Ken Kimmel, PSEG Manager of Civil Design Engineering wants everyone to know that Autism Awareness Month is a time for compassion and understanding.
Kimmel’s daughter, Sarah, has autism, and he has seen how hurtful people can be – especially when they don’t understand the disorder.
“Disabilities can be both visible and not visible,” Kimmel said. “They can be cognitive and developmental, as well as physical. People with cognitive and learning disabilities know and understand a great deal, but they struggle to express themselves, especially verbally. Just because someone is on the spectrum doesn’t mean they don’t understand what is happening.”
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Autism Spectrum Disorder “can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges … people with ASD may communicate, interact, behave and learn in ways that are different from most other people.”
Sarah, who is 20 and not very verbal, has developmental delays and attends school full-time.
Fortunately, Kimmel and his wife, Kelly, have a strong support system. When Sarah was younger, Kelly’s mother cared for her during the day. Sarah has had excellent special education teachers, therapists and doctors, as well as good friends from school.
Kimmel says that he is fortunate to work for a company like PSEG, which not only strives to promote an accessible and inclusive workplace for all, but also is sensitive to the challenges faced by employees who care for family members with disabilities. Kimmel says PSE&G’s Remote Work Initiative and FWO policy provide parents and caregivers the flexibility to perform remote schooling during the pandemic while maintaining their effectiveness as employees. His colleagues and managers always are understanding of his non-work responsibilities.
Kimmel and his wife have tried to give Sarah the experiences that every child enjoys. In past years, they’ve made special trips to Walt Disney World. Nowadays, they are more likely to vacation closer to home, such as Long Beach Island, where Kelly’s parents have a house and Kimmel keeps a 24-foot powerboat. Sarah loves the water and loves to swim.
“My wife and I are her biggest supporters and advocates,” Kimmel said. “We have to be. She lives at home with us and probably always will.”
Kimmel is hopeful for the future. Like any parent, he wants his daughter to have a fulfilling life, including a job.
He is motivated by, “the love of my family and devotion to my daughter and to my wife,” and by his commitment to provide what his daughter needs so she can succeed and be happy.
“Their smiles and laughter are my joy,” he said.
PSEG’s ABLE Employee Business Resource Group provides a forum where employees with disabilities, such as autism, and caregivers can come together to connect, learn from and support one another. To learn more about PSEG’s Employee Business Resource Groups, click here.