‘I just need a little help’: Knoxville teen with autism on the job hunt


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — One Knoxville teen is on the job hunt, but he needs a special kind of boss.

Asking to work seems like a simple request for a 17-year-old. But Ethan Huddleston has a slightly more complicated life than the average teen. Ethan lives with high-functioning autism.

“Ethan has a colorful kind of history,” Ethan’s Mother, Kristin said. “He meets certain requirements to diagnose with Asperger’s, pervasive developmental disorder, ADHD, but he doesn’t tick all the boxes for any of those things. We’ve always just been kind of told that he’s on the spectrum.”

High-functioning autism means Ethan is on the spectrum, and can do a lot of the same things that neuro-typical people can do. However, his condition makes social situations difficult for him sometimes.

“It makes it kind of hard to make friends because whenever I meet or see somebody and want to talk to them, my head goes blank and I just get all weird,” Ethan said.

His entire life has been filled with overcoming challenges and now he’s ready to take on a new one — entering the workforce. But, finding a job isn’t as simple for Ethan as it is for other people. He’ll need to find the perfect fit –a boss who is understanding of his condition.

“I’m wanting a just minimal paying job,” Ethan said. “I just want to meet some new people.”

Ethan has many talents, but he’s especially advanced with computers. He knows all the parts by name and can break a computer down completely and put it back together.

“I’m great with anything that involves computers, I just need just a little help and a little backup that’s all. I’m usually able and capable of doing almost anything I want to do,” Ethan said.

Kristin was not always on board with Ethan working. She feared people who don’t understand his condition would not be kind to him. Ethan has dealt with bullying in the past, and his mother did not want him to be subjected to more of it.

But for Ethan, a job symbolizes independence, and the ability to fund his hobbies on his own. He has simple dreams of living a quiet life tinkering with computers.

“Right now it’s part of my New Year’s resolution to get a full-on gaming computer. I’m wanting to maybe save up for a start-up trailer home or something, maybe live in Mom’s backyard before I actually get a house. I’m not really headed for anything huge like a big ole house or gold-plated stairs or anything,” Ethan said.

Kristin gave in and put out a post on a community group on Facebook, asking for recommendations on a good place for her son to work.

Kristin has allowed Ethan to search for a job with her help, as long as she can accompany him to his job interviews.

“I hope nobody minds that he brings his mother because first and foremost, he’s my baby and I’m going to make sure he’s taken care of,” Kristin said.

What resources are available?

There are resources available in the Knoxville area for people of all ages living with autism. One of them is Breakthrough of Knoxville, an organization that helps people with autism live independent lives through enabling and technology, residential services, employment and more.

Breakthrough’s community employment coordinator, Vania Beavers, says the biggest misconception she hears about people with autism is that people think they are unable to do the same things neuro-typical people can do.

Breakthrough works to disprove these stereotypes by helping people with autism live as independently as possible. They also have programs in schools that help teens like Ethan.

More information on Breakthrough and the other services they provide for people living with disabilities can be found here.

If you have a job for Ethan, you can contact WATE 6 on your side reporter Jordan Brown at the following:

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