Jenny Lutz with her son Greg, at the South Burnett Autism Awareness barbecue in Kingaroy.
Jenny Lutz with her son Greg, at the South Burnett Autism Awareness barbecue in Kingaroy. Madeline Grace

How news article helped find autistic man a job

GREG Jamieson has been working at Swickers for more than nine years, and you'll never guess how he got first got the job.

Both Greg and his mother Jenny Lutz have lived in the South Burnett all their lives, on land just 20 minutes out of Kingaroy.

Greg, who is now 35 years old, was diagnosed with autism when he was 11 years old.

However, his mother Ms Lutz said that was not where their story began.

"I had a really difficult labour with Greg," she said.

"Then when he came out he kind of looked like a fish, he was grey in colour because he had no oxygen.

Greg was born dead.

"He didn't breathe once in his first 20 minutes of life.

"Thank god the doctors were able to resurrect him, and he only suffered minimal brain damage."

Ms Lutz said she knew things were a little off from the beginning.

"He didn't talk or respond to his name for over five years," she said.

"He used to keep me up at all hours of the night with his tantrums. The doctors here had no idea. Keep in mind this was over 20 years ago.

"Then finally when he was 11 a specialist in Brisbane diagnosed him."

Ms Lutz said it was hard at first but eventually everything started to turn around.

"I couldn't stop crying at first. It was like a death," she said.

"You have a child and you have so much love for them. You have dreams and hopes for them to have a wonderful, fulfilling life. I was originally grieving because I thought he wouldn't get all of that.

"I now know that's not the case. He has all that. The only difference is he needs more support. We're stuck with him and he's stuck with us."

Ms Lutz said she wouldn't have it any other way.

"Within the first three weeks of his diagnosis he started to turn everything around," she said.

"Just by implementing those first few parenting techniques I was taught. They just need to learn in a certain way. They need extra support.

"I'm so proud of him and how far he has come. He's my life. My proudest accomplishment. I just have so much love for him."

In 1995, Ms Lutz and her husband Kurt founded the South Burnett Autism Support Group.

"Once I got the word out there through radio we had about seven interested families," she said.

Four of the original families are still active members of the support group.

After he graduated from high school, Greg started looking for work. His first job was for SB Care.

He has since worked for Ken Mills, an aircraft manufacturing company, and now works at Swickers.

"He just loved aircraft. It was kind of his thing," Ms Lutz said.

But about 10 years ago the aircraft company shut down and Greg was out of a job.

"I actually approached the paper (the South Burnett Times) a bit after that to see if they were interested in doing a story on Greg," Ms Lutz said.

"He was really upset and not used to not working. He loves working and wanted to do his part to contribute to society.

"So the South Burnett Times ran a story on Greg."

One of Greg's mates from high school spotted the article, and the rest is history.

"Next thing we know we're being told a friend of his saw the article. A friend who worked at Swickers," Ms Lutz said.

"Apparently he told his bosses that he knew this guy and that Greg was an all-round good bloke and a hard worker. He told them they wouldn't regret giving him some work.

"And so they did. Greg has been working there ever since.

"Swickers have since become known for supporting autism and all of our causes. They're an advocate of sorts."

Greg said he had now been working at Swickers for more than nine years.

"For too long," he joked.

"Nah, I really love it there. I mean I'm still there.

"They're the best."

Greg is also still an active member of the South Burnett Autism Support Group, and goes to all of their outings.

"He's a mentor for the younger ones," Ms Lutz said.

"He has a great time and they all love him.

"Plus, it gives the parents a bit of a break having someone else there to help out."

Ms Lutz said she and Greg weren't going anywhere.

"We'll be here organising events for the support group. It's just a part of who we are now," she said.