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Cut the BS with Brei DelGiudice

Brei DelGiudice - Social Media Influencer

You ever had a work task that haunts you? Maybe it lingers over you for a few hours, maybe a a few days, a month even? During that time, you hope your boss doesn't discover your ineptness and fire you for not doing something that was right in front of you the whole time. Well, welcome to my interview with Brei DelGiudice! Brei and I visited on June 25, 2020 and I am just NOW posting our Q&A on this website! Ridiculous, right? Fortunately, I'm my own boss on this book, so I will not fire me for this laziness, but instead will simply reprimand myself and promise to do better next time. Even though it's (literally) been years since Brei and I visited, I wanted to post this content because A.) Brei took valuable time away from her life to visit and I should honor that investment by posting our conversation, B.) Brei's thoughts are as pertinent and thought-provoking today as they were almost 3 years ago, and C.) Frankly, I need fresh content on this website to drive SEO. :-) So let's get into the way back time machine, shall we! The year is 2020. The COVID pandemic is still new, the Black Lives Matter movement is front and center, and Elon Musk is still considered somewhat sane. My guest, Brei DelGiudice, is transitioning from a career working with people with disabilities to launching a YouTube channel centered on mental health with a side of laughter. Enjoy this Q&A with valuable lessons on the use of BS when it comes to people with disabilities.

Q: Hi, Brei! My morning is off to a fast start. I've showered before noon. You?

Lately I’ve been getting up early. Like today, I went on a 4 mile power walk.

Q: Wow! Good for you. And after that?

Then I did a motivational Facebook Live with a spinoff group to my YouTube channel audience of Just Breizy. However, today Riley [EDITOR'S NOTE: Brei's young son] woke up early and decided to join the conversation. It kind of went pffft...after that

Q: What do you do professionally to help pay bills in the house right now?

I get unemployment (laughter). Before quarantine, I worked for an agency called Life’s WORC and what we do is provide services for people with a variety of disabilities. I wore a few different hats there. I was an administrator for a day-habilitation center. I was also a parent trainer. That means I worked with families that have children who have autism. Often times, parents are like, “I don’t know what to do. Help me.” So, I would go in, assess what’s going on and meet with the parents monthly to train them on strategies that they can use. I also worked directly with people who have autism with something called ABA -- Applied Behavioral Analysis -- and did things like community integration. I would help somebody who is ready to get into the community – whether it’s volunteer work or working on certain goals – and get them there. I’m changing hats all the time.

Q: Why did you get into that line of work?

You know, it’s funny. A lot of people ask me that. Since I was a kid, I always knew I wanted to work with people that needed help. That was how I put it when I was a kid. I didn’t know what that meant until I got a little older. I thought maybe I was going to be a special education teacher, but really as soon as I started to learn about autism, I was like “That’s it.” That’s where I really felt passionate about.

Q: How do we define autism?

It’s a developmental disability, is basically what it is. I tell people when you think about everything that a child does when you’re a parent and you’re looking at all those milestones that your children make, there’s a delay usually in all of those facets. Whether it’s language, cognitive impairments, social skills, there’s usually some sort of delay within all those realms.

Q: What considerations do managers need to take when employing people with autism?

Adults with autism that are ready for the workforce, they’ll go in with a job coach. We’re not sending them in with a “Here you go! Have fun and let us know how you do!” We’re sending them in with support. So, often times, it’s important for the employer to not talk to the job coach as if the job coach is the employee. Many times that will happen. They mean well, but instead of addressing their employee who may have autism or whatever disability, they’re addressing the support person. They need to be really aware of that.

It just takes having a conversation with the job coach to say, “How can I best communicate with my new employee? What modifications are needed to best support this person?” Because there might be modifications that are needed. There might be visual signs that are needed at their work station.

Q: What are the types of jobs that people who have autism get these days?

People with autism are often good with routine, with structure, with sorting, with things going into a specific category. So, we’ll find a lot of our adults doing stock, like in the back stock room where they know, "OK, small, medium, large." It’s a very expected, concrete task for them to do.

Some of the people we work with who are considered more “higher functioning,” they might do office work: collating papers, making copies, putting things together, jobs that are very concrete. Where it starts to get a little dicey is where social skills are involved. So, you might not see somebody with autism on the floor of a department store where they really need to interact with people. They might be bagging the groceries where, again, it’s a very concrete task.

That's great because there are many jobs like that, but it’s also limiting. Some people with autism have a bigger skillset, and there’s a lot of advocacy that needs to go into that to say, “OK. We have a person here who has proven to have certain skillsets that can have different opportunities than just your standard stockroom job.”

Q: I’ve heard you mention a couple of terms that are new to me: ABA and day-hab. Are there any other BS terms that are specific to your industry?

There are a ton of acronyms for different meetings we have and different documents.

One is “SCIP.” If somebody heard that they might think of the idea of skipping, but it’s S-C-I-P, and it’s a training that we do for restrictive holds. When we work with people who have aggressive behaviors (they’re becoming a danger to themselves or others), it’s a way to restrict their body movement. So, we might say to each other, “Oh, did he need to be SCIPed? Did you SCIP him?” And some people might be, “What in the hell are you talking about?” (laughter)

S-I-B: Self Injurous Behaviors. We might say, like, “Did you see any S-I-Bs today?” Or STIM: Self-Stimulatory Behavior. A lot of time people with autism will have self-stimulatory behaviors where they’re doing something like this [EDITOR'S NOTE: Brei demonstrates by shaking her hands to the side of her head] or flapping the hands. But our “business speak” is “Oh, they’re STIMming. They have a STIM.”

Q: I would imagine those acronyms are helpful because they’re short-hand for expansive thought?

Yes, exactly.

Q: What is your take an all the acronyms we use in business in general?

Acronyms are helpful when you and I have the same knowledge base. When we don't, they can be bad.

For example, if I’m working with a family who has a child who’s newly diagnosed with autism, these acronyms can be unbelievably overwhelming. They're like alphabet soup. Take A-B-C data, for instance. The family will be like, "What does that mean?” It's short for Antecedent Behavior Consequence.

On the other hand, If I’m working with somebody who knows all the acronyms, I can speak quickly to their kids’ C-S-Es (which is a term for their meeting) or their I-E-P which is an Individualized Educational Plan.

Q: How do you handle it when you hear an acronym or jargon in a business setting that you don't understand what it means?

Yeah, in my own field the jargon is ever changing, so if I’m at a training or at a meeting and, all of a sudden, I’m introduced to an acronym without a follow-up explanation, I’m like, “Am I going to look dumb if I ask a question? Should I know this (because I don’t).” Then I find myself Googling under the table. (laughter) More often times than not, I use my own advice that I give to parents: when you don’t know something, ask. Because if I don’t ask then I’m apt to make a mistake.

Q: How do you communicate a relatively advanced business term – say like EBITDA – to a worker with autism?

First thing I would suggest is to go to their support system. The support team is going to know the best way to communicate with that person.

Another thing is visuals. Visuals are so incredibly important for a person with autism. If we have somebody working at, say, a warehouse or the backroom of like a H&M store, it's helpful to have visuals at their work stations that say something like, "First I do this, then I do this." Give them a written out schedule of when their break times are. Visuals are fantastic for explaining things to a person with autism.

Q: Is there any research that suggests people with autism interpret idioms like “cat’s got your tongue” more literal than others might?

Yeah, there is. A lot of the people who have autism that I work with are very literal thinkers, concrete thought. Abstract thinking and sarcasm often get lost on them. We had an employee with a disability and when people would be sarcastic around her, she would take it as a personal insult because she didn’t understand what sarcasm was.

Q: With autism, what are some of the terms we should use to describe people in that category and why?

Right off the bat, I’ll tell you “handicapped”… (Brei gestures like she's cutting her neck). There’s still some people that use it, and when they use it, it’s really considered offensive and demeaning. “Disability” is really the preferred and more commonly-used term. That is even starting to get replaced with “differently abled.”

I don’t know if you’ve heard of the term "Aspy," but people within the autism community will often refer to one another that way, like, “Oh, I’m an ‘Aspy’” or “My son is an ‘Aspy.’” It’s somebody who has autism.

Q: Do you know why or how that abbreviation came about?

Have you heard of Aspergers before?

Q: Yes.

So, technically, from a diagnosis standpoint, Asperger syndrome is not a classification anymore on the spectrum. But a lot of people who are considered high functioning on the autism spectrum are referred to as “Aspy," for short.

Q: Some people might look at this conversation and say, “We’re getting way too sensitive about these kind of word choices these days. We use words to communicate ideas. It’s not meant offensively.” What do you say to that?

There’s an argument for that that sometimes we get a little bit too politically-correct with these things. But I counter with the “Golden Rule": treat people how you want to be treated, right? That’s something that we all know. However, then there’s the “Platinum Rule”: treat people the way that they want to be treated.

Q: What is “Just Breizy?”

“Just Breizy” is like taking over my life! (laughter) No, in a good way, in a good way. It’s basically my opportunity or my attempt to connect with people. That’s what I’m always thinking in my head: What video can I make that’s going to connect with somebody going through a certain experience? What interview can I have that’s going to give a different perspective of a different walk of life?

I do night time lives on YouTube that are usually just nonsense and ridiculous laughter because, you know, I want to be a distraction to people during quarantine, during all the craziness going on in the world. But it’s also an opportunity for me to be like, “Here’s my internal diary. I’m going to just put it out there." And, hopefully, people connect with it.” So far, the feedback I’ve received from people that I know and even people that I don’t know has been awesome.

I get emails or messages from people saying, “I just want you to know I watched your anxiety series and I’ve been struggling with mental health. And I’m finally going to talk to my doctor about it.” And I’m like, “Holy crap! That’s awesome.” Really powerful.

My mom recently called me with one that blew me away. She had a friend who is really struggling with mental health, and was contemplating suicide. She was in the depths of it one evening where she was thinking, “You know what? This is it. I’m at that point of ending it.” Well, my mom is my biggest fan and she shares all my videos. She texted a few of her friends my videos on mental health and this one friend of her's watched them. They made her feel like, “You know what? Tomorrow is another day. Tomorrow I need to reach out and get help.” My mom told me this and was in tears because when you’re brave enough to put your stuff out there, other people who are feeling the same way are less alone. It’s not just me that struggles with anxiety or depression or craziness with kids. Other people do too. So, it’s been pretty awesome.

Q: That’s fabulous. What are some ways people can support you or check you out?

They can subscribe to the YouTube channel. They can share videos. Comments and engagement are super important in social media. I’m on all the social media platforms except SnapChat. It’s all “Just Breizy.” I didn’t change my name anywhere. I wanted it to be super easy to find me. The spelling is a little different. It’s B-R-E-I-Z-Y.

Q: Anything else you want to say Brei or promote that we haven’t talked about?

I should promote my future book! (laughter) No, the “people first’ language is way up there with what I want people to remember from this conversation. It’s number one.

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