Autism Celebration 2012: An Interview with Jenn Jamalkowski

Jenn and her family
Today, I have the privilege of sharing a slice of Jenn Jamalkowski's life with you. Jenn has worked with children with autism and adults with a variety of severe cognitive disabilities for 22 years. She loves her job and has great respect and love for those she cares for.

QOTC: You've worked with individuals with disabilities for a long time. Please share with us why, and what type of work you do.

Jenn: I began working with individuals with disabilities over 22 years ago, when I was 18 years old. I initially started in an care facility for children with disabilities and I fell in love with work. I quit going to school and never looked back.

I cannot say that I recommend that path for everyone. However, for myself I knew it was my calling,it was were I was supposed to be and what I was supposed to be doing. I currently work at a state facility for adults with physical and mental disabilities. This facility is for individuals that require more intensive supports then many individuals that live out in community settings. We provide 24 hr medical services,behavioral and therapy support, staff support as well as recreational, employment and many other individualized supports.

QOTC: Please tell us about a moment when someone with Autism blessed your life.

Jenn: I could not ever pinpoint just one moment that I have been blessed by someone with Autism. I have received countless blessings over the years. It has allowed me to have more patience and understanding, then I ever would have had if it were not for the work I have done in the last two decades. I would never give back a second and I know I am a better person because of my associations with individuals with Autism and their families.

QOTC: As someone who works with adults with more severe disabilities, what advice do you have for people in the community? What can we do to brighten up their day when we see them out and about?

Jenn: My biggest piece of advice is to never make assumptions. Just because cannot verbally communicate with you does not mean they do not understand what you are saying. Take the time to try and communicate with them, figure out how they communicate and spend time listening. Communication isn't just about words.

Say hello, show you care, don't avoid them. Remember that just because they have autism doesn't mean that they do not have feelings. treat them with the same kindness and respect that you would want to be treated with.

QOTC: What's one message you want to share with everyone for the Autism Celebration?

Jenn: Support for the Autism community has come so far in the past 20 years. It has been exciting to see all that has come about in this time. I cannot wait to see what changes the next 20 years will bring. With support from educators, the community and families I amazing things are yet to come.

QOTC: Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and knowledge with us today, Jenn!

How have you shown support or developed a friendship someone with severe Autism?

Would you like to comment?

Victoria said...

Something I have noticed about people who work with special needs clients is that they aren't afraid to push boundaries and expect more from the individual then maybe even the parents expect. I have really appreciated that talent when people have raised the standards for my daughter. And of course, my daughter has risen to the occasion on those times when they have expected her to do more than we thought she could. I think that is a great way to support people with special needs...don't give up on them and raise the bar.

Danyelle Ferguson said...

Victoria - I completely agree. There have been so many things my son's teachers or aides have pushed him to do that I would have been too afraid to try. Our family has been greatly blessed by individuals who have chosen to work with people with special needs. They deserve a huge, huge round of applause and so much more recognition than the little bit they actually receive.

Thank you for your interview, Jenn!

Janice said...

This is a great post. My husband has the ability to go and talk to anyone, regardless of age, disability, etc. I have tried to model that. I need to remember that just because they can't verbally communicate, doesn't mean I can't go up and talk to them.

Jenn said...

Thank you, Danyelle...I was honored to share!!!