Kayla's Corner - Welcome to My Blog!

Kayla Rodriguez smMy name is Kayla Rodriguez and I’m a 23-year-old autistic self-advocate. I am Vice President and Chief Ambassador of Autistic Self-Advocacy Atlanta, an affiliate group of the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network. I have trained under the Bobby Dodd Institute Ambassador Program, the GaLEND (Georgia Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities) program, and the My Voice, My Participation, My Board program. I have been on panels and won the Golden Goal Goldie Award for Young Community Advocate alongside my mentor Kylie Moore. In October 2019, I became an intern for Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD), and I’m so thankful and grateful that I’m here; however, starting at GCDD has come with ups and downs, which I am looking forward to sharing with you all.

This is my first office job ever, and I am learning new things every day. In fact, my experience in navigating this new environment is being used as the basis for a handbook that will be used for future interns.  I’ve had a crash course in office culture, completing timesheets, MS Office programs and figuring out computer and printer problems. My hope is to use my experiences as a guide for future interns, so they will have more information from the get-go. By being part of this experience, I am learning how to be a part of the workforce, and I plan to use these skills in the future. For example, I had trouble taking notes at meetings because of my poor handwriting so my colleagues suggested I take notes on my phone, and later they helped me find an app called Otter that records the meetings and creates notes.

Another example is when Kate, my boss, taught me that I should email before I visit offices (this is another example that will go into the intern handbook). I also learned how to make videos on Animoto and discovered the important disability-focused programs and legislative acts that are celebrating milestone anniversaries in 2020. With that information, I’m learning to create social media posts promoting them. Because of this and other reasons, I love being an intern at GCDD.

The other reason I love it here is that I’ve learned so much about advocating for myself in the workplace. Everyone here is nice and accommodating. This is also a very calm work environment where it’s never too loud which as a person sensitive to loud noises, I very much appreciate.

In addition to introducing me to the Otter app, there are other ways that the staff has been accommodating. Another example of the staff being accommodating is Kate's understanding that my health concerns keep me from coming to work sometimes. Even though there are new concepts and terms that I don’t understand in meetings, I understand more with each question I ask and meeting that I attend.

Next month will be the start of Georgia’s 2020 legislative session and GCDD’s famed Advocacy Days where disability advocates go to the Georgia Capitol to meet with legislators about disability-focused topics. I’m going to work with the policy team during the session and help with Advocacy Days. I’m looking forward to learning more about employment and transportation policy solutions because of my own struggles in those areas. Throughout my internship, I will be providing you all with updates on my experience through this bi-monthly blog. I hope to provide others a window into my world as I navigate the workplace.

Overall, I love it here and encourage anyone who is interested in advocacy to intern here.   

Kayla Rodriguez is a public policy and communications intern at GCDD.