...in his own words.
“From my earliest days, I have been told that I’m a bright individual. That brightness, however, has not been enough to earn me any success in the business sector. I am on the autism spectrum; a neurological condition that causes me to feel comfortable in my intellectual pursuits, but at a loss when interacting with other people; like there’s a big social rulebook that I never received.
My social interactions were turbulent from the start; in school I made nearly no friends, and despite my natural drive to socialize with others, there was a seemingly insurmountable disconnect between me and other students and teachers. When I was ten-years-old, I was diagnosed with autism. With a new understanding, my next teacher took me from a D student to an A student, but that did not alleviate my feelings of isolation and anxiety with people.
Interacting with employers was another nerve-wracking, and utterly confounding task. I kept my first job for only two weeks, and my second one for less than a month.
After graduation, I moved to Washington to live with my aunt, but failed to find gainful employment. Frustrated and desperate, I applied to join the Navy, but was rejected due to my psychological profile. I was accepted into the Job Corps, an organization that can handle young adults with far more difficulties than I had dealt with, but that handling was rigid, and without an advocate on my side, I spent my time on the Job Corps campus depressed and developing more symptoms of extreme stress.
Despite my struggles, I graduated from Job Corps with a technology certification that helped me secure my first real job. I was making money, but I still felt alone at work and at odds with everyone around me. My struggles to balance my work and personal demands eventually left me homeless and living in my car. Sleeping in parking lots took its toll. I was fired soon after. With nothing left to keep me where I was, I stashed everything I cared about into my car and drove home to Fargo.
Turning a new page...
“In Fargo, I saw an ad for Mind Shift in the newspaper and contacted them. The advocacy I received when in communication with potential employers gave me both insurance against catastrophic miscommunications, and the peace of mind that comes with knowing that I’m not alone in my struggle. Now, interacting with my supervisor and department peers comes more naturally to me than ever. Any time I feel anxious with the nuances of workplace politics or socialization, I know I can contact a liaison at Mind Shift who will step in as necessary and “grease the wheels” for me to continue untroubled. With the support I receive at Mind Shift, I don’t fear becoming unemployed, and I feel like a valued member of my workplace.
Today, I am stable. I live alone, with no financial support, and I have never been happier. My neurotic inclinations are at an all-time low, and being alive just doesn’t seem so difficult anymore. Having ease at work, I have energy to spare on improving and maintaining my personal life.”
At Mind Shift, we are honored to be a part of Forrest’s journey. We celebrate his new career and financial independence, his newfound energy, and his happiness.
With a diagnosis rate of 1 in 68 children on the autism spectrum, Forrest’s story of struggle is too common. In fact, there are an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 people with autism entering the world of work this year alone in the US. Despite having qualities that employers want—detail-orientation, focus and loyalty—they are excluded due to misperceptions of their capabilities. Brilliant minds are relegated to unemployment, or underemployment in jobs that don’t utilize their skills, or a life of poverty on social benefits.
Forrest's story of triumph can be repeated. With your help, Mind Shift can give other vitally talented and valuable people like Forrest the opportunity to gain independence, acceptance and a meaningful life.
You can partner with us by giving online at www.mindshift.works/get-involved