Special Needs Conference “Shoot for the Stars”

Shoot For The Stars

“Shoot for the Stars” was the theme for the WV Bureau for Behavioral Health’s Annual Family Conference in Daniels, WV.  There were many invited guests discussing topics ranging from “Self-Advocacy” to “Peer Pressure-Stranger Danger”, and “Transitioning from High School”.  Daily Companions, Inc. spoke on “Customized Employment”.

Cathy Lee Irizarry-Barron, CESP (Certified Employment Specialist Professional) led the conference attendees through the Discovery Process and getting to know the consumer.  This is an essential step in finding a job that not only meets the consumer’s interest and skill level, but is complementary to the needs of the employer.  This may require the consumer, staff and employer to “customize” an open position to accommodate the needs of all involved.  Cathy Lee stressed the need to look “outside the box” for job lead resources, smaller employers, and creating a need within an employer they may not have realized they had.  This process is called “job carving”.

Success for Jonathan

Accompanying Cathy Lee was Jonathan Corley and his mother Sarah.  Jonathan discussed how Customized Employment has helped him.  He began at a local bank putting together new member Welcome folders, then a popular Pizza company had him distribute flyers to home; a convenience store hired him to work in the food area, a restaurant used him in the dishwashing and sanitation room.  His current position is at Black Dog Coffee and is a prime example of “job carving”.

Jonathan grinds coffee, labels bags, creates “sample” bags, makes iced coffee concentrates, and keeps the storage areas well organized.  By creating this position, the remaining staff have more time to focus on customer service.  Jonathan recently accompanied his fellow Black dog co-workers to the Coffee Fest Convention in Baltimore, MD.  He spoke excitedly about this experience.  Jonathan’s mother Sarah echoed the excitement of seeing her son thrive in the right environment, doing a job he loves, and having the right supports in place through Waiver and his Job Coach Teresa.  Jonathan has been at Black Dog Coffee for almost five years now.

Christian finds his field

Another example of successful Customized Employment is Christian Fields.  Over the course of a year and a half, Christian worked several different jobs.  He would become frustrated when either the job no longer fit his interest, or he would be let go unexpectedly.  During this process, Christian was asked by Cathy Lee to step outside of his comfort zone to try a night shift job utilizing his mechanical skills.  With much convincing by both Cathy Lee and his mother, Sally, Christian agreed to try this position.  The clincher for Christian was the pay – almost twice what his previous positions had paid, and part-time hours verses full-time.  Just think, he would make more money by working less hours!

Though he struggled in the beginning, Christian has been successfully employed at Fed Ex for over a year now.  He is cross trained in several areas and has received pay increases along the way.  Christian utilized “natural supports” in his co-workers and occasional visits from Cathy Lee at his worksite to succeed in place of a Job Coach.  His mother, Sally, emphasized “be patient, supportive, and to trust in the process.  Don’t push it and it will all come out in the end”.

Both young men did an exceptional job of helping peers and their families know they can work at a job they like.  All they have to do is take that first step, then “Shoot For The Stars”.