Every day, thousands of people receive packages from Amazon on their front doorstep. Helping make this rapid turn-around possible, Associate Kenneth “Kenny” Valdivia contributes significantly to Amazon’s warehouse team in Los Angeles, CA. With a positive, can-do attitude, he sorts and scans packages each shift to ensure they reach their correct destination.
Kenny is on the Autism Spectrum (ASD), a developmental disability that affects communication, behavior, and interaction with others. Depending on the individual, symptoms can be mild or severe. Although awareness of the autism spectrum is increasing, it is still misunderstood, which can make getting a job difficult. Like many individuals who are on the Autism Spectrum, Kenny struggled to find employment where he could feel fulfilled and achieve his potential.
Helping People with Autism Find Employment
“I received my Autism diagnosis as a child,” said Kenny. “My parents had never heard of Autism before and didn’t know how to help me adjust with the symptoms. Growing up, it was often difficult making friends since they didn’t understand my disability.”
Despite earlier challenges, things started getting better when Kenneth began attending a high school program designed for young adults on the Autism Spectrum. “I started making more friends and gained confidence in my own voice. I have always known that I have the same abilities as everyone else; I sometimes need a different approach when it comes to communication.”
After graduating from a vocational skills certification program, Kenny started to look for employment in a warehouse environment. Despite his qualifications and hard work ethic, job interviews proved to be a significant obstacle to getting a job offer, as he struggled with eye contact and communication.
This changed in October 2018 when Kenny’s Department of Rehabilitation counselor referred him to PRIDE Industries’ Employment Services, which placed him into a Warehouse Associate Position with Amazon in Los Angeles.
Since 2017, PRIDE Industries has partnered with Amazon as an Alternative Workforce Supplier to recruit, assess, interview, train, and provide onsite employment support for people with Autism. PRIDE leverages their person-centered services including assessments, job skills development, training, placement, and ongoing support to ensure long-term employment success.
“From the start of the training, Kenny was eager to start the day, and he learned quickly,” said PRIDE Job Coach Catalina Hurtado. “His enthusiasm is appreciated by his colleagues and supervisors. Kenny is very driven and always pushing himself to reach his units per hour.”
Getting a Job Is Just the Beginning
Employment brings much more than a paycheck; it also helps individuals develop confidence and purpose. The resilience that Kenny developed through the difficult times motivated him to help others on the Autism Spectrum. “Throughout my life, I have relied on movies, music, and comedy to feel less alone,” said Kenny. “It inspired me to create my own medium to show others my experiences, challenges, and dreams for the future.” He developed his own YouTube channel to tell his story.
“Since starting my channel, I have been proud to educate and raise awareness for Autism; I feel like I was created this way to help others,” said Kenny. “A highlight was helping out a friend from church after his child had been diagnosed with Autism. He had never heard about Autism or knew what to expect for his child’s future. Showing him some of my videos helped him understand more about this disability.”
“While I am working on expanding my YouTube channel, my job at Amazon gives me a way to support myself while growing my skills,” said Kenny. “I feel appreciated for what I contribute to our team.”
As his online presence continues to grow, Kenny aims to eventually use his storytelling experience to gain a career in the movie and entertainment industry. “I am inspired by actors like Matt Damon and Mark Wahlberg; it would be a dream for me to meet and thank them for their work. I would also like to make it to their level of influence to reach people internationally and to travel to different countries in South America, Europe, and Asia.”