You are currently viewing Bridging Autism and Employment (S7E12)

Bridging Autism and Employment (S7E12)

Welcome to another insightful episode of “The Autism Dad” podcast. In this episode, Rob Gorski, your host, sits down with Kevin Miller, an autism dad and the Executive Director of Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD), a state agency dedicated to assisting individuals with disabilities in finding and maintaining employment.

In This Episode, You’ll Discover:

Kevin’s Personal Journey: Kevin shares his personal story as an autism dad, discussing the challenges and revelations he and his family faced from early diagnosis to adulthood.

Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD): Kevin provides an in-depth look at OOD, detailing how the agency supports individuals with disabilities across Ohio, helping them achieve independence through employment.

The Power of Employment: Discover how Kevin’s son, Gavin, benefited from OOD’s programs, gaining not just a job but a sense of purpose and autonomy.

Navigating the Transition to Adulthood: Kevin and Rob discuss the often-daunting transition to adulthood for young people with autism and how programs like OOD can provide crucial support.

Resources and Advice for Parents: Kevin offers resources and advice for parents navigating the journey of raising children with disabilities, emphasizing the importance of fostering independence and finding purpose.

A Father’s Perspective: Both Kevin and Rob share their experiences and insights as fathers of autistic children, offering a candid look at the challenges, joys, and personal growth that comes with their unique parenting roles.

Resources Mentioned in This Episode:

Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities: Explore the services and support offered by OOD by visiting or calling 800-282-4536.

Contacting The Autism Dad: For more information, to be a guest, or to become a sponsor, please visit

Connect with Us:

Subscribe to our Podcast: Available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and wherever you listen to your podcasts.

Follow The Autism Dad on Social Media: Stay up to date with the latest episodes and join our growing community.

Special Thanks:

A heartfelt thank you to Kevin Miller for sharing his story and expertise. His insights into the world of disabilities and the power of employment have the potential to change lives.

And, as always, thank you to our listeners for joining us on this journey. Your support and engagement make this podcast possible. If you found this episode helpful, please consider leaving a review on Apple Podcasts or Spotify and sharing it with someone who might benefit from our discussions.

**Next Time on The Autism Dad Podcast:**

Don’t miss our next episode, where we’ll explore another important topic in the autism community. Subscribe now to stay updated!

Mentioned in this episode:

Learn More About Tranquil Path Financial Planning

Britta Kepf is a dedicated special needs financial planner at Tranquil Path Financial Planning, offering unbiased, tailored advice for families across the U.S. She specializes in retirement and special needs financial planning, helping families navigate government benefits and long-term needs with clarity and peace of mind. For compassionate, personalized financial guidance, contact Britta Kepf at

Visit Tranquil Path Financial Planning

Learn More: Mightier

Mightier is a biofeedback-based video game platform that teaches kids to self-regulate emotionally. This leads to a significant reduction in meltdowns and parental stress. It’s backed by science and has helped over 100,000 kids learn to regulate their emotions. For more information, the latest reviews/updates as well as current discount codes, visit

Read My Mightier Review and the code “theautismdad22” to save 10% off your order.

Visit Mightier

S7E012 Kevin Miller OOD_FINAL

Rob: [00:00:00] Welcome to The Autism Dad podcast. I’m Rob Gorski for the past seven seasons. This podcast has provided parents with education, community resources, and validation. This season, you’ll hear from parents just like you, as well as my own kids, who will offer their unique perspectives on what it’s like for them to navigate the world as young autistic people.

You can subscribe on any podcast, listening apps, and for more information to be a guest or a sponsor, please visit Welcome back. I’m Rob Gorski, and this is the Autism Dad podcast. Thank you all so much for taking the time to tune in. I’ve got a great episode for you guys today. My guest is Kevin Miller.

Kevin is an autism dad, but he’s also the executive director of opportunities for Ohioans with disabilities. This is a department in the state of Ohio that is responsible for providing individuals with disabilities, the services and support they need to both attain and maintain employment. Uh, you guys have heard me talk about my son, Gavin, he’s 24.

Uh, he went through the program at OOD and was able to get a job. He, [00:01:00] he had training and a job coach and a mentor. I mean, it was an amazing opportunity for him and it’s made a big difference in his life. And so Kevin’s here to talk all about that. Uh, we’re going to talk about his son’s transition into adulthood, some of the challenges associated with that, and, uh, it’s very relatable.

And while I realize not everybody here lives in the state of Ohio. Every state has something like this and, uh, this can get you pointed in the right direction. So again, thank you for taking the time to tune in. I really appreciate it. And I hope you enjoy the interview. Thank you so much for taking the time to be here.

I really appreciate it. Could you take a second to introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do.

Kevin Miller: Yeah, thanks, Rob. Kevin Miller, Director of Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities. We are the state agency that is responsible for serving individuals of all types of disabilities, age 14 and up, whether that be intellectual, physical, sensory, mental health, uh, in all 88 counties to find Employment, uh, continue [00:02:00] employment.

Uh, also we provide, uh, social security benefits for those who file for it here in Ohio.

Rob: And we were kind of talking a little bit before we were recording. I am living through this right now. So, so I’m really excited about this conversation for a couple of reasons. One, uh, well, A, You’re an autism dad.

That’s right. So like you, you, you get it. We have that, we have that bond. Um, but, but there are so many parents who are unaware of, of this, uh, opportunity for, for their kids. Or they maybe assume that their kids don’t qualify or whatever, whatever the deal is. Um, And I didn’t know about it until I think it was 2023.

It was when my, my oldest son, Gavin, uh, went through the program and it was an amazing experience. Um, so what I thought we could do is just sort of talk about what OOD [00:03:00] is. And, and just kind of help parents navigate that a little bit. But, but if you want to start with kind of sharing your story, that would be a great place to start too.

Cause I think it’s, it’s awesome that you have that connection, right? So it’s, you can relate to people.

Kevin Miller: Well, you know, one of the things I always talk about, Rob, when I started being a Uh, advocate and, and being an autism dad, you know, things were a little bit different, some, you know, my son is now 25 years of age and, you know, ADA therapy and things like that was not being, you know, covered by insurance.

We, you know, my wife and I were, you know, basically doing everything from rubbing rabbit’s feet to doing all kinds of home remedy things, to think about how to integrate our son, who has some pretty significant sensory issues with his. Autism spectrum diagnosis. But, you know, I was working in a state government in corrections.

I had graduated, uh, with my degree in criminal [00:04:00] justice. I’m from a very large Irish Catholic family. So I always joke, we put the fun in dysfunction. You know, I have, uh, an older sister who had used. What was then called rehab services commission. It was born with a pretty significant, um, cranial facial disfigurement and had to endure many, many surgeries, uh, to reconstruct her nose and upper jaw and things like that.

So we were familiar with what the. Rehab was, but I was going through, uh, you know, I worked in corrections. I got my master’s degree in public administration. My wife and I met and got married and like everybody thinks we were going to have several children and, you know, they were going to play for Ohio state and all those delusions of grandeur that every parent has.

And I remember we were coming back from just the highest of highs. We went to the national championship game for Ohio state out in Arizona in 2002. Thank you. And our son was going to a [00:05:00] preschool, Catholic school, uh, near our home here in Columbus, Ohio, on the outskirts in Hilliard. And my wife, who’s a speech pathologist, and worked with individuals with autism and other disabilities, but, you know, many parents don’t want to see these things in their own, you know, Child handed me a letter from the school and said, what do you think they’re trying to say to us?

And I read the letter and I said, they’re preparing us for bad news. And so we met with the school and they were saying, look, we don’t really have resources, but we believe that Connor should be evaluated for autism. And, you know, at that point in time, My, in my ignorance, the only thing I had ever heard about autism or thought about autism was from the movie Rain Man.

And so I was like, well, he’s too old to take the Vegas to break the bank. Uh, you know, I don’t know what the heck this means, but you know, why is this happening? And so we went through that process that a [00:06:00] lot of parents go through. I’m sure you did as well, Rob. They have, uh, Getting that diagnosis and, you know, and I certainly don’t mean any disrespect to anybody who has actually lost a child, but I believe there are that what we went through and in my conversations and, and, and what I discuss with a lot of parents is you begin this morning process for the child that you thought you had and it really was and I went into a pretty severe spiral.

Um, I was, you know, Trying to self medicate with drinking. I was angry at the entire world. Why was this being done to me? This was not what I had in the cards For what was planned and my wife and I were on the path of separation and divorce. We started to do family counseling And we were probably going through this for a good two years where I was just [00:07:00] angry at the entire world, um, angry at him, angry at my wife, angry at God, angry at anybody, uh, in my pathway.

And I remember for whatever reason, this counselor we were seeing, Probably had said it a hundred different ways, but for whatever reason, must’ve said it the right way that it hit me like a two by four over my head and said, when are you going to realize this isn’t about you? And I felt about two inches tall and I realized, you know, I was an assistant director and at the department of youth services, which is the juvenile correction system, and I just remember leaving from there and saying to my wife, I have to change what I’m doing.

I have got to think about how do I. Get to the next Kevin Miller and try to get them to understand. I’m not going to try to tell you not to be angry, but the sooner you get over being angry and start realizing it’s not about you and you’re putting your son or daughter first. The sooner you’ll be able to [00:08:00] make sure they can live a more fulfilled life.

And so from that day forward, I started to put some things in place to change. I started getting involved in advocacy groups. I started to try to learn more instead of trying to fight everything. Uh, and I was lucky enough to, um, start working with, um. Governor Kasich, who was being, who was running for office and, and talked to me about, uh, being appointed, uh, then Rehab Services Commission.

And so I was appointed. I served eight years under Governor Kasich. Uh, I was fortunate enough that, uh, I knew Governor DeWine from my time in working in Corrections when he was the Lieutenant Governor. So I knew a lot about him. Uh, his, uh, you know, staff and so asked me if I would be willing to stay on and, you know, the governor has been a huge advocate.

Um, and I’m sure we’ll get into that by, you know, signing an executive order saying Ohio would be a disability inclusion state and model employer. We were. Integral and [00:09:00] making that happen. So this journey has come full circle to where as an autism dad, you know, I thought my son would never graduate high school, never, you know, like I said, my ignorance of only thinking of rain, man, um, here he graduated from high school, was a, in national honor society, was on the varsity golf team, uh, graduated from college with his degree, but.

He still struggles every day and our journey is not complete, uh, right, Rob? And so I always tell people just because you have a son or a daughter with autism and I have to, doesn’t mean that I’ve walked in your shoes, but I got a pair like him. So.

Rob: I’ve never heard that said that way. I like that. Uh, because they’re, they’re well here, I’m going to, I’m going to a couple of things first, just like dad to dad, like.

Uh, that was, that, that’s an amazing story, honestly, and, and I think that it’s important. Well, I, I applaud you for being open with that [00:10:00] because dads typically avoid talking about that. That’s right. And we look at, we look at situations that are, uh, maybe unexpected as is sometimes being broken and we want to fix it.

That’s right. And there are some things that we just can’t fix because they’re not necessarily broken. They’re just different than what we expected.

Kevin Miller: Yeah.

Rob: And as humans. We feel all of these different emotions and we grieve one of them. And I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with feeling that way.

You know, I think we don’t want to get stuck there, right? And when you realize that you are, you get help. And that can help you to reframe things and look at things in a different way. My, my oldest. Uh, Gavin, I, I’ve been raising him since he was a year old. Uh, I adopted him when he was about eight or nine.

Um, but he developed, typically he was very advanced until he was about [00:11:00] four years old, and then experienced what felt like overnight, just massive, massive regression to the point where, like, in my head it made more sense that like aliens came down and abducted him in the middle of the night. Right. Put a clone, but then forgot to put everything that made him, him.

Right. So we had like the shell of a, of a kid and I grieved the loss of a child that was still there. For years, I grieved that loss and there was nowhere to go for help with that outside of like. because you don’t fit in anywhere because like there’s parents who actually lost their kids and so that I feel guilty because I still have mine, but he’s not the same.

And the closest way to relate it is like, is like someone in like late stage Alzheimer’s where they look the same, but who they are is not there anymore. If that makes sense. Yeah, I agree. And I had to learn him all [00:12:00] over again. Um, And, you know, he developed a lot of health issues and things like that, but, but a lot of behavioral challenges, uh, we were told to look at like residential placement kind of things, just because, you know, for safety concerns with everybody in the house and, and then you fast forward to today.

And he has completed the OOD program. He has gone through the board and he’s working with the board of DD. He’s got his first job. He is happy at his job. And we just found out yesterday. It’s time that we’re recording this, that, uh, he’s in the queue to start interviewing for group homes. And that could take, that could happen inside of the next 30 days, he could be out of the house, living on his own, managing his own.

I mean, he’s, he’s, it’s amazing how much he’s overcome and how far he has, uh, risen above all the things that people told us that he never would.

Kevin Miller: And, you know, that’s, that’s such a great thing. And thank you for sharing your story. And when I hear things, Like that, you know, it’s, what’s [00:13:00] important to try to get across.

I mean, I literally, and I’m not exaggerating, I’ve talked to dads who’ve told me I’ve had a gun to my head saying, I don’t want to go through this. And, you know, what do you say to someone who feels that they’re in that much pain? You know, that was the word that they used. I am in this much pain that I feel like I’m not helping my son or daughter.

And, you know, I’m not a trained clinician, you know, and I tell them, look, I’m not here to try to tell you, you shouldn’t be mad that you shouldn’t. You know, you’re going to have to go through this journey and, and figure these things out, but you need to understand you’re not alone in feeling those things and you have to be able to evolve, right?

I mean, you said relearning your son, you know, that’s no different really. When you really stop and think about it, if you’re in any relationship, friends or a spouse or a partner, You know, you’re not the same. My wife and I are not the [00:14:00] same as we were when we met when we were in our twenties and here we are in our fifties, right?

We’ve evolved, we’ve changed. Well, that’s no different than people with disabilities. And I think sometimes people think that they got to stay a certain way. No, they, you know, individuals with disabilities evolve as well. And so we’ve got to make sure that we cut them that slack as well, to understand that they’re going to evolve.

Rob: And yeah, that’s such a good point. And I, and I think a lot of times what happens, and this is where I, and it just interesting conversation to have with you actually, uh, One of the biggest challenges that I think parents face even today is, you know, they get this diagnosis. It’s totally unexpected and they’re whether that’s a developmental pediatrician or wherever they are that they get this diagnosis and they’re essentially handed like a piece of paper and Kind of sent on their way.

Kevin Miller: Yeah,

Rob: and they probably Most cases they’re they’re maybe familiar a little [00:15:00] bit But but that they it feels like their whole world is imploding and that’s how they get started on their journey and You know, one of the things that I’ve been wanting to work on was like, there, there is, there is such a need to emotionally support the parents in that, in that, that very first few moments, because that can set the tone for the whole thing.

You know, allowing parents to not feel guilty, like, look, your kid being autistic is not their fault. It’s not your fault. It’s just, and they’re not different than what they were before the diagnosis. You just now have context and it gives you. It gives you a chance to better understand what’s going on and it’s how we identify resources.

Kevin Miller: Yeah. I talk a lot, Rob, about, you have to have timing and opportunity intersect. You know, I can remember right after I was. And this is, I think, in all things disability, not just an autism diagnosis. I remember talking to a dad, I was on the job [00:16:00] maybe a week, and he lived maybe about a half a mile from my house.

And his daughter, on her first day of her senior year, was driving with some friends to school on the very first day and slid and, um, was in a car accident and was paralyzed from the waist down. Now, before I became director, this happened probably six, eight months, maybe before she went to the same parish that my, my wife went to.

And so I would watch this dad on his own, build ramps into his house. And, you know, I’d be driving by either, you know, Going to work or coming from work and see this. I saw them doing different things to modify their house. And after I was appointed, I remember like, I’m just going to pull in there and go talk to them about, are you aware of OOD?

You know, I’m sure his daughter was well into her senior year by then, or probably close to graduating by then. And so I went up, I introduced myself and said, Hey, I’m kind of a neighbor. I live, you know, about a half a mile away. And, you know, are you [00:17:00] familiar with, you know, You know, vocational rehabilitation and he’s like, no, no, I haven’t.

And I remember him saying this to me. I said, do you ever remember anybody talking to you about it? And he said, you know, Kevin, he said, I remember being in the hospital and, you know, they were sending people. From the hospital representing they gave me all this pamphlets and paperwork. He said, I was trying to deal with the concept of staring at my daughter, knowing I would never walk her down the aisle and they’re giving me information about employment and how to live a different way.

And he said, I wasn’t. The timing, right? Wasn’t correct. So I always say, when you talk about starting your journey, sometimes your journey doesn’t really start. Like for me, my journey as an autism dad didn’t start when I found out his diagnosis was there. I fought. That journey, I didn’t want to go down that path.

And so you got to understand, you got to meet parents when they’re ready. And, and that, [00:18:00] that’s the difficult part. I always say, it’s not that there’s not a lot of resources. You just shared that. Like, wow, we didn’t even know OOD existed. That’s why I always jump at the chance to do these podcasts or talk about OOD or anything else.

It’s not that there aren’t resources out there, but there’s so many things county, state, federal. Um, you know, something, uh, you know, that’s health related is also Medicaid. And so I feel, I know I felt this way as a parent, it was almost like sitting in a cockpit of a fighter jet and you got all of these dials and, you know.

Heads up display. And it’s like, it’s so overwhelming. You’re like, I don’t even know where to start. And so really it’s the navigation that is really important. And you got to get that timing and the opportunity to intersect to be able to start that. That that’s usually what I see. It’s like, okay, I found this out.

Like you shared, I started to ask these questions. Well, I have a sister who’s a job coach and tell me about this and [00:19:00] solve this out of place. And so we started to investigate it. And. You never know where those little tidbits are. I tell my employees, you never know when you might be the most important person in our organization, and you might be at a barbecue on a weekend and someone talks about, Hey, I just found out.

Don’t you do something with disabilities? Kim, I heard you work there. I just found out my grandson has autism or my granddaughter, um, you know, was born and his death, you know, you may be able to open that door. To have the timing and the opportunity just right to get them the type of services they need.

Rob: Yeah, and it, and it really is because, and this is one of the things that I always tell people. You know, we get kind of tunnel vision, like we, it’s easy to get sucked into all, all this despair and all this change and you try to resist that change, you try to fight it, right? And, and you’re right, I think there’s, there’s almost.

There’s multiple parts to this journey. There’s that journey to acceptance, like you’re processing everything and then you [00:20:00] accept it. For some people it takes longer than others and that’s okay. And, and then it’s, then it’s the journey, right? And then there’s different phases in that journey. And, and one of the most challenging ones is that transition to adulthood.

And, and I think that’s where like OOD plays a huge role. And that is something that I, I wish I would have known 10 years before I did. Right. You know, because I, I feel like. It would have been, it would have been a really good resource for, especially my oldest when, when he was in his teens and navigating some of these things and helping him kind of grow and mature in ways that I was not able to provide for him at home.

So with that being said, like how, kind of in a nutshell, which is, I know that’s loaded because there’s so many parts to this, but like, what is, if you were to try and describe what OOD does So, so they understand and they’re aware of what the resource is. Can you kind of describe what it is and, and [00:21:00] how it can benefit their kids?

Kevin Miller: Well, you know, I always like to pride myself, I’m, I’m just a West side kid from Columbus who was lucky enough to, to be on this journey. So I’m pretty good at trying to put things in layman’s terms. You know, we are not as, I always like to say, we’re not a social service program. We’re a jobs program for individuals with disabilities.

We provide a continuum of services, no matter what the disability is to try to gain independence. And what we know from research and everything else is that if you do it the right way, which I’m sure we’ll get into by working with the employers first and reverse engineer, you know, I would like to be able to start talking to, you.

Parents and individuals even before the age of 14, because one of the things that we find is parents who are, and I was guilty of this when I found out Connor. was diagnosed with autism. My dialogue with him changed than what I would probably would have done from a neurotypical, uh, you know, young man [00:22:00] or, or kid, like, what are you going to do?

And what interests you? And those types of things, you know, I, you know, when we all were asked that question, like I was in fifth grade, I didn’t raise my hand and say, gee, I’d like to be a bureaucrat in state government, right? Um, But I, I find a lot of times with kids with disabilities, they’re not having those types of conversations because unfortunately, parents have been conditioned to think, well, I got to get them on social security and I’ll talk to them and I’ll go, well, how old are they?

And, oh, well, they’re five. I’m like, well, why don’t we talk about what they can do versus starting down a path of. what they can’t do and having a safety net. That safety net is always going to be there. But what we should be thinking about is employment and independence first, because if you’re employed and you’re gaining, you know, financial freedom, that gives you more options and more choices.

So that’s what OOD is about. We want to make sure people understand we’re a resource. We’re here for parents. You know, we are a, you know, You [00:23:00] know, we’re funded both from the federal government, the United States department of education, you know, our, our history is long and most people don’t realize the rehabilitation act was, was really created as, uh, uh, from after world war two from the GI bill with so many men and women returning from the war with many types of disabilities while it’s evolved, right?

I mean, a lot of that was coming back and people were missing limbs and things like that and, and concussed from. PTSD. And now what we’re seeing is we’re still serving veterans, but it’s a lot of, it’s more mental health now and dealing with, you know, returning and reintegrating into society. But now we’re seeing most of our diagnoses that we’re serving are not visible disabilities.

The overwhelming majority are invisible disabilities. So those things that are sensory and mental health and neurodiverse, um, you know, those, Those things that I think we were raised to think about, where it’s someone [00:24:00] who’s blind with a cane, or someone who’s deaf, who’s, who’s using sign language, those are very small parts of the disability population, 2%, 3 percent each.

The overwhelming majority. The next category would be physical disabilities, which are probably 18 20%, but the overwhelming majority are those that are invisible. So, that’s part of that journey as well, is educating people that you already have a lot of people in your life and in your workforce. When we work with businesses, I go, you already have people with disabilities working here.

You just don’t know it. They’ve been able to adapt. And that’s what we want to try to get across to people is that when you’re talking about diversity, you’re talking about people who have mission statements. Are you, you know, when they say things like, we don’t discriminate against age and race and, and, um, I sexual identity and things like that.

Are you also adding individuals with disabilities in that? Because that’s, you know, when you look at how many people here in Ohio, you’re talking about, you know, 11. 7 [00:25:00] million people or so having. A disability. Uh, and that’s self identified, which probably tells you that’s a low number. So, I mean, I’ve been in conferences where I’ll say, How many people in here by raising your hands would say they have someone in their family with a disability?

Almost every hand goes up. So if you know that that’s there, you know that they’re, uh, individuals are disabled. You know, they’re getting married, they’re, they’re having businesses, they’re, they’re navigating life. We want to make sure we, we are a resource that people know about early as possible, especially in school.

And it’s not that we have all the answers, but we can help find pathways for everybody, no matter what their disability level is, to try to help succeed. And that’s going to look different for everybody.

Rob: Thank you for sharing that. And I guess what I’ll do is kind of relate. My personal experience with Odie this past, I don’t know, the last, over the last probably 12 months.

Which we should probably tell

Kevin Miller: the listeners, Rob, I asked offline, like, you got to give me feedback. Was it [00:26:00] good or not good? So you, you, luckily you said you’ve had a good experience working with our counselors. Yeah. So.

Rob: I mean, there, there’s, there, there’s hiccups and stuff that like I would tweak if I were in charge for a day, but like, but overall it was a very positive experience.

And it, and it really doesn’t matter to me. It matters more what Gavin’s experience was and what, What mine was, but you know, he, we got involved through the board of DD and then they evaluated him and recommended OOD. And so he got a job coach. And they did, you know, a couple rounds of different evaluations to kind of gauge what he’s, what he would be interested in doing and, and whatever.

And he ultimately, uh, ended up at a, at a grocery store, a local grocery store where he’s stocking shelves and organizing things, which, you know, If I were to take him to the grocery store when he was a kid, he would be doing that anyways, for free. And so now he gets paid to do it. And he loves his job.

It’s made him feel empowered. It’s made him feel like [00:27:00] he’s contributing to society. Uh, when he, when he did his training, he went through the goodwill was that was the path that he chose. And, you know, it was a really, it was a positive experience. I think feedback wise, I think that like, as far as from a parent’s perspective, it was a little jarring for me because I’m used to micromanaging his life.

And for the first time I had to kind of let go and allow them to work with him without me being necessarily in the mix. And so it became him having meetings with his job coach and I was in the parking lot. You know what I mean? Like they’re all things that should have been happening. It should, it should have happened that way with Gavin.

Like he’s, he’s very, he does very well, but he’s not always a reliable source of information. And so, you know, the hiccups that we came across were just kind of communication things where it [00:28:00] would have been helpful if things had been community, if I had been kept in a loop as a, as a parent, just so that I can make sure that he has the right understanding and he’s not walking out thinking whatever, right.

But, you know, and that’s just, and that could come down to the unique person that he was working with or what the search, whatever. And so it’s just a minor thing kind of, but like the overall experience for him, he learned how to interview. You know, they helped him build a resume and, you know, seeing the look on his face when he’s like, dad, like I hear, I want you to look at my resume.

Like it’s 20, it was, what was it? 22 years old then going on 23, or he, he may have been, he was 23.

Kevin Miller: Yeah.

Rob: Uh, cause he just turned 24 and the look on the, like the look of pride on his face, seeing that he was, he was doing something, uh, that contributed to, to building his life and, and. And having that independent [00:29:00] life that, that he wanted for himself.

And it was like, as a dad, it’s sort of a bittersweet thing just because like I had to learn to let go and he had to learn to kind of stand more on his own two feet, but I, I mean, it was, it was, he wouldn’t be where he is right now. We’re, we’re not for going through OOD. And, you know, I think that more parents.

Need to know about this than what they do. And I’ve, I’ve talked with, um, you know, other organizations that I’ve been connected with and, and they’re familiar with OOD and they’re always trying to spread the word and, and they just talk about parents, it’s like a common thing where parents just aren’t aware of the resources.

So like I, I have, I’ve been told like Ohio is resource rich, but connection poor. And, and my hope with this is that we’re, we’re helping people to connect with something that they may not have known was there. And even if they did, it’s a place [00:30:00] to start. Now you have a place to start.

Kevin Miller: Yeah. You know, I, you know, a couple things I would say, and you’re sharing this story about Gavin, which, you know, brings a smile to my face is that, you know, part of our mission is about.

You know, it talks about independence. And so what you just experienced with Gavin is he started to gain independence. Right. And you’re right. That’s a little bittersweet because you’re like, Oh my God, I’ve tried to control everything because you know, that’s a very common thing, right? Parents in general.

But I think, especially when you have a child with a disability, You try to protect them from the world that is not so nice out there and the sooner you realize you’re not going to protect them from all of the ills out there in the world. That’s a hard pill to swallow, but it is and all the fancy things we’ve I’ve said about OOD and you know what we try to do with vocational rehabilitation.

The bottom line is what we helped Gavin do is find his purpose. And that’s really what this should [00:31:00] be about, you know, for myself, like I said, when I made this change to go into working and, um, you know, here at OOD, but being an advocate and things like that, I’ve, I always tease, you know, I talk to every new employee orientation class that we hire and I tell them, you know, the day I started working here is the day.

I feel like I didn’t really, you know, I haven’t worked a day minus some hair and some gray hair. But what I really mean by that is when you really feel like you found your purpose, then you feel like you’re doing something that’s beyond you. And I think that’s where we want to try to help people. You know, it can make all the difference in the world for Gavin to be able to feel like I, I earned this money.

That again, I love asking when someone gets their first paycheck and we’ve helped somebody. What did you, what did you buy, you know? And so, and it’s just, they, their face lights up with the idea that I earned this paycheck and I bought this and it’s [00:32:00] mine. You know, it’s different when, Hey, mom and dad provided these things.

And all of a sudden it’s like, I did this and it, and it is, that’s another step in that independence and finding purpose. And, uh, what they’re doing.

Rob: And it’s something I think a lot of us take for granted. Sure. You know, like when you, one of the things that I sat down not too long ago with Gavin and I, he, I interviewed him on a podcast and.

All, all these years, I never asked him, what does independence look like for him? Like I had it envisioned in my head, what it was going to be based on what I know of him and what everybody’s told me and the limited experience I have with that transitional to adulthood thing. You know, but he told me, he’s like, I want a job.

I want, I want to contribute. Like, I want to have purpose in my life. I want to live in a group home because I want, I know he recognizes that he’s probably not. It’s not a good idea for him to live alone. [00:33:00] He recognizes that. And he’s telling me that. And he’s like, I want to live with friends and I want a job and I want to have like, I get paid.

I want to come home and I want to order DoorDash and, and watch movies or play video games with my friends. And if they’re hungry, dad is like, I want to DoorDash something for them too. And he’s like, I just, that’s what he wants. And someday he wants a girlfriend, you know, we were talking about and, and that’s, that’s, that’s his happy life.

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. You know, and I think a lot of times as parents, we, we, we can sometimes get tunnel visioned, right? We, we, maybe we have different ideas of what success is than what our kids do. And. And, and stopping and just touching base and asking them these questions, like, what do you, what do you want?

Kevin Miller: You know, I can’t praise you enough for saying something that I always tell people, look, I’m, I’m kind of known for just saying it for what it is. I mean, maybe that’s [00:34:00] being the youngest of seven, uh, from a big Irish Catholic family, but I’m the oldest of six. Okay. So, you know, you, you probably go, your youngest got everything and I got nothing like my oldest brother does.

But, you know, unfortunately, usually one of the biggest barriers for success when we’re working with someone is the parents. Because they’ve got their own ideas of what this should be. And when it doesn’t meet that, they think it’s a failure and that there’s something wrong with the counselor or something’s wrong with their, their young adult or whatever it may be.

And that’s not the case. You know, a lot of times the journey that they want to go through and what they’re capable of, that’s really the, I think the important thing I kind of tell people all the time. And, you know, I say, look, we’re not make a wish. Foundation, we’re not here to say come here and we’ll make you an astronaut.

That’s now if you have, you know, if you can do trigonometry and and you’re a, you know, you do great in college and want [00:35:00] to do and get into that. Yeah, then we can, but it doesn’t. We have to make sure we get the maximum potential out of what your skill set is. Right. I mean, you know, my son is not somebody who could do something where he’s going to be interacting with a lot of people where it’s loud.

Now, if you put him in a, in an office where he could sit there and, you know, read code or do something, he’ll sit there and do it all day long and be fulfilled from that. A lot of times parents, like if you were to ask me, like, what would be a way to torture you is to stick me on a desk and do nothing but that all day long.

Right. So you got to be careful as a parent that you’re not, and this is the hardest thing. You’re not putting what your expectations are, what you think they should do. Like, you know, my wife and I still deal with this, right? Hey, he’s got his degree and you know, he’s. Right now working for a company where they make mascots, you know, Hey, that’s, you know, and, and the guy who owns the company is a dear friend of mine, uh, grew up with me.

And, you know, we had these [00:36:00] ideas like, well, we want him to be, you know, working for the Columbus crew or the Columbus blue jackets or Ohio state. Well, That might not be his journey that that is what we think it should be. And we got to guard against that. And I think that’s a lot of times in our experiences.

When I talk to counselors, they’ll say, I have two caseloads, one for the individual and one for the parents and, and, and it, it takes a lot as a parent. I get it. I’m, I’ve been there too, where you’re. Inserting yourself where I give you kudos to say, I was sitting out in the parking lot. Whereas every urge was to get out of the car and go in there.

And I think you saw where the benefits of that are. It’s not like you’re still not involved. It’s not, you know, it’s not like you’re still not there to be able to, as I always like to say, translate sometimes to your son or daughter, sometimes what this really means in the workforce or, uh, You know, socially or whatever it is, but you got to let them fall down.

I [00:37:00] think that’s, that’s the hardest thing any parent has to go through, even with a traditional child is that they’re going to get hurt. They’re going to fall down. They’re going to fail. That doesn’t mean that you should avoid not doing it. It means that’s how they learn. And we’ve got to understand that you can’t think that they’re not going to do that.

They’re it’s that’s tradition. Everybody does that. So why wouldn’t you think if you’re arguing and fighting for wanting your child or your adult, a loved one to have the same experiences, failure is a part of that experience.

Rob: Yeah. I’ve had some really interesting conversations with Gary talks about this exact same thing where people mean, well, they think they’re doing the right thing, but they, but they still missed the mark and they need that.

Like, let’s just step back and reevaluate this so that we can make sure that we’re delivering what needs to be delivered. So that, that’s, that’s so cool. And I think that, uh, I think that. It’s so important because, you know, [00:38:00] autism is not something that’s going to go away. Disability is not something that’s going to go away.

At least not at this point in time. And, and all of those people have something to offer the world and we just have to help them to do that, you know, meet them where, yeah, meet them where they are and, and, uh, you know, some of the most brilliant people I’ve ever met in my life, Happened to fall on the autism spectrum.

You know, I’ve, I’ve come across people who have changed my life, who, uh, were disabled, you know, and, and, and I think as a society, we make too many assumptions. And even his parents, his parents, you know, like, like you had mentioned, we sometimes, we sometimes get in our own way. That’s right.

Kevin Miller: We do. And I would recommend, you know, you talk about, um, there was a autism dad many moons ago, one of the first books I read was called diagnosing Jefferson.

If you haven’t read that, that’d be a great thing. I’ve

Rob: heard about that.

Kevin Miller: So there was a guy [00:39:00] who went and started researching, like, what were some of the neurotypical People who are successful and you can start running down the list, Elon Musk, Thomas Jefferson, Albert Einstein, you know, Steve jobs all on the spectrum and they were able to harness what may be many others thought was a disability into an ability.

And so, um, you know, that, that’s, that’s a great example. Not everybody’s going to be those types of, you know,

Rob: yeah, I was going to say that, yeah.

Kevin Miller: But, but what I’m saying is. But there’s an example of where it has happened, right, to your point.

Rob: And everybody, and everybody contributes in their own way. You know, and, and disability can affect people.

And the other thing too, is like everybody who is diagnosed with something like autism, whatever, they’re all going to be different and unique, just like everybody else. And so just because, you know, one kid is autistic and he can work at NASA does not mean that, [00:40:00] you know, my autistic son, uh, Is able to work at NASA.

Maybe he’s going to work at a grocery store and do that for the rest of his life. But he’s happy. That’s right. It’s like, who cares? Let him be happy. He’s not hurting anybody. He’s contributing and he feels fulfilled.

Kevin Miller: Right. That’s the journey part. You’re talking about where you said, you know, which is huge.

Like, how about we ask them what success looks like instead of what you think? Success looks like. And so that is going to be different. And I remember when Connor was in seventh grade, we had a very young teacher, uh, when we went to orientation and I remember her going, Oh, well, I had a, uh, autistic student last year and we were best of friends.

And I remember leaving and I told Becky, I said, we’re going to have problems with her because she thinks because she had a great experience with. a person with autism in her previous school. She was new to the school and we did. We, her approach is she tried to use the same approach that worked for [00:41:00] the other child that didn’t work for Connor.

So she thought it was Connor’s fault. And you know, the tough part when I’m sitting in the IEP meeting, uh, is saying this isn’t about him always. This is about you and your approach. Um, and, and that part of advocating as well to your point, which is you can’t think because you’ve met one person with one diagnosis means that, that you use the one approach for the previous person with this person, everybody is different.

Rob: And that, that sort of kind of leads me back to one of the things that I really. I recognize with OOD was that it wasn’t a one size fits all approach because there were multiple evaluations that he went through and then they did, like they talked to me too. I mean, and it was like, what do I think? What do I want?

And then they want to know what he wanted. And you know, and, and the approach that they took, you know, was sort of catered. To meet him where he’s at while [00:42:00] not being so easy that he’s not challenged. And, and, and helping him to learn the things that he needs to grow and be successful at whatever he ultimately was going to end up doing.

And right now it’s at a grocery store and he started out two days a week. That was what the goal was. And now he’s working four days a week, you know, and he’s doing really, really well. And, and, and I, and I think that. You know, this is a kid that I was told for so long that he was never going to be able to do anything like that.

And I just want to, you know, kind of as we close this up, one of the things that I want parents, if you’re listening to remember when you are getting a diagnosis, whether it’s autism or whatever, it’s, it’s, it’s. It’s sort of a snapshot in time, right? It’s a baseline. Yeah. It doesn’t define where your kid is going to always be because they’re going to be different.

They’re going to grow. They’re going to overcome things. They’re going to learn things, uh, just like anybody else. But it’s how, it’s how we identify a need, [00:43:00] how we address it, how we help to support them. It doesn’t define who they are or where they’re going to be for the rest of their lives. And. I hear from parents all the time who really struggle with that.

They assume that because their kid is non speaking today doesn’t mean, uh, means that they’re never going to speak or communicate. And that’s just not, that that’s, it’s not always the case. Like my youngest was non verbal for four years. They told us he was never going to speak. And now he he’s graduating high school at 15.

Yeah, we talked about that a little bit earlier before the recording. And I mean, that’s a whole nother thing, but, but it’s like they’re, they are, kids will always surprise us. It’s our job to. To keep laying that road out in front of them, right. And advocate for them until such time they can advocate for themselves.

And I wish that I had known about OOD. Now that I do, I’ve got two other kids who, who fall into that, like. You know, early to mid teens where they can start doing career exploration and things like that. Well, I’m very glad. I

Kevin Miller: [00:44:00] feel like you lobbed in the softball for me to be able to say, Rob, so what I want to tell, you know, parents or individuals with disabilities, and it doesn’t matter what disability is, you know, Write this down.

I’m sure Rob, maybe you’ll put it on the website, but OOD works. com. It is, it’s not, uh, uh, as we like to call it, a government T looking website. It’s really a portal for individuals with disabilities to go to. It talks about what the vocational rehabilitation process is. It’s accessible. So if you’re deaf, if you’re blind, you’ll still be able to navigate it.

There’s some audio visual things that explains the vocational rehabilitation process. And it talks about how. You have to be committed to this because if it’s going to be successful, it’s ultimately up to you, the individual with a disability, if you want to work. If it’s not about work, then this isn’t for you.

So I would tell parents, you know, anybody, you know, who might be interested in wanting to work, go to OODworks. com or call 800 282 [00:45:00] 4536. We will talk about how we can. Uh, meet with you, do an intake, whether that’s virtually or in person that you want. We have appointment centers throughout the state of Ohio, uh, in every type of community, uh, in local, you know, OMJ centers, uh, schools.

We have counselors in, in colleges, in high schools and things like that. So we will be able to, I have staff and counselors meet with you at a location that works best for you. So, uh, I appreciate the fact, Rob, that you’re helping us with not being such a great kept secret where you don’t want.

Rob: Yeah. And honestly, as we’re sitting here thinking about this, to be completely honest with you and, and after hearing like what your story was with your, you know, your, uh, journey to acceptance and figuring out all that stuff, the issue The, the, the hardest part of the OOD experience for me as a parent was getting out of my own way because I was like, [00:46:00] I went through periods where I was like offended that I wasn’t included, but that’s, but it’s by design and it’s not to offend me.

It’s, it’s to like help him be who he needs to

Kevin Miller: be. And you know, that is a hard part because he is an adult. And under law, you know, we have to talk with him now if he says, Yeah, I don’t mind my dad being involved in that. That’s how we are able to share. But ultimately, they are an adult and that’s under federal law, how you have to know how his information is protected.

Right. So to your point, that’s, it’s the, where we hear these types of positive, and we’ve got a lot of them. If you go on our website, you’ll be able to see a lot of testimonials of this, and they sound a lot like yours. And that includes people, not just working at grocery stores, helping people who’ve become engineers and went to college and whatever it may be, it looks different for everybody else.

But to your point, it’s being able to understand you still have to put the work in. And. You have to have people who understand who are advocates sometimes have to get out of their own [00:47:00] way to allow what’s going to happen.

Rob: Well, lesson learned there.

Kevin Miller: Same lesson learned by me as well.

Rob: So yeah, just, just when you’re going into this process, just, just be aware that it’s not, it’s not.

You have to change your thought process and you have to allow for that growth. And that can be really hard as parents to let go because we’re worried about whatever. But the job coaches took really good care of him. It, I mean, he’s doing really well and. It went even better when I just did what I was supposed to do and not, not, not try to micromanage because it just doesn’t work.

Uh, thank you so much for, for not only sharing your personal journey and your story, but, but helping us to understand what OOD is and And doing so in a way that is not like, it’s, it’s just so relatable and so easy for people to kind of wrap their heads around. And, um, odworks. com is, uh, the website. We’ll have that in a show notes and [00:48:00] the social media stuff so that we can connect there and I’ll have any other relevant links or.

You know, anything else that, uh, that will help parents? Um, is there anything else that you just wanted to, to kind of close things off with parents, any advice or?

Kevin Miller: You know, I, I, I’ve learned when, especially when it comes to talking to parents, you know, I always say, um, I don’t know if I can provide any advice because everybody, you know, has their own journeys and everything, but, you know, the fact that you keep swinging.

It’s kind of what I talk about as parents, you know, I understand whether your child is Ford, like you and I dealt with, um, and you’re at that beginning of that hurricane where you think, Oh my God, what is going to happen? Or you’re dealing with, wow, he’s gaining some independence and now you’re dealing with different types of issues.

Like he wants to have a girlfriend and has no idea how to approach that. And, you know, how do we try to navigate those types of things? No matter where you’re at. If, if you have that type of mindset that [00:49:00] what is it that they want and how can you help them, you know, gain that type of independence without controlling it, that’s the difference.

And so I just admire all parenting when it comes to, you know, parenting is tough no matter what it is. But I have obviously a special place for those. parents who, and I’ve talked to a lot of them, parents who are going through the difficulties of having a child with any type of disability and dealing with things that are unique on top of the, you know, typical things that kids have to go through.

So, uh, keep doing what you’re doing. Understand there’s a big community out there like you. Uh, that are here to try to share and support and what is relatable take what isn’t relatable discard.

Rob: That, that’s, that’s really, really good advice and I wish that I had heard that long time ago.

Kevin Miller: Me too. [00:50:00] No one told me either.

I had to unfortunately break a lot of eggs to make an omelet. So.

Rob: so much for everything that you do and everything that, uh, you shared today and I’ll make sure everybody can, can reach out and contact you guys. And, and, uh, yeah, I really appreciate it.

Kevin Miller: Thanks for having us. And maybe, uh, we can reciprocate, uh, we do a podcast.

I hope people will, uh, uh, tune in, uh, follow us as well on social media to find out, you know, some of the amazing things we’re doing and working with people with disabilities. You know, we just launched a new initiative with the governor accessible Ohio making. Public places more accessible so that all the great things in Ohio can be enjoyed, whether it’s parks or amusement parks or zoos or ball games.

So just some wonderful things that are very unique to Ohio that we’re leading the way, and I’m not just putting lip service out there. I say, see what everyone else is doing versus us. So the more, you know, right. So we appreciate you allowing us this type of venue so that [00:51:00] we can share that information.

Rob: Thank you very very much Before we go I just wanted to take a moment and say thank you So much for taking the time to tune in and for all the support you guys have shown me over the last seven seasons I am so grateful and appreciative of each and every one of you If you have found this useful or you just enjoyed listening If you wouldn’t mind taking a moment to leave a review on apple podcast or spotify Or whatever app you’re listening to this on or share it with your friends or whatever Uh, it’s a great way to support the show.

Thank you. I really appreciate it You guys can reach me at theautismdad. link That’s The Autism Dad dot L I N K, and we’ll talk soon. Thanks. Bye.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.