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For All Abilities

Jul 6, 2020

For All Abilities – The Podcast Episode Twenty Eight - Kristine Toon - A Mom Helping Her Son Find Employment with Autism and ADHD.


In this episode, I interview Kristine Toon - mom of Michael. On the podcast, Kristine and I discuss Michael’s early years, his strengths and his college experience. We also discuss her dreams for his future employment. 

To connect with Kristine, please email her at Join me on episode 29 when I interview her son Michael. 

Go to our website for information on our software that enables employers to support their employees with ADHD, Dyslexia, Learning Differences and Autism.

Thanks for listening! 




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Full Transcription from



Betsy Furler  0:05  

Welcome to for all abilities, the podcast. This is your host, Betsy Furler. The aim of this podcast is to highlight the amazing things people with ADHD, dyslexia, learning differences and autism are doing to improve our world. Have a listen to for all abilities, the podcast and please subscribe on whatever podcast app you're listening to us on. Hi, everybody. Welcome back to for all abilities, the podcast. This is your host, Betsy Furler. And today I'm doing something a little different. I am talking to Christine toon, and she is the mom of two adult children with neuro diversity and we're going to talk a little bit about what their lives have been like and they're both kind of at a turning point of going from education to employment. So we're going to talk a bit a little bit about that. So, hi, Christine, thank you so much for being on the show. Hi. Nice to be here. Yes. And why don't you just introduce yourself a bit to my audience?


Kristine Toon  1:14  

Sure. I My name is Christine. And as she had said, I have two adult children that are moving to adulthood. They have had different challenges. One has had mostly autistic type symptoms, and that very high functioning but that comes with a whole nother set of problems when the world sees him because he looks very typical of other people. But then you find that he doesn't always understand things and they didn't know he didn't understand. And then my younger one is 23. And he has almost done with college. He'll graduate in December. But then we are now moving into a new part of his life where He's going to be looking for a job and trying to find the right employer for him.


Betsy Furler  2:07  

Awesome. And how old were they when they were diagnosed or you realize there was something different going on?


Kristine Toon  2:13  

Sure. Stephen was always the 25 year old was always quirky is what we called him. He did some odd things, but he was very bright and responsive to everything. He didn't speak until he was about a year old and they were odd words like I want this and that, and dog but he didn't say mommy and daddy and he pointed at most things. He was very fearful. And then when we put them in kindergarten, that's when everything kind of fell apart. I thought it was this perfect normal child as anyone who bought their first kid. And the first week of school, I got a phone call from the kindergarten teacher asking me to come into our conference. He was running away, not wanting to transition to anything, but just At home was fine, you know he they kind of train you in a way. And so, by the end of his kindergarten year, he was diagnosed with Asperger's. And then we started understanding the type of things he really needed to succeed. Michael on the other hand, he was older, he seemed more typical than Stephen did, but things fell apart in third grade. Bipolar started entering into his life, and he wouldn't remember things that he had done. And we were seeing some autistic tendencies also. So it was a long journey for us to get the right medications for the boys. Once they were put on the correct medications life did smooth out for us. It's still a challenge, but the out of control behaviors stopped by the time they hit junior high.


Betsy Furler  3:56  

Oh, that's a blessing because sometimes that's the worst time


Kristine Toon  4:00  

Yes, the medication route took from for Steven from kindergarten to fifth grade. And I know not everyone is into medications. But I must say today he started Risperdal. They're running away from school stopped. And Michael was probably third to sixth grade before the medications were evened out on him.


Unknown Speaker  4:23  

Wow, that's a long time long road.


Kristine Toon  4:26  

It was but thankful that we got there. So I'm not complaining because I know a lot of people give up or just don't want to get to that time period.


Betsy Furler  4:38  

So tell us what you have gone through talking with them and the rest of the family about what, what they might want to do as they transition out of school and into the workplace.


Kristine Toon  4:52  

That's been really difficult. Um, they both really like art. They love to draw. They like music. The problem with that is that there aren't always careers for that, of course, they wanted to design video games and they wanted to do web design in the typical things that we see with our kiddos. But that market is flooded a lot of times. So what I had suggested was they do those things as a side project and if it turns into something fantastic. If it doesn't, we need to have another plan also that that can be like a hobby to bring in extra money. That has gone well for my oldest Steven. We tried college with him but with his organizational skills, it wasn't really doable. And so he does music and art on the side and he does get some commission off of it. He does also work part time and receive a disability check to supplement. Michael doesn't really know what he wants to do right now. He is getting the degree So that he has something to fall back on. But, you know, we're concerned about finding the right employer that's willing to work with him.


Betsy Furler  6:09  

So for Michael, what type of job like he want to do? Like, would it be an office based job? Like, kind of what his skills be? And what do you think the accommodations he would need would be


Kristine Toon  6:23  

that I would assume he would really need an office job. The accommodations he would need would be clear instructions. Once he was comfortable with the job, he would be able to think outside the box. But in the beginning, he would meet clear direct instructions, and not to vary a bit. So our thoughts are, we're not sure how this is going to work. But our thoughts are get an entry level position in the larger company. Start from the bottom. Let them see he is a hard worker. He's willing to do things He is bright, and let them find the position for him. And like many of us, we didn't always know what we wanted to do when we got out of college. Some people have a clear direction on what they want. Maybe the employer can help guide him and then being in the workforce, he'll be able to find what he really enjoys doing.


Betsy Furler  7:24  

Yeah, that sounds I mean, and I don't you think that's pretty typical of a lot of people. I mean, I know when I was in college, my majors were psychology and sociology. And then I kind of landed, I kind of happened into a speech pathology program or communication disorders program and ended up kind of fat falling into my lap. But I think many people have at that age have no idea really what they want to do with the rest of their lives.


Kristine Toon  7:52  

I completely agree with you that our school districts now they're on kind of a track program where they they want them to pick His career in eighth grade and start molding them for that. And that's terrific, if you know what you want to do from an early age, but they're a little more lost sometimes. And I know that I am still some days trying to figure out what I want to do. I mean, I've been in the same jobs, banking for 15 years, and now I'm doing ministration work, but I think we kind of fall into what's good for us. And I'm really hoping that an employer is going to find his value, because it is there.


Betsy Furler  8:38  

What all have you done so far? Or is he done and looking for positions?


Kristine Toon  8:45  

that's been very difficult for Michael. Stephen, the older child is very outgoing, extremely social. The problem is Stephen doesn't have a filter, which doesn't seem to get him in trouble because people think that he's funny. Michael is more reserved and doesn't always give eye contact. And so he has looked for jobs and for two years, he was really unable to find anything. He'd have a job for a little bit. And they let him go for one reason or another. And recently the COVID thing, he did have a job as a dishwasher and was enjoying it. He was doing a good job, he they would call him and he he was getting lots of hours actually. But then COVID hit and of course that position went out of business. So it's it's not an easy finding, even part time jobs that were willing to work with, with him. And then we have the added problem of he needs to take medication, and the medication does today and so a lot of jobs for teens and young adults once you work to midnight. The hours or hours don't work for kids with disabilities. He needs to be home by 10 minutes. To take the medication so he can get up to do his classes The next morning, so he's not asleep now.


Betsy Furler  10:07  

Yeah, that is so true. That's a very good point. What are some other things like what do you think that employers could do to make a position


Unknown Speaker  10:20  

more appropriate for someone like Michael?


Kristine Toon  10:25  

Well, that's hard I, I work in a business office. And I have interviewed a few folks that I thought were on the spectrum. And when I do I desperately want to give them a chance because I know what what a valuable boy they would be. And then I have to weigh can they can they communicate with the people outside the office? How is that going to be perceived? It's so difficult when they don't look disabled. For people to not put too high of a standard on them, that they can't achieve, just the stress of the timelines are, are overwhelming. And, you know, right. Getting the top sternly to by an employer can destroy them where you and I would go, Well, they're having a crummy day. And for them, it could send them home. Really?


Unknown Speaker  11:29  

Yeah. I think sometimes it's the right boss. That's the right position.


Kristine Toon  11:36  

Yes. And I think that's going to be our largest challenge. And we have to, I must say, we have tried the government type programs where they help you find a job and we have found them in our area to be low level employment, that he would not be able to move out on his own and succeed. And that's our ultimate goal for kinos is for them to live the fullest life possible. But when they're only offering them minimum wage, you're never going to move up job. It's it's concerning?


Betsy Furler  12:11  

Yes. Right. I think that the other thing we talked about on the phone in the pre interview was talking about the fact that also he's going to need kind of some, you know, the ability, the freedom to take a day off here or there when he feels overwhelmed and needs that stress release, which I think you know, now more employers, I think are offering that but, you know, when you think about the entry level jobs, sometimes that type of accommodation isn't offered. But yet, it's so valuable, it might be more valuable for those employees than for the executives.


Kristine Toon  12:48  

Oh, absolutely. If I need a mental health day, I can take one, and I wouldn't call it that probably just like I need a day off. I can't take any more of this right now. Where they can't say that you come in, we need you now an hourly position that's just gonna be tolerated.


Betsy Furler  13:10  

Right. Right there. So, you know, I think I'm gonna hopefully interview Michael also for a podcast episode. I can't wait to hear his point of view. Yeah. And, you know, I think this is helpful information for employers out there who are looking to, you know, there's a really big push now for a lot of employers to to employ people with disabilities, and especially in our diversity, especially autism.


Kristine Toon  13:43  

And if they could really see the value of these kids, adults, they are dedicated. They want to work, they're driven, and most of all, they're pleasers, they, more so than entitlement. We see a lot of coming in and out. There's not a lot of entitlement because they haven't had a lot of entitlement. Right. Right a ton to offer and their rule followers, tell them this, it's going to be done what you say.


Betsy Furler  14:15  

Right. Right. And I think employers can make the accommodations that people need and kind of be also the flexibility. I think the flexibility is a huge piece that's very important for employers to think about. Is there anything else that you want to add, that might help an employer?


Kristine Toon  14:36  

The only other thing would be the importance of health insurance with these individuals with out good behavioral health care, and it's going to be hard for them to pay for that on the road. That's a concern.


Betsy Furler  14:57  

Right and also for many people Disability if they if they get SSI, and they're in Medicaid because of their SSI, which is a security income and kind of disability income for people who don't know that, and they may get a very small check for the SSI, but you know, $500 a month or something like that, but they also get Medicaid. And if you go to work, you lose that Medicare. Absolutely. And if you can't afford the private insurance to make up for that,


Kristine Toon  15:31  

you really can't work,


Betsy Furler  15:32  

even if you desperately want to work. And I think that's another factor that people need to realize that are often not not taken into account.


Kristine Toon  15:43  

Because the psych meds are not cheap. They they do, you do have to have a prescription for them. They have to be taken on a regular basis and insurances needed for those medications.


Unknown Speaker  15:54  

Right? Right. They're really prohibitive to pay out of pocket for especially for someone that entry level positions,


Unknown Speaker  16:01  



Betsy Furler  16:03  

Yeah. So Well, this was, I am so grateful that you have been willing to come on and be so candid. What is there anything else you want to tell us about your boys?


Kristine Toon  16:17  

They are incredibly intelligent and a lot of fun. I mean, we we laugh all the time. And I just wish everybody could see the joy that these people with autism in our case have that it is not so much disability as entertainment excitement. something new every day.


Betsy Furler  16:40  

Yes, and a different ability.


Kristine Toon  16:42  

Oh, absolutely. Yes. It's


Betsy Furler  16:44  

it. That's what I want people to realize. I even hate the word disability because it to me it's just a different ability. It's not less, that is just


Unknown Speaker  16:53  



Kristine Toon  16:55  

Yes, they have things that I would never be able to see the world. in a beautiful way, and I just, I wish everyone could see what


Betsy Furler  17:04  

we get to see. Yeah, that's wonderful. Well, thank you so much for joining us. And if people want to connect with you, um, you know, maybe other moms or other people within our diversity or maybe employers who want more insight, how could they do that? The best way to connect with you?


Kristine Toon  17:23  

Absolutely, they can email me at I'll be happy to speak with them. And thank you so much for having me.


Betsy Furler  17:37  

Yes. And I will put that information in the show notes and, and listeners. Thanks so much for tuning in today. And please share this podcast with other people subscribe rate review, on in whatever podcast platform you're listening to. And please join us again as we talk about the amazing gifts that people have to think differently and work differently, and how our world is so much better when we all think and work differently. Thanks so much for listening to the for all abilities podcast. This is Betsy Furler, your host and I really appreciate your time listening to the podcast. And please subscribe on any podcast app that you're listening to us on. If you'd like to know more about what we do and our software that helps employer support their employees with ADHD dyslexia, learning differences in autism, please go to www dot for all abilities calm. You can also follow us on Instagram. And you can follow me on LinkedIn at Betsy Furler f as in Frank, you are elhuyar Have a great day and we will see you soon