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Living With Spina Bifida #2: The Struggle for a Job

Shadow’s Edge is honored to work with guest authors like Ashley Spicer, who was born with spina bifida and writes about her experience at In Ashley’s first post about living with spina bifida, she wrote about growing up and trying to do as much as she can on her own. Today, she writes about Project SEARCH and her transition from high school into the workforce.

Originally I was going to graduate high school, go to college and do things everyone else was doing. Then I was offered the opportunity to go to Project SEARCH for a year after graduation. Project SEARCH is a transition from high school into the working field. Since this program is for people with disabilities, you have to be on a IEP in order to be accepted. At first I was skeptical about it because I only heard about opportunities to work at Mercy hospital and let’s be real: I have been in and out of hospitals all my life, I wasn’t about to go work in one!

I went for an evaluation there anyways and a few weeks after that I heard about another opportunity at Lorain County Community College. I was beyond happy and excited when I heard that. I figured I would give it a go and see how everything would work out. It was an unpaid internship and since I had to hold back my diploma, I could still use the bus like I was when I was in school, I was just going to a different place.

There were three rotations for the year and you learned all different types of skills and even more life skills in our classroom time. The overall goal with the program is to get you a job and have the skills to go above and beyond. Some things we learned, most people probably wouldn’t even think about doing, that’s how awesome and amazing this program really is.

While I was going through this program, I quickly realized that if it wasn’t for all these amazing job coaches and everyone else on the team helping me, I would never be able to successfully get a job. It took 9 months to get my first job. Due to medical reasons, I could only work part time, which for me was only 6 hours a week. As the weeks and months carried on, I got very tired after my 3 hour long shifts and just wanted to go straight to bed.

Long story short, I pushed through all of it even when I was at my worst and always put my best foot forward. The people I worked with treated me exactly like everyone else and it made it so much easier for me to be myself around them. I always maintained a positive attitude & put a smile on my face whenever I came in. That’s just who I am as a person.

Eight months later, I got laid off due to my work being transferred to a different location. I am forever grateful for all these people I have met on this journey. Thank you for treating me like you would everyone else. Thank you for giving me a chance.

About a month or so before my last days at work, I applied for more jobs. I got one phone interview. I was told I was going to get a call back next week so I waited, and waited, and waited. I didn’t get anything so towards the end of that week I emailed and followed up with the person who interviewed me and they told me they already had someone else. Most people don’t think that’s a big deal, but for me it was. I was doing everything on my own and was excited I at least got a phone interview.

That’s when it really hit me that I can’t do this alone. I could but people don’t look at me the same way. I still have a happy upbeat attitude no matter what, but people would rather hear from someone in a suit that has everything together rather than someone in a wheelchair, even if we are both saying the exact same thing… such a shame!

I know what I’m talking about, I just need more people who are willing to listen to me and give me a chance.

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