As Tyler Hubbard was growing up, his parents suspected he might have autism. “Over the years, it just became more and more obvious,” says his father, Bob Hubbard.
But little was known about autism at the time, and it wasn’t until Tyler’s later grade-school years that the Hubbards were able to get a diagnosis. Today, Tyler is 24, and after participating in programs at SARRC, he is thriving in a way his parents never thought possible. And for Bob and his wife, Kathy, the experience motivated them to give back and engage with SARRC in many ways, from donating and fundraising to signing up their own business with SARRC’s Employment Services.
Developing Skills for Life and Work
The Hubbards were aware of SARRC, but the family hadn’t fully explored the organization’s services until they talked with a family friend who suggested they look at the Vocational & Life Skills Academy, which offers a range of services. The experience changed their lives.
“It’s been a really positive, consistent journey over the past two to three years,” Hubbard says. “Kathy and I were going a couple hours every week, and then we gradually progressed. Now, we meet with someone at SARRC for an hour every other week.”
In addition to the training Bob and Kathy receive from SARRC, Tyler receives Comprehensive Behavioral Services as well. He learns life skills like how to manage his calendar, improve his communications, keep a budget and prepare for the workforce.
“The team has been awesome to work with,” Hubbard says. “Like a lot of kids on the spectrum, he’s a little awkward socially,” Hubbard says. “Two years ago, if we went to dinner, I’d ask him what he wanted, and I’d tell the waiter. Now, he can speak for himself.”
Tyler lives in his brother’s guest house, and SARRC has been instrumental in helping him build his independent living skills and keep his living space clean, too. The team has worked with him on grocery shopping, comparing prices, being aware of value and couponing.
“The SARRC team has been amazing,” Hubbard adds. “To act like an adult, you need to be responsible with your money. SARRC has removed a lot of tension from our lives by being a resource.”
On the Job
For individuals on the autism spectrum, getting a job often isn’t easy. Applying for and maintaining employment is a life skill that must be learned.
“Tyler didn’t just immediately get a job. SARRC worked with him on interviewing skills and resumes,” Hubbard says. “He has a high school education and struggles on the phone, so phone interviews weren’t good. Partnering with SARRC and their inventory of resources was tremendous.”
SARRC’s Employment Services help adults with autism gain the skills needed to prepare for a job, get a job and maintain a job.
“That includes both hard skills — actually doing the work — but even more importantly the soft skills, which include social communication, problem solving, transitions, engagement, etc.,” says Beatriz Orr, M.Ed., BCBA, clinical services manager and Hispanic outreach coordinator at SARRC.
SARRC has more than 50 employment partners across 73 locations around the Valley. In September 2016, Tyler was hired at Paradies at Sky Harbor International Airport. He works in the warehouse and loves his job.
“We love him. If we could duplicate him a few times, that would be great,” says Teresa Dominguez, local business partner with Paradies and one of Tyler’s managers.
“When we interviewed him, Tyler was quick to respond, and he asked good questions. He was very well prepared,” she says. Since he was hired, Tyler has worked in various capacities and has been trained in many facets of the warehouse — from the receiving department to inventory management to loading the trucks and delivering merchandise to stores.
“Our manager on the premises is extremely pleased. We’ve been giving him additional responsibilities,” Dominguez adds. “We’re very, very happy to have him aboard.”
When they learned about Employment Services, the Hubbards, who own Hubbard Family Swim School, signed up.
“We wanted to complete the circle,” Hubbard says. Currently, one of SARRC’s clients is working at a swim school location, working the snack bar, checking in students and stocking retail.
“He’s very independent,” Hubbard notes. “He’s blended in and taken on new responsibilities.”
Watching this employee and their own son thrive with work responsibilities has been an encouraging milestone for the Hubbards.
“It’s still a journey,” Hubbard says, but he now has more hope for Tyler’s future than ever.
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Story by Stephanie Conner.