Lisa and Aaron Kowalski
Advocates for Adults and Children with Disabilities

Afternoon Session ~

"Aiming for Employment and Independence: One Family's Story"

Learn how the parents of Aaron, a 20 year-old student with autism and other severe challenges found meaningful ways for their son to participate throughout his middle school, high school and post-high school years in Career Focused experiences.

At a very young age, high expectations led the family to focus on transition planning, relevant IEP goals and to target after-school activities aimed at developing independence, becoming a welcomed community member and gaining employability skills. Extensive amounts of volunteering (Service Learning) provided many skill building and career exploration experiences unavailable through the schools. These experiences also cultivated positive feelings of self-worth and made community connections. This session includes many practical how-to examples for creating engaging and effective positive support opportunities that have worked for this family.

Learning Objectives:

After attending this workshop, participants will be able to:

  • understand the parent expectations for employment and independence that drove decisions and use of their time

  • utilize great on-line resources that assist with career planning and understanding employment accommodations

  • understand the importance of the family's role in developing employability and independence skills and showcasing effective learning support strategies

  • come away with practical how-to examples for creating engaging and effective positive support opportunities that have worked for this family

Aaron will will share:

  • Information about himself, how he helps at home and in the community along with his plans for the future

  • His career plan to become an Animal Care Worker

About the Presenters ~

Lisa Kowalski
Lisa has been an advocate for adults and children with disabilities since 1997. She has an adult son with ASD and other severe challenges. Her Industrial Engineering training and knowledge of Lean Manufacturing techniques support understanding how to break down tasks into many small steps, use visual strategies to organize tasks, look at how a person interacts with tools or technology and plan a course for achieving goals. She has learned about autism through her personal journey and volunteer roles.

Lisa is the author of Disability Awareness Workshops, Co-Project Leader for Getting My Own Address for People with ASD and DD with Linda Brown, Past President of the Autism Society Oakland County, a long-standing Special Education Parent Advisory Committee representative, member of The Arc of Oakland County Board of Directors, and an avid PTA Leader for 18 years. She has presented on numerous topics at the national, state and local level. Lisa worked for General Motors for 13 years before Aaron was born. She has two degrees: Master of Science in Engineering Management and Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering.

Aaron Kowalski
Aaron is a hard worker who consistently does his personal best. He is an enthusiastic assistant who enjoys helping others and developing new hands-on skills. Aaron is a motivated and friendly volunteer who takes pride in his accomplishments. Aaron has medical challenges that he accepts and so does his family. Aaron's abilities, interests, terrific upbeat personality, caring way with others and personal challenges make up who he is. Aaron has received the 2013 Arc of Oakland County Sheldon Dunn Inspiration Award, the 2012 Rochester Schools Founder's Day Award and the 2008 Michigan Council for Exceptional Children Yes I Can! Award. Aaron has presented at the state, county and local levels including the Developmental Disability Conference and the Michigan CEC Conference.