Adrienne Walls, Future Supervisor
April 11, 2018
Clayton Walls often contemplated what would happen when his daughter, Adrienne, graduated from high school – wondering if she would get a fair chance at employment since she was diagnosed with autism at age four. Information about Project SEARCH came in the mail, and Clayton describes the program as a blessing in disguise. “Everything about this program fulfilled a lot of questions we had about what was going to happen with our daughter’s future,” he said.
Like Yasom Davis, Adrienne was part of the first cohort of students to go through Project SEARCH at Drexel University. The program offers vocational training and internships to young adults with autism and/or an intellectual disability.
As part of the program, Adrienne completed internships at Drexel’s student ID card office and the Barnes & Noble bookstore on campus last year. She started working full-time at the Philadelphia International Airport in September, where she is currently an assistant in the human resources department. She has her own cubicle where she does various tasks like filing, emailing, and answering the phone. Adrienne was travel-trained when she started, and she is currently supported by a job coach. Adrienne has told her dad that she loves her new job.
Clayton is thrilled for his daughter. “This is the ideal job that she wanted, that we wanted for her. I didn’t see my daughter working at McDonalds or Burger King. There’s nothing wrong with that, I just saw her in a different setting,” he says.
Clayton dreams that his quiet, well-mannered daughter will one day be able to drive a car. Essentially he wants what most parents would want for their children – for them to be able to live and function in society independently without people taking advantage of them. “All parents want their kids to know about stranger danger, crossing the street at a red light,” he says. “This is a little bit more intense when it comes to a child with special needs. She’s 21 now, but she’s not quite 21.”
Adrienne’s experience with Project SEARCH has given her a sense of independence and boosted her confidence, Clayton says. “She’s becoming her own person. At some point she wouldn’t give you direct answers. She wouldn’t ask for help. Now, if she needs help, she will ask. If you ask her a question, and she doesn’t know the answer, she will say she doesn’t know, or say she needs to think about it. Previously, she used to just stare at you.”
When asked where she sees herself in five years, Adrienne answers confidently, “Supervisor.”