Young Man with Asperger’s Syndrome is Loved by His Small Charges

Alex Dissell photo

Spring Hill, FL – As a teacher at Little Rascals Daycare, Alex Dissell’s days are filled with the screams, laughter, and occasional tantrums of his three year old students — and he wouldn’t have it any other way. “I may go home tired, but I go home feeling like I’ve accomplished something,” Alex says. “When a student gives me a hug at the end of the day, it’s just the best feeling. It makes me never want to leave this job. That’s how I know that I’ve found my career.”

Alex, who has Asperger’s syndrome, wasn’t always so certain of his career plans. When he first moved to Florida in 2012, he was ready to get to work but unsure how to begin his job search — so he came to Vocational Rehabilitation, an agency that helps people with disabilities get or keep jobs.

Alex met with his VR Counselor, Kristina Risola, to create his path to employment. Because he loved working with children and wanted to give back to his community, Alex decided to attend college to become an elementary school teacher. VR helped him enroll in college classes and covered the costs of his tuition and books.

Though Alex excelled in college, a period of stress affected his progress. When faced with the hard decision of whether to continue his education or pursue other goals, he chose to leave college and seek full time employment. He and Kristina created a new career plan, deciding that Alex would become certified as a child care worker.

Despite the potential setbacks he faced, Alex’s determination to work led to his success. He found an On-The-Job Training position at Little Rascals Daycare, which allowed him to gain valuable experience in a work environment. Alex was determined to make the most of the opportunity, even waking up hours before his shift began to walk to the daycare when he faced transportation issues. His supervisors took notice of his dedication and offered him a full time job as a teaching assistant at the end of his training. Just \six months later, he was promoted to a lead teacher.

Kristina isn’t surprised by Alex’s success on the job. “Alex is committed to his students and uses his creativity and unique personality to engage them in learning,” she says. “He is dependable, reliable, and always gives individualized attention to every child. His supervisor often says she never wants him to leave her company.”

Kristina is also proud of Alex’s personal growth. “When I first met Alex, he had a hard time speaking and making eye contact with me,” Kristina recalls. “During his time at VR, he made a specific effort to improve his social skills, which wasn’t easy for him because of his disability. Since then, he has really grown into himself and become so confident and charismatic — he even has a certain swagger. Alex is just awesome; there is no one quite like him.”

In the future, Alex dreams of working his way up to a director position or even of opening his own daycare; but for now, he is happy in his job and remains grateful that he was given the chance to work. “People with disabilities can work; you just have to give them a chance and get to know them,” he says. “If you are direct with them and challenge them, you never know what they can do.”

Florida’s Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) is a federal-state program committed to helping people with disabilities become part of America’s workforce. The employer-focused website, https://abilitieswork.employflorida.com/, allows businesses to search at no charge for employees who are ready to go to work, as well as to post available jobs. VR has 90 offices across Florida, and last year helped 5,760 Floridians with significant disabilities get or keep a job. For more information about VR and its services, call (800) 451-4327 or visit http://www.Rehabworks.org.