Developmental Disabilities Association is a very inclusive place to work. Our mission is to encourage those with developmental disabilities to reach their full potential, but it doesn’t stop there. Everyone we hire or train is encouraged to do that as well. Often we employ students on a practicum who are going through their training in social work, nursing, or working with people in a group home environment.

Anna Jackson is one such student. She also identifies as a person with autism. We caught up with her to chat about why she chose DDA as a place to gain experience and how she sees her future unfolding.

Tell us about yourself! What do you do for fun outside of work?

My name is Anna and I am a 3rd-year social work student at UBC. Before social work, I studied agriculture, mathematics, and languages; traveled around the world, and had a few fantastic fireside chats. I have quite a number of special interests, but to unwind and center myself I make creature dolls. I enjoy the process of imagining a creature, drawing it, making a pattern, and finally sewing and sculpting the final doll. It is very satisfying seeing a figment of my imagination turn into something tangible and real.

Why have you chosen this line of work?

Honestly, I just like people. I love listening to people’s stories and learning from them. In my mind, everyone’s life is akin to a novel; an adventure we can go on together. And that is just magical. I have been looking for a profession in which I can learn something new every day and one where I can use all my diverse skills and social work definitely fits that bill. Plus, with social work, you never know where you will end up since the field is so broad and that sounds amazing to me!

What is the best part about working for DDA?

In my experience so far, DDA is at the crossroads of a lot of different social services and government organizations. Because of this positioning, I got exposed to a lot of organizations and people, which in turn allowed me to start making my first ever professional connections in social work. This has been immensely valuable to me. Also, shout out to Mahvash. I started at DDA as a complete novice and she has been very patient with me and very supportive. I have learned so much from her.

What funny incident stands out to you while working at DDA?

I wish I could tell you something funny, but the pandemic put a bit of a damper on all that. I work from home a lot of the time and one thing I can tell you is that my pajama pant collection went from two pairs to seven! My wardrobe is currently experiencing the Zoom effect, business on the top, pajamas on the bottom =))

Where would you like to be 5 years from now?

Five years from now I hope to be getting close to finishing my PhD and running a small counseling practice working with adults on the autism spectrum. But who knows, if I end up at the UN I won’t complain either.

As a person diagnosed with autism, what would you like the world to know about you?

Autism is a big part of my identity that is why I use identity-first language when talking to people, as in: “I am autistic”. I love being autistic since having an autistic brain allowed me to experience so much of the world, learn so many things, connect with other autistics, and generally have some good times. I want people to know that being autistic is not a tragedy, that we don’t need to be fixed or made normal, that being autistic is just being different and that is A-Ok. I think that autistic people, including myself, bring a lot of brightness and joy into the world, making the world better and richer for everyone.

How has working during the pandemic been for you?

Oh, this is where being autistic comes in very handy. I am naturally ok living with reduced social contact and I was never really into handshaking or hugs. So, I think being autistic is helping me cope a little better. I am also used to working online and communicating via video conferencing. However, the isolation is starting to affect even me in a negative way. I miss being able to have board game nights with friends and going out to explore the city. I have now binge-watched everything on Netflix and am on an umpteenth time of playing Zelda. I really miss experiencing the real world! Thus, I sure hope the pandemic will be over soon.

What have you learned about yourself working at DDA?

Before starting my practicum I was not sure if I can actually do social work as an autistic person. But, working at DDA and especially with Mahvash gave me a lot of confidence that I can do it and that I can be good at it.

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