(Dis)abilities + Work + Beaverton = No Problem! Aaron Hockenberry: Employed!

By the Dirkse Team22 Hockenberry2016-03-06 2

Aaron Hockenberry is a twenty-five year old living in Beaverton. He has autism — a disability he sees as an ability. After receiving culinary training in another state, Aaron was left without the support system he needed for successful job placement. Described by those who know him as friendly, agreeable and patient, his goal was to work for a trendy restaurant. After moving to Oregon with his family, they contacted Oregon State Vocational Rehabilitation (OVRS) for assistance finding a job for Aaron. Rather than sending him straight on interviews, they referred Aaron to Discovery Specialist Nicole Turner-Biesel of Dirkse Counseling and Consulting.

Nicole interviewed Aaron at home, met his family, and began talking about his interests. She found job shadows for him to try, and assessed his abilities in the workplace. Aaron had a negative work experience where he was bullied, and was concerned about finding the right fit, and a supportive employer.

Owen Morehart owns a Beaverton restaurant, Big O’s, which makes delicious wood-fired pizzas. While driving to work, he noticed a billboard sponsored by Employment First — “I Work, We Succeed” —promoting the benefits of paid, integrated community jobs for people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD). Community-minded, Owen wanted to assist members having difficulties finding steady employment and approached OVRS for qualified applicants.

Owen agreed to let Aaron’s Employment Specialist at Dirkse CC, Marta Bunse, assist Aaron at his interview. Aaron worked hard on his interview skills and nailed it. As Dough Maker for Big O’s, he has been a great addition to the team. Owen hopes Big O’s growth will allow partnering with Dirkse CC again to hire another individual facing challenges finding employment.

April is Autism Awareness Month. Aaron strongly believes an employee with autism is a benefit to any business. Aaron’s mother, Sarah Davis, wants people to know those with autism are average people who just have a different way of thinking. It takes an open and supportive community for a successful job placement outcome. “They aren’t dumb. In fact, they are often brilliant. They just struggle with extra stuff. They are hard, committed workers who want to be part of the community. Owen is an awesome boss.”

One day Aaron hopes to open his own restaurant. “I am proud of myself and my accomplishments.”

For more information about creating a diverse and inclusive workforce, please contact Cindy Bahl, at Dirkse Counseling and Consulting, Inc. 503-258-7715 or cindy@dirksecc.com