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Shining a Light on Autism: Israel Takes Center Stage as a Photographer at SeaWorld

Updated: May 13


Israel happily working at SeaWorld

Toward Maximum Independence (TMI) is thrilled to share the inspiring story of Israel, a client on the autism spectrum who is working at his dream job as a photographer at SeaWorld! With support from the TMI Tailored Day Services program, Israel has been able to overcome challenges and pursue his passion for capturing special moments. Israel shared his employment journey, what he loves about working at SeaWorld and much more!

Q: Israel, congratulations on this exciting position! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your role at SeaWorld?

A: Hi everyone! My name is Israel. I started working at SeaWorld in February of 2023 as a photographer in their Sea Pixels department.

Q: How has TMI helped you on your journey to finding employment?

A. They’ve been a huge help in getting me started in the workforce. TMI helped me find this job, which is actually my first ever! We still have much more to do from here. 

Q: What are some of your biggest strengths that you bring to your role as a photographer?

A: I’m really dedicated to making sure that the customers and their families look their best in their photos. I take a lot of pride in my work.

Israel in action taking photos of a family at SeaWorld
Israel in action taking photos of a family at SeaWorld

Q: Did you have any prior experience with photography or working with animals before starting this job?

A: Actually, no! I hadn’t worked with animals before, and my only experience with photography was taking cosplay photos.

Q: Starting a new job in an unfamiliar environment can be stressful. How do you manage any anxieties you might have about social interaction?

A: It can definitely be challenging, especially when I’m put in a new situation, and I don’t quite understand what’s going on. I try my best to ask questions and get guidance from my coworkers who have more experience. Meeting new people can be daunting at first, but making friends at work has really helped to ease the stress.


Q: That’s a great strategy! How did you learn about this opportunity at SeaWorld?

A: One of my TMI Job Coaches, Carol Atherton, recommended the position to me. I’m so grateful to her for helping me find this amazing job!

Q. What was the application and interview process like for you?

A. It was nerve racking, mainly due to it being my first time really going for a job. My TMI Job Coach Abraham Perez helped guide me through creating a resume, preparing documents, practicing before interviews, and knowing what to say at interviews.


Israel taking photos of a family at SeaWorld

Q. What are some of your favorite aspects of working at SeaWorld? 

A. Mainly the atmosphere SeaWorld brings. The park, the people, my coworkers, and the fact that I am getting paid for working at an awesome theme park. It’s something I never would have thought my life would lead me to. 

 

Q. Have you faced any unique challenges or experiences in this role due to autism? 

A. There are moments when I feel panic if I don’t understand my position and what I must do to keep doing a good job or keep a good impression among my coworkers or superiors, but Abraham is there to give me pointers and assist me along the way.

 

Q. How has SeaWorld supported your success and well-being in the workplace?

A. SeaWorld has been nothing but supportive. Some of the employees and superiors are aware of my condition, and if I ever have questions they are available to assist me if needed.

 

Q. How has this job opportunity impacted your confidence, independence, and overall well-being? 

A. This opportunity has given me a new perspective on some things, as well as benefits myself and my family. I look forward to seeing how far I can take this and how much more I can grow.

 

Q. What advice would you give to other autistic individuals seeking employment? 
A. To always be grateful for what you have been given. Not many people are fortunate to have your view of life. What you choose to do with those gifts is up to you. It’s never too late for anyone to pick themselves up on the path to a good life and that is what I aim to achieve. 

We love that! Thank you for sharing, Israel, and thank you to Abraham and Carol for being outstanding TMI Job Coaches!

 

Israel with Abraham for Halloween
Israel with Abraham for Halloween
“Israel was able to learn how to use transportation thanks to this job,” said Abraham. “It has also enabled him to make new connections and meet new friends who he hangs out with occasionally. I am very proud of all that he has accomplished!”

 

TMI is proud to support Israel as he continues to flourish in this role. His story is a shining example of how much can be achieved with dedication, perseverance, and the right kind of support.


Toward Maximum Independence (TMI) clients with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are a part of our Tailored Day Services (TDS) program are encouraged to self-direct and participate in determining their program day. We are here to help our clients plan their day their way. With the anticipation of maximizing life satisfaction, this exciting program tailors our client’s day based on their personal choices, hopes and dreams.


 

Founded in 1981, Toward Maximum Independence (TMI) is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to transforming the lives of children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and veterans with disabilities. TMI strives to help our clients to realize their hopes and dreams by providing Employment Solutions, Community Living Services and Family Support Services. To stay connected with us, follow us on Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), LinkedIn, and Instagram. Together we can share acceptance and awareness, ultimately contributing to further inclusion.

 

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