My name is Elysha. I am a 27 year-old, born and raised Calgarian who graduated from Calgary Academy (CA) in 2013, and SAIT Polytechnic in 2017 with a Business Administration Marketing Diploma.

Growing up wasn’t always easy for me, I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at the age of 9, and have many other health issues. As a young kid I also had problems at school with learning and was later diagnosed with ADHD. Some time after that I received an Autism diagnosis. The school I was attending at the time of my diagnosis did not have the proper supports available and was not providing me with the right learning tools and environment to be successful. Eventually I transferred to Calgary Academy (CA). Both my parents and myself felt that CA was the right fit for my education, and that was a huge step.

Because of the positive personal experiences that I had at CA, it was very important to me that I find a post-secondary institution that would offer the same kinds of experiences. Compared to other post-secondary institutions, SAIT stood out. They had smaller class sizes, and hands-on learning/practicum parts to their programs. Which meant that students can experience what it’s like to work in the real world and use what you have learned and earned at university or college. You get the best of both worlds, book smarts and practical smarts.

While attending SAIT, I utilized their Accessibility Centre, and got extra supports through them. They provided me with a learning strategy coach and advisor, an Individualized Program Plan (IPP), and a bunch of assisted learning tools and strategies. Those included extra time on exams and tests, a quiet room or a different space to write assessments (testing centre), extra and longer breaks if I needed them, use of their computers in the testing centre (in case I forgot mine at home or it needed fixing), and helpful technology that made school overall much less stressful, to name a few.

“During my time in the EmploymentWorks program I made lots of new friends, while going out into the world and trying out different jobs.
I learned new strategies and skills to help me live a more successful adult life.”

I found out about The Sinneave Family Foundation through a psychologist in Calgary, who works with people on the spectrum. She suggested to my family and me that I take a look into Sinneave’s programs and services. I decided that it would be in my best interest to get some more specific and professional help when applying for jobs and trying to get back into the workforce. After learning more about Sinneave, I discovered that the EmploymentWorks program was the best fit for what I was looking for.

During my time in the EmploymentWorks program I made lots of new friends, while going out into the world and trying out different jobs. I learned new strategies and skills to help me live a more successful adult life. When the program was coming to an end, an opportunity to be involved in the Sinneave Summer Student program became available. With the support of the EmploymentWorks staff, I applied for the position and was hired on a term basis to support the Community Engagement Project.

“…the best thing about (living on my own) is that it’s mine. I like to say “My house, my rules!”

At the same time I came to work at Sinneave, I was also preparing to move out on my own. Lots of changes! I moved into my own place in the middle of June. Although I felt a little unsure of living on my own, I did feel ready to move out and had the skills I needed to live independently: things like cooking, doing laundry, cleaning, grocery shopping, and paying bills. I also had very good family and community supports in place. The biggest adjustment to living on my own was getting used to not having my dog or mother around. It does get lonely some days. I do miss seeing my dog, Charlie, before I go to bed and a phone call just isn’t the same. But, the best thing about it is that it’s mine. I like to say “My house, my rules!” I do like the freedom of no one telling me what to do, when to do it or how it should be done. I like that I can decorate it the way I want also. So far, so good.

I love what I do here at Sinneave and the people I work with. The work that I have been hired to do is fulfilling and enjoyable for me because of my business background. As a part of that, I’m doing a job that not only helps me continue my education and learning, but one that also allows me to make an impact in the world I live in. I feel good about the work that Sinneave does and I want to continue doing this type of work for as long as possible. I would love to eventually find a similar permanent position somewhere that shares similar values to Sinneave. I have a Business Administration Marketing diploma from SAIT that I really want to utilize within the roles that I pursue in the future.

“While working for many different companies and experiencing different jobs and industries,
I have learned that self-advocating is important, especially when things don’t seem to be working out.”

Throughout all the previous jobs that I have had, I have learned what kind of employee I am and want to become. I am a diligent, hardworking team player who loves to help and support my colleagues and company in whatever capacity I can.

Starting a new role/job isn’t always easy, trust me I know. While working for many different companies and experiencing different jobs and industries I have learned that self-advocating is important, especially when things don’t seem to be working out. The tools that really helped me were clear direct instructions when performing tasks, very open communication with my supervisor/manager, having a set time schedule, having multiple but manageable to-do lists, getting constant constructive and supportive feedback, writing things down in/on a notebook or notepad, allowing myself time to settle into my new role, setting multiple reminders and alarms for notifications about things (meetings, etc.), and so many other ones as well. Some of the tools and strategies that helped me become successful might not fit or work for you, and that is okay.

The world is your playground and how you choose to interact with it is completely up to you. You will always miss 100% of those shots that you don’t take.
So take those shots, and maybe you will make them and maybe you won’t, but just keep trying and don’t give up.

By Elysha DJ

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