Submitted by the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office
Natalie Miller, 24, was diagnosed with autism at 4 years old and graduated from Franklin College in May 2014 with a B.A. in psychology. She assumed that employers would not hold her condition against her, but the opposite proved to be true and a nearly two-year job hunt ensued. In January 2015, Natalie began the paralegal studies program at IUPUI, during which she began a paralegal internship at the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office for the spring 2016 semester.
On top of acquiring professional experience and real world exposure, Natalie also found her internship had a profound effect on her communication and social interactions, skills which are inhibited by autism and thus make it difficult to adjust into society. After two weeks, Natalie says she knew she would be pursuing full-time employment at the Prosecutor’s Office and was hired as a Major Felony secretary in April.
After meeting Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry, Natalie sent him an email explaining how she wanted her story to inspire others with the same challenges she had faced. Within a week, the two met to discuss how the Prosecutor’s Office could help advocate on disability employment issues, and the DifferentNotLess initiative was born.
“My life changed for the better because one organization decided to listen to me and focus on what I could do rather than make assumptions because I was different,” Natalie explained. “I wanted Prosecutor Curry to know the impact this job has had on me, and I wanted others to have the same opportunity.”
The purpose of the Prosecutor’s DifferentNotLess initiative is to advocate for the employment of individuals with autism and other disabilities. Prosecutor Curry says he hopes the work of his office will serve as a model for other governmental agencies and allow his office to develop partnerships with organizations involved in employment opportunities for those with disabilities.
“We are starting with the simple action of ensuring that our job opportunities are available to every qualified applicant and, specifically, that we eliminate any perceived barriers to applicants with disabilities,” said Prosecutor Curry. “We believe DifferentNotLess will contribute to our goal of continuing to be an exemplary government agency, serving the people of Marion County.”
Prosecutor Curry’s office is now in the initial phase of contacting organizations that advocate for the employment of individuals with disabilities and asking for their assistance in spreading the word about job openings in the Prosecutor’s Office.
Due to her experience over the past year, this initiative has meaning to Natalie beyond mere philanthropy and advocacy. Natalie was recently promoted to Misdemeanor paralegal, and she said that proved to only reinforce how grateful she is that the Prosecutor’s Office gave her a chance.
“I think everyone in the situation I was in deserves to feel the sense of belonging and usefulness that employment can bring,” Natalie said, “as well as a chance to show that they are in fact merely different, not less.”
“We know that making an assumption about individuals with disabilities and thus imposing our own limitations on anyone is truly a disservice to all,” Prosecutor Curry added.•