Xander assembles a path toward independence at Dave Amos Kitchen Factory

Monday, 27 May 2024

Noise sensitivity, or hypersensitivity to sound, is a common experience for people with autism. Even sounds that most people would categorise as normal and non-threatening can be overwhelming for people with autism that experience noise sensitivity. 

Noise cancelling headphones can act as an effective way to quell the fears that come from the threatening sounds of the world. And they were something Xander refused to leave the house without until quite recently. 

Xander is a young lad living in the coastal city of Bundaberg. For three days each week, Xander gets out of bed, gets dressed, eats breakfast, grabs lunch on the way out the door, and gets dropped off at Dave Amos Kitchen Factory

Once he’s on the job and said his round of good mornings to his work mates, Xander gets to business putting together and taking apart kitchen cabinets. His role as a labouring assistant means he’s always busy setting up the kitchens of clients and going on site to install them. 

“My favourite part of the job is when we get to dismantle any old cabinets that we find on site that need to be taken away,” Xander admitted. 

Xander’s journey – it started with a conversation 

Xander got started at Dave Amos originally through a high school program. It was a way for him to get some work experience, as he didn’t really have anything in mind when it came to his future after school.  

His mother, Sherrie, had attended a school careers event where EPIC Assist was presenting an information session. 

EPIC Assist (EPIC) is a local Disability Employment Services (DES) provider that helps people with disability prepare for, find, and keep a job they love at a supportive and inclusive workplace. 

Sherrie spotted EPIC support worker Kelly, who she had recognised as a work colleague from her past job, and went over to catch up and talk about Xander’s career options. Kelly explained to Sherrie that EPIC’s support extends to students leaving school and entering employment, and that if she was interested, she could get Xander registered before he finished school – in case the job searching process took an extended period. 

Since then, Sherrie and Xander haven’t looked back – with Sherrie in particular marvelling over the support EPIC has provided Xander since getting on board. 

“They offer support so consistently. They were checking in with him on a weekly basis to make sure he was doing okay and that they were providing him with what he needed. It changed to fortnightly now, and he hasn’t needed very much but the fact we can rely on it to be there is great. 

“They also always get back to us in a timely manner. I’ve worked in the support work industry before and understand that working multiple cases means that some participants don’t get as much support because staff are spread too thin. But this hasn’t happened with EPIC,” Sherrie explained. 

It’s support that makes the difference 

Xander started at Dave Amos working every Thursday for eight or nine weeks, balancing his work experience with his schooling. Since the start of the year, he’s ramped it up to three days a week and has been loving it, slowly emerging further out of his shell as the months have passed. 

What made the difference for Xander was the care that boss and business owner Dave put into his training and onboarding process. Dave was made aware from EPIC that Xander struggles with following multiple step instructions. So Dave deliberately made Xander’s introduction to new tasks slow and gradual. 

“Dave’s been very supportive of Xander, saying that Xander’s part of the family now. They’ve even given him a nickname,” Sherrie said with a proud smile. 

That family dynamic has been a key part of getting Xander to relax and adapt quicker to the work environment of Dave Amos.   

Since starting, Xander’s formed a real bond with his workmates. Sherrie shared warmly that she hasn’t yet seen Xander come home sad. She explained they are always including him in banter and tell him stories. Stories that Xander can bring home and tell Sherrie, which is a big deal as it shows that Xander is actually listening and retaining the information – despite how much trouble he typically has with that. 

“It means he’s actually, genuinely interested in what they have to say.” 

Progress in and out of Dave Amos 

The support from his boss and coworkers has enabled Xander to make some real improvements on the job since starting. And the habit of routine that his job is drilling into him is helping him practice independence, as well as raising the money to chase that independence. 

We asked Xander if there were any big independence-based goals that he was working on, and he proudly shared that he was saving his work money to eventually afford a car. He’s also currently working through getting up his hours on his learner’s permit, so it’s safe to say that Xander’s got some big things to look forward to! 

Sherrie couldn’t be happier with how far Xander’s come in such a short time. She reminisced on how earlier in the year she really was at a loss for what Xander would be doing with his free time if he couldn’t end up landing a job. She’s beyond thankful to Dave at Dave Amos, Xander’s workmates for supporting him, and our hardworking team at EPIC Assist for continuing to support Xander in his employment journey. 

She said there was one thing above everything else that blew her away. 

“Xander is the type of person to be happy to shut the world away; he likes to wear his headphones in public. But when it comes to heading to work, he doesn’t take them with him at all. So that’s a huge step, it really made me smile that he’s been accepted. 

“And truly accepted, for who we are, not just what we can offer someone. That’s all we want at the end of the day. I really feel like that’s what he’s got at Dave Amos now. Just the other week I wasn’t able to pick him up after work, and his mates offered to drive him home!” Sherrie shared earnestly. 

Xander’s final thoughts 

Before we wrapped up our chat with Xander, we asked him what he personally thought about his EPIC experience so far, and he left us with some kind words to share about the team that had supported him. 

“I’ve been treated well by EPIC. They didn’t make me feel out of place or uncomfortable, so I’d give them a try. It’s a great place to help find work. They’ve spoken to me a lot, made sure I’m doing okay, and haven’t forced me to do anything I don’t want to do.” 

From here, Xander plans to tackle life’s challenges with the kind of optimism that only comes from feeling like you finally belong to a community. Xander’s journey at Dave Amos is just beginning, and his future is looking about as solid as the cabinets he assembles. 

If you, like Xander, are living with a disability, injury, health condition, or mental health condition and are looking to find meaningful employment, contact EPIC Assist today

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