the morning as she was shown around the premises.

The day went off without a hitch – with Krystyna easily organising the book shelves and checking out reserved books – at least until she was introduced to the customer service aspect of the position. Once she was on the customer service desk, Krystyna began to feel quite uncomfortable and anxious, which Donna identified quickly – eventually stepping in to coach her through the situation with some coping exercises to help her remain calm.

With Donna’s ongoing support and Krystyna’s energetic personality the day turned into a great success – most importantly building Krystyna’s capacity immensely and adding her first real job to her resume.

In a post-placement interview with the Library manager, Krystyna got to voice her opinion about the job, what she enjoyed and what she struggled with. Krystyna identified that she felt uncomfortable on the customer service desk, and the manager agreed this is something she could improve upon.

What’s next for Krystyna?

Krystyna is still very interested in further work experience opportunities with libraries in her area, but she would be happy with any job that would allow her to use her incredible ability to retain information.

Donna continues to work with Krystyna to build her capacity in social situations by helping her to stay calm and self-regulate her emotions. The duo are also actively working together to identify more potential work experience opportunities, with Donna coaching Krystyna through the interview process to help her build confidence and perhaps one day secure a full-time paid position.

Need help?

breakthru have just over 25 years of experience helping customers just like Krystyna build their capacity, find suitable employment and achieve their goals. If you or someone you know need help and support – be it for advice around the NDIS or help with disability employment – be sure to get in touch today.

About the author

Joshua Cook

Holding dual degrees in Business Marketing and Commerce Accounting, Josh brings more than half a decade of experience to his role as National Marketing Manager at Breakthru, based in Brisbane, Queensland. His life's journey has uniquely equipped him to serve in this vital position. Raised alongside his younger sister Katey, who has Down Syndrome, Josh has gained an intimate understanding of the challenges and societal stigmas associated with disabilities. This personal connection fuels his commitment to the mission of Breakthru - to empower individuals like Katey to access the resources and support they require to live fulfilling lives. Through his role at Breakthru, Josh aims to break down the barriers and dismantle the misconceptions that often surround people with disabilities.

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