Trevor Pacelli grew up in Sammamish, Washington and was diagnosed with a form of autism at age 5. As a child, he published drawings in two children’s magazines and illustrated a children's book at age 15, written by his sister Briana Pacelli, “The Kindergarten Adventures of Amazing Grace." an autism awareness book. At 19, he wrote a book in the "Six-Word Lessons" series to help people with autistic children in their families understand how an autistic person really thinks and feels. He is a graduate of Arizona State University in Film and Media Studies. Trevor recently joined the team at Northwest Center in July 2017.
Trevor shares his journey to gaining employment at NWC and his experience with workforce inclusion.
As an individual on the autism spectrum who has gone through several interviews over the years, I could tell you a lot about my long, endless job search. While confidence wavered on when or if I would find a job in key moments of my life, my jobs across the last five years served to teach me plenty of useful skills, as well as some important wisdom about workforce inclusion.
After my first year at Bellevue College, I found a job at the church I grew up attending, as part of the maintenance crew. I got along great with the boss, but my coworker relied heavily on sarcasm—he loved to take advantage of my own gullibility with sarcastic jokes daily. I never appreciated it, since misunderstanding sarcasm is a common trait with autism. Even so, my boss saw tremendous value in my work ethic and promoted me to do security over the next year. From this job, I realized that my autism does not prevent my chances of finding and doing good work, despite any disrespect from coworkers.
After my first year at Arizona State University, I accepted a summer position at a camp in North Carolina. At this job, I experienced an entirely different culture, one full of immature coworkers. A group at lunch would tease me to the point of me going off to sit at another table alone. My photography team also made minimal effort to include me in group projects. I came from such an unfamiliar background in their eyes, almost everyone there labeled me as different, and my social life there suffered.
The next summer, an internship and a paid job at a pizza place came my way. At the restaurant, we were all too focused on food service to socialize. These few months on the job brought up little to complain or complement about, although there was one incident when a misinterpretation of instruction led me to unintentionally offend my supervisor. I ended up having to explain my autism to him and thankfully, it ended well.
Throughout this time and onwards to the end of my education at Arizona, I continued to intern for my local church. Here, I was provided a loving community who always made me feel included; I felt a part of inside jokes, nobody looked down on me, and they never underestimated what I could accomplish. I was sad to leave then in the end.
After I graduated from ASU, I began work in a media director role for my family’s business. I developed my own business in photography, writing movie reviews, and promoting our Growing up Autistic books, all as professional development to help me land the ideal job. I spent a lot of time on job applications, gone to countless interviews, received support services from the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and the UW Employment Program, and designed a OneNote document to track my hours.
Two businesses offer me jobs during those months, which I ended up turning down because they failed to meet my needs. The first was for a small sales agency with an unclear pay standard—not to mention it
required more face-to-face interaction with potential buyers than I would have been comfortable with, and outlined taking advantage of the customers’ corporate greed in its core values, which I did not find sensible. Thus, it made the most sense to not take the job. The other was for an entry gate photographer at a zoo, which offered little room for professional development in promotion, and paid me less than what my budget required. Again, turning it down ended up being the right decision.
Aside from my job searching at Consetta, I did project-based work with Kindering and Arc of King County while searching for full time employment. I felt very included at these agencies; they openly wanted me around because of the experience I offered, not out of guilt for my limitations.
Today, all my work has led me to Northwest Center. I get to help maintain a facility, take photos, and interact with a small community – all jobs that I have experience for. Better yet, I am motivated knowing there are people who enjoy and value my presence in the team.
If you know somebody who develops a little differently, the perfect workforce exists out there for them. Even if it may take a long time to get there, I guarantee you: it exists!
Northwest Center is passionate about equal rights, anti-ableism, and full inclusion for people with disabilities. Thank you for reading.