Student Guide 2 Audio Program
Written, produced, and narrated by Alyne Ellis
Approx. 25 pages when printed.
This document is the script of the audio program that accompanies NICHCY’s publication A Student’s Guide to Jobs. On the audio program, young people with intellectual disabilities or autism speak candidly about their job-related experiences. Parents, transition specialists, and employers also share their insights. Supporting materials include:
- a Student’s Guide to Jobs, a short booklet designed especially for students;
- a Technical Assistance Guide to assist families, transition specialists, employers, and others in helping students with significant cognitive disabilities find and keep a job;
- the audio program itself, available online in MP3 format.
While listening to the audio program is not essential to students interested in learning more about jobs, it’s a fun program, both informational and motivational. You can download it in MP3 format above and play it on the computer or a MP3 player.
Joe | I work in CVS, wash windows, tear box, work make money, put it in my bank account.
Rob | I put up the movies away. New releases, comedies, drama, adventure. I took a break at 6:30. I come home at 9:30. I’ll go to work at 4:30. Go to 4-9. I’ll take a break at 6. Go to work at 4, come home at 9:00.
Narrator | A paying job you like. A job where you feel productive, challenged, and needed. Isn’t that what every person who is searching for employment hopes to find? You have just heard the voices of young adults with cognitive disabilities such as autism and mental retardation, individuals who are gainfully employed in their communities in jobs they like.
Marie | I am a very good worker at Windflower. I am wonderful, and they really need my help. And that’s what I do.
Rob’s Father | I think there will come a time in the not too far distant future, the next two years or so, Rob will want to work full time. He likes to work. He likes the pleasures of accomplishing something and people telling him that whatever he may be doing is good.
Narrator | This tape will tell you how success can be achieved when families, job coaches, and teachers all work together with a person with a cognitive disability to find a job and then keep it, learn and then grow with it. On this tape we will go to eight different places to meet these young people and hear about what happens to them on the job. Some work part-time, some work full-time. They and their families have plans for their careers, and they celebrate when things go well and troubleshoot about what to do next when things aren’t working out.
Jody | I worked upstairs during Christmas vacation, because a couple of ladies were on vacation and they needed somebody upstairs so I worked upstairs for a while. Like two weeks up there. But this is my home so I’d rather stay here.
Hope | I have no expectations of anybody who comes in and works for Echo. I want them to feel like that they are accomplishing something, that they have come, they have worked, they have given 110%. I need for them once they go home that they want to come back, they feel the need to come back and to be a part of this organization.
Narrator | Cory’s mom, Linda Belile, is pleased with Cory’s progress so far.
Linda | I’d just like to see him stay with this job for several years and way down the line, I’d like to see him in a group home with a bunch of friends, buddies.
Cory | I refuse. It costs too much.
Linda | He’s part-time now, from 9-2. But I’d like to see him work until 5:00. I think he could handle it.
Cory | Too much hours. My God! Where’s your– It’s too much.
Interviewer | What about the fact that the rest of the world does that?
Cory | Well I think they’ve done it for so long that they know what to do and I don’t. So . . .
Interviewer | Yeah, but more hours is more money, right?
Cory | Right. But I like the 9-2 better. It is much faster and much quicker that I see.
Narrator | Whatever happens to Cory, he’s made a start into the professional world of work.
Hope | Every one of my employees have a resume. If they didn’t come in with a resume, they have one now, and I’ve sat down and worked with each individual and we’ve come up with a resume. Job description, job preference, and what their capabilities are.
[Music of "La Bamba"]
Narrator | Sitting in Joe’s rec room is a little like watching a collector. He moves about with pride and ease, happily showing a visitor his VCR, piles of movies, and tapes.
Joe | Do you know rock and roll? (Interviewer: Yeah I know rock and roll.) La la la bamba?
Narrator | As he strolls over to turn off the CD, Joe stops to look out into his yard at his pear tree, the tree he loves to make preserves from with his mom. At 20, Joe’s big, almost six feet, and strong. And today he’s eager to please and talk about his part-time job at a drug store.
Joe | I work at CVS. Wash window, tear box.
Interviewer | And do you like the work?
Joe | Yes. They are good. Work make money, put it in my bank account. Do you put money in your bank account?
Interviewer | Yeah! And have you bought anything special with the money?
Joe | Bought CD player. (Interviewer: You bought a cd player.) Yeah.
Narrator | Joe’s been washing windows and cleaning at CVS 2 hours every Wednesday night, and he keeps the key he uses to cut and tear up boxes around his neck on a string. He’s been working for CVS part time for over a year.
Rex (Joe’s boss) | Joe was actually working here when I came to the store. I had never worked with a handicapped person, and I have to say it’s been quite an experience working with Joe. I’ve progressed probably as much as he has.
Narrator | Joe’s current boss, Rex Olson, became the manager several months after Joe was hired. And he’s very frank about the problems he first had with Joe when he took over.
Rex | He washed windows, he washed the windows to the beer coolers, the windows to the doors, and he vacuumed. And frankly he didn’t do a very good job. We had to go back over his work each time he left, we had to re-vacuum, and then we had to clean all of the windows again.
Narrator | Uneasy about how to deal with a person with multiple disabilities like Joe’s, Olson says he was frustrated. He kept repeating directions, trying to explain to Joe what he should be doing, and still sometimes it just wasn’t getting done.
Rex | Occasionally I could see that what I was saying wasn’t really sinking with Joe.
Narrator | But Olson says things began to change for the better after Joe’s parents hired a job coach to come to work with Joe and oversee his performance with a “tough love” approach.
Rex | Or at least that’s what I call it. I don’t know your term. But I could see that they pushed Joe more than I did to go back and re-work. Once he thought he was finished, they would say “No. It isn’t a good job. You go back, and I want you to do it again.” And mainly I think that was because they had time to spend with him so that they could make sure his job was complete, whereas I had too many things to do to be able to spend with Joe when he was here for his two hours.
Narrator | Things at CVS seem to be going along for Joe right now, but he hasn’t been so lucky at his other part time job where until recently he put away carts at a grocery store:
Joe | My work fire me. Fire.
Interviewer | Why did they fire you, Joe?
Joe | I don’t know. I need a cart. Move back around, I need that.
Interviewer | So you needed a cart, and it was hard for you to give it to someone else, right?
Joe | Yes. I say, I need that, this my job. My boss don’t know that.
Interviewer | And a lady wanted the cart and you couldn’t give it to her?
Joe | No.
Interviewer | How did you feel when you got fired?
Joe | I felt very angry.
Narrator | Joe has been able to refrain from carrying over the anger he feels about what happened in the grocery store into his CVS job. But, it’s still been pretty hard. Right now he has a job coach with him the whole time he’s at work at CVS. The coach is helping him articulate his needs.
Sometimes Joe gets tired or hot, and the coach is teaching him how to recognize when to ask to take a break. Jeff Freedman is one of Joe’s job coaches. He’s concerned that Joe isn’t as motivated as he could be.
Jeff (Joe’s job coach) | One of the things Joe loses at CVS is gratification, making a different in some respect. I think something like an animal hospital where at least he could get the trade-off of going to play with a dog or cat or knowing that this animal is a little more comfortable because he cleaned out its cage right, would probably make some differences.
Narrator | Joe’s boss at CVS is also aware that Joe needs something more.
Rex (Joe’s boss) | There are times when I sit around and think, “Well, what can I have Joe do?” And I’ll be frank. It’s hard to think of what he can do. Someone suggested, well we can have Joe take out the trash outside. No, I don’t think that’s a good idea. There are too many cars driving by and big trucks outside, and I would not want to be responsible for him getting hurt. Yeah, I’m always thinking of new things. It’s new to me. He’s my first experience with the handicapped, and so I can’t say that I’m. . . I don’t know that . . . Oh, what am I trying to say? Joe’s a learning a experience for me. Okay? And he continues to be.
Narrator | Joe’s parents are on the lookout for other opportunities for Joe. They say each time he tries something new, they learn more about how to help him and where he might find a job he can do well and enjoy.
Carolyn (employment counselor) | When you’re talking about a person with a disability in a job, you need to consider a job match.
Narrator | That’s Carolyn Ebler, an employment counselor in the Fairfax County Schools.
Carolyn | I meet a student, we talk, we think about what that student might be interested in doing, we think about the kinds of things the student likes to do, and we begin to develop a plan to make a job match.
Narrator | Part of that plan, says Ebler, is teaching a student to look at his or her weaknesses as potential strengths on certain jobs.
Carolyn | This is very difficult, because often it’s something that’s very concrete like reading. “I don’t read very well” or “I don’t have the math skills that I know I should have,” or “I can’t sit still for more than 5 minutes.” My hope is that we’re applying for a job where the young person is not going to be required to sit still for more than 5 minutes, and possibly it is a stock job or a courtesy position where they can be moving around and the student might say, “Well, one of my weaknesses is that I can’t still for 5 minutes, and that’s why I feel like I would be quite good at this job because I’m going to be helping customers put their groceries in the car and I will have an opportunity to move around quite a bit so that is why I’m applying for this positions because I can move around and I need to do that.” So part of it is making that job match with the strengths and weaknesses.
Narrator | Ebler also looks for the more intangible assets each student has. When she helped Rob Boyer find a job, she zeroed in on this skill.
Carolyn | One of his strengths is that he has an incredible memory.
Narrator | But Rob, who has autism, also has some big weaknesses.
Carolyn | This is a student who’s pretty severely disabled. He can communicate but communicates often in echolalic speech. He’s very positive and very friendly but in some settings almost too friendly, and in other settings will ignore people completely.
Narrator | Ebler needed a place where Rob could always be on the go doing something, work pretty much alone at his own pace, and use his phenomenal powers of recall. And she found it.
Sandra (Rob’s boss) | My name’s Sandra Wilson, and I’m assistant manager of Blockbuster video in Chantilly. Every time I come in to work like on a Monday or Tuesday night when we have a lot of returns, I keep saying, “Please let Rob work! Please let Rob work!” Because he is great. He is so smart, he knows where all the movies are, he can put movies away in like seconds, like faster than anybody I’ve ever seen, he never gripes, he never complains, he’s always on time, he never wants to take off so he can go swimming, he never wants to take off so he can go to the movies, he never takes off so he can go on vacation. He’s always here on time. He’s just a great worker. Just great.
Narrator | Rob has been working for Blockbuster three evenings a week for almost 3 years. In fact, there is only one employee who’s been there longer than he has. Rob shelves almost 400 movies a night.
Rob | These are the categories of movies: Art, Adventure, Comedies, Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi, Westerns, Drama Classics, Kids, Family, Family Disney.
Narrator | Rob’s dad, Robert Boyer, says that Rob loves his job, and doesn’t want to stay home from work.
Robert (Rob’s father) | And if you ever interrupt Rob’s schedule, it’s about an hour-long ordeal to explain to him why he doesn’t have to go to work. And if he doesn’t go to work, which is equally surprising, Blockbuster calls and wants to know where he is. They’ve come to count on him, and Rob has certainly grown to count on them.
Narrator | But there have been other times when Blockbuster has called the Boyer’s home. Rob’s dad remembers very well one evening when things went wrong at work.
Robert (Rob’s father) | Because he’s so structured, he takes his break at 6:00. When he takes his break, he listens to a tape. One day he went for his break, and there was no tape. You would have thought it was the end of the world. Rob simply could not understand why there was not video, and he got quite upset. And so the manager called me and said, “Rob wants his video, and it‘s not here. I’m sorry. I’m not sure I know how to . . .” and I said “No problem. I’ll come get him.” So I came and got him, and he was upset and he was acting inappropriately and yelling “Where’s the tape? No, no, I have to have the tape.” So I just took him home. I said, “If we’re going to act inappropriately, we can’t work.” And I took him home. And he was shattered that he couldn’t stay at work. Since that incident, there hasn’t been any more, because Rob will do whatever he has to do in order to continue to work because he loves working at Blockbuster.
Narrator | Job counselor Carolyn Ebler recommends that both the school job counselor and the parents introduce themselves to the student’s employer when the student starts work. They need to make it clear that they are there and willing to listen and help if and when the need should arise.
Carolyn (employment specialist) | Especially with students with more severe disabilities, having those supports, having a manager know that family is willing to come in if there’s a problem, having the manager know that the school system is ready to come in if there’s a problem, really relieves a lot of pressure from that manager and just knowing that there are the supports helps an employer a great deal.
Narrator | Rob’s mother has brought literature on autism to Rob’s boss, Sandra Wilson. In fact Wilson asked Julie Boyer for it. And they’ve talked about the ways in Rob processes information and requests. Wilson has been receptive and interested.
Sandra (Rob’s boss) | I think from what I’ve seen Rob has trouble with reasoning. Like when people come up and they ask him a question, he’s confused and doesn’t know what to say. I wouldn’t feel as easy if I didn’t have his mother to contact or have somebody else to contact. Because like I said, there’s a lot about his disorder that I don’t understand. And I really need to learn about it if I have to work with him, or it’s not that I have to work but I like to work with him. It makes my job easier, and I feel like I can be more of a help to Rob if I understand what can happen, what might happen. I know now that Rob doesn’t like change at all. If you ask him to clean the shelves, Rob is cleaning the shelves. Don’t stop him in the middles of cleaning the shelves and ask him to run the tapes, because he really doesn’t like to do it.
Rob | Clean drama. Clean Disney favorites. Clean Kids. Clean Disney. I put up the movies away, new releases, comedies, drama, adventure. I took a break at 6:30. I come home at 9:30. I go to work at 4:30. (Interviewer: And do you know how many movies you put away a day? Do you have any idea how many?) Sixteen.
Narrator | Because Rob shelves hundreds of movies a night, this Blockbuster runs a little bit smoother. From a business standpoint, Rob’s disabilities are not a big hindrance. In fact, Rob has received a raise. But if Rob’s parents hadn’t found a balance, a sense of when to intervene and offer help and when to let go, things wouldn’t be working so well.
Julie (Rob’s mom) | Carolyn Ebler came to me and said, “Julie, you’ve got to stop looking at what happens to Rob as a mother. You’ve got to back off, because if he were a normal 20 year old, you wouldn’t be going into the store and saying, “Nobody said goodbye to Rob when he left tonight.” She said, “You’ve got to back off and let us handle these things.” I had to adjust and sort of let him go and make his own way and try to remember that, indeed, if he were normal, I wouldn’t be, well, I wouldn’t be taking him to work because he was 20 years old, but I also wouldn’t be watching to make sure everybody treated him like I thought he should be treated.
Narrator | Rob’s parents have decided that Rob’s job at Blockbuster will probably be one step to an ultimate goal.
Robert (Rob’s father) | I think Rob is one of the few children in the world who knows the Dewey decimal system in the library. Alphabetizing and filing and his absolutely tremendous memory. He is autistic like in that if I were to ask him what day of the week was February 5, 1979, he could tell me. Now I know that we haven’t quite figured out where to use that skill yet, but there’s got to be a place, you know, because he does have a fantastic memory if he was involved in that particular process. The other potential to take those same skills is to put him into some kind of ADP information technology forum. Rob likes the computer. He likes to type on the computer. He likes data because he can see it, and it is very structured. So I think the next development for Rob now that he is interfacing and working in the general population kind of thing is possibly in some kind of ADP arena.
Narrator | The potential for Rob in ADP, or automatic data processing, has lead his parents and school to the Mitre Corporation, a computer firm. In addition to his job at Blockbuster, Rob is working there part time during the school year. He’s filing and learning how to do data entry.
Robert (Rob’s father) | I think parents need to be optimistic with regard to what their kids can contribute to the business environment. And there is such a demand for good workers, that you can take a child who has a disability who is willing to work, and his willingness to work in the long run will outweigh the disability to the employer when you find the right employer. So I think you need to be optimistic with regard to that. I know we are.
Narrator | But while they are dedicated to preparing Rob for some sort of job in the computer field, Rob’s parents feel strongly that Rob should be wanted where he works, and they’re willing to help Rob find another job if his employer doesn’t have a good attitude.
Julie (Rob’s mother) | There are too many other places. There’s too many other opportunities where he could be successful and people would want him, and he would be happy. H’s not going to be happy if people are going to begrudgingly give him a job.
Narrator | Rob Boyer is lucky. He has innovative, persistent, and loving parents, parents who are willing to hear what others are saying about their son, evaluate it fairly on its merits, and act. And he’s got a boss who seems to be genuinely concerned, even fond of him. And his boss believes he is good for business.
Sandra (Rob’s boss) | I believe Rob is good for business because we have customers and sometimes Rob will be talking to himself and they’ll look at him, you know, and one of the kids will say, well, he has a problem, he has what his disease is, and they tell him and they’re like “Oh well Blockbuster is great for hiring people like that.” And I just turn around and look at them and say, “What do you mean? He can outwork any of the kids in the store.” And their eyes get really big and they look at me like I’m crazy. They really do, but it’s the truth. That boy can run circles around 4 of them in that store. Either he has more energy or the rest of them are really lazy. But that boy can run circles around them. He really can. Cause when we have bad video nights, I really am grateful that he’s here. Because it would take me 4 hours to do what he does in 15 minutes. Cause Rob just has built-up energy in him, like I can’t explain. I wish I could bottle it and keep some of it.
Narrator | But what do you do if you don’t live near a large computer firm, or there isn’t a big government agency like the United States Geological Survey nearby? To find out, please fast-forward this tape to the end of this side and start listening again on Side Two.
But what do you do if you don’t live near a large computer firm like the Mitre Corporation, or there isn’t a big government agency like the United States Geological Survey nearby?
Cary Griffin (rural employment specialist) | We’ve worked with a lot of people who were considered unemployable who work.
Narrator | Cary Griffin heads up the Rural Employment Center at Montana University in Missoula, an organization that specializes in finding people with disabilities jobs in rural areas. He says that every parent, no matter how remote their home, already has a written record of where to start looking for a job for their son or daughter.
Cary | Pull out your checkbook, and I want you to count up the last twenty checks you wrote, and you tell me how many of them were for manufacturing, for buying a product, and how many of them were for service-related. And almost all of them were for service related stuff, because that is the stuff we buy. That’s where the market is.
Narrator | Often when Griffin and his staff help someone find a job, they start by going downtown and hitting the streets with a pad and pencil in hand.
Cary | We had people go out and walk around a four-square block area and write down everything that people could possibly do in that four-square block area that needs to be done. And we came up with all these little city things: painting the curbs, painting the fire hydrants, mowing grass, all of these things, and then we went to public works and we created a job that afternoon for a guy who wanted to do those kinds of things. It is only a couple of hours a day, but it is twelve months out of the year, and it was a first job. This is somebody who had multiple disabilities, who’d been institutionalized most of their life, who people thought could never work, but kept saying “I want to work and I’d especially like a government job.”
Narrator | Basically Cary Griffin has one message: You are not out of luck because you don’t live in a big city. In fact, being in a small community or a rural area may actually work in your favor, because often there is more of a sense of old-fashioned community there and people know each other. Griffin advises parents and teachers to work the system. This includes talking to people about disability issues and putting the young adult who’s looking for a job out in the public eye.
[American Indian music]
Narrator | That’s what Martin’s mother Marilyn Johnson did. She lives in one of the most remote areas of the United States, on an Indian reservation in New Mexico in Acama pueblo.
Marilyn (Martin’s mother) | I think that if Martin truly decided to choose what he wanted to do, I think he would choose to be a cowboy. Martin’s preference of how he wants to dress is in Levi’s, cowboy boots. That’s, I guess his persona. That is how he defines himself.
Narrator | The reservation Martin lives on spreads out over 400 square miles over desert grasslands, 65 miles west of Albuquerque. The Acama tribe numbers barely 2600. Here the unemployment rate for the general population is 34%. On first glance it might seem to be a dismal spot to find a job for anybody, let alone a young person with a severe disability.
Marilyn (Martin’s mother) | Martin has Down’s Syndrome. He has limited language. We tried for years to get him to learn how to write, but by the time he finished high school we were at the same point. So you begin to focus on other aspects such as work development skills and so forth.
Narrator | As she looked at what Martin does, well, he likes to clean up around the house. Martin’s mother also noticed that he was paying attention to her daily routines and using her schedule as the definition of when one does activities called “chores” and when one performs tasks called “work.”
Marilyn | I think work to him means that you go outside of the home, and it’s with a situation in the community.
Narrator | So Martin’s mother set about trying to find a job for her son outside the sheltered workshop setting he had tried in high school. Realizing that Martin had been cut off from people because he had been busy with school and other things, she began to take him along when she went places.
Marilyn | In my own way I needed for the community to be reacquainted with Martin, and that’s the way we were doing that. It came to the point, for example, that he knew the lieutenant governor quite well for the tribe, and whenever we would stop off at the tribal office, he would peek into the lieutenant governor’s office. His first name was Brian. Martin’s name for him was Bri, and he would greet him, and the people there shook hands with Martin. He responded appropriately. So, in our own way that, to me, was important to keep Martin within that realm of social interaction.
Narrator | And Marilyn Johnson thought of other ways to provide opportunities for her son. When she found out that the tribal planner was going to be sending out a large batch of newsletters, she suggested that Martin could help.
Marilyn | So at one point when I was there talking with her we had Martin labeling the newsletters for her.
Cary (rural employment specialist) | Do real stuff in real environments. It’s the one thing we know that works.
Narrator | Job specialist Cary Griffin.
Cary | Whether it’s church, whether it’s Kiwanis, whether it’s Rotary, whether it’s the chamber of commerce, there are affiliations that we have that are common in most communities. Get kids memberships in local health clubs where the rest of us go, so that they are around other people who are employers, who are friends and neighbors.
Narrator | Martin and his mother’s excursions eventually led them to a very logical job choice–the state police department. Now he cleans the station several times a week, sweeping up, just a he does at home, doing a job for a group of people he often sees around town. And he’s worked there for over a year.
Marilyn (Martin’s mother) | He feels like he is making a positive contribution to keeping the place clean.
Narrator | Finding that balance between the kid’s interests and the needs of the community is exactly what Carty Griffin recommends. Look at each place on your list as a business that hires people and then ask this question:
Cary | What makes it hard for you to be in business? Well yeah and if you had more of it, could you do more in business?
Narrator | Griffin asked that question to a rancher he was hoping would hire a big strong teen he was helping who had cognitive disabilities, and the rancher answered:
Cary | ”You know, I always need a good ranch hand, because they don’t stay very long and I need stud animals. And if I had stud animals, man, I could sell that out for stud fees and that’s a great thing.”
Narrator | Griffin already knew he had a young person who had some ranch hand experience, and he offered to help train him on the job with the rancher. But then he threw out the carrot: Using of the teen’s SSI money and donations from the community, he asked the rancher if the fact that the young man could also bring along some stud animals might sweeten the deal.
Cary | What do you think? Oh sure. We’d love to do that. Let’s draw up the papers for a limited partnership.
Narrator | Cary Griffin’s plan for this teen with disabilities worked because he knew what he was selling—in this case a ranch hand and stud animals to a rancher needed both. In other words, like any good sales person, know your product and your consumer.
That’s Roz Slovik’s job. She’s an employment specialist for people with disabilities at the University of Oregon. Slovik’s an expert at what she calls “person-centered planning”—the zeroing in on what people already do well even before they get a job.
Roz | Imagine if you were sitting in a room and you had just a couple of other people helping you think about what you are good at. And you say “the sky’s the limit.”
Narrator | What you’d probably think of are a whole lot of good memories—of time when you’d pleased someone with a batch of really good cookies, fixed a bike well, or helped change the oil in Uncle Earl’s car, or something like that. Well, Roz Slovik took this idea of wondering what your friends and relatives would say that’s good about you and actually set up a meeting to make it happen.
Roz | The beauty of person-centered planning is that the student and his family determine who they want to participate. It is very different from a formal planning meeting, it’s very different from an IEP meeting, and yet it should help to drive the IEP meeting and in fact the voc rehab planning, the IWRP.
Narrator | Slovik remembers a person-centered planning meeting she facilitated for a 17 year old boy names Nick, who had mental retardation. He wasn’t very successful in school, but he did do a great job every morning at 5:00am. That’s when he helped out the school janitor Steve. And when it came time for Nick to invite people to his person-centered planning meeting, he asked his parents, a couple of friends, and Steve to come.
Roz | Steve had a whole lot of information about Nick, about what he did well. That he could drive the equipment that they used to clean the school building, that he was able to fix some of the things in the school building. We used this information then to say, “What are the kinds of jobs that people who do these things well, what are the kinds of jobs that they might pursue?”
Narrator | Slovik doesn’t stop there. Once the student’s strengths and interests have been identified, she often suggests that the student go on past high school to get some specialized training.
Roz | We’re looking at community college programs who award them many certificates for completion of portions of courses. Some kids that I know, some students with disabilities, are now taking as a one-day course at a community college to learn how to drive these small forklifts. Small little trucks that you drive around in a big grocery store, for example. So they spend a day doing that, they have somebody who goes with them to teach them how to do that. It’s like a food-handler’s license, only this is a forklift driver’s license. They can get better jobs doing that.
Jim (Christian’s father) | When he went to technical college for cooking… Christian has very low reading skills so at first they didn’t think they could accept him.
Narrator | Meet Jim Schoeller, whose son Christian has mental retardation and epilepsy. He says Christian was able to take college cooking courses with the help of his fellow students who volunteered to read for him and with the help of his teachers who compensated in other ways.
Jim (Christian’s father) | The chefs themselves would take special time to demonstrate rather than have him read certain assignments. And then he would have examinations where they’d read the questions to him, and he’d answer verbally, and he did very well. He passed like any other student and got his two-year certificate in food prep and then started his job search.
Christian | My name is Christian Schoeller. I am 24 years old. I work at Lido’s restaurant. Been there for 3 ½ years.
Narrator | Christian is a thin, serious-looking young man, good-looking and seemingly shy. For years Christian has just loved to cook. Now, after getting his degree, Lido’s restaurant, a nice place with cozy booths and a steady crowd, pays him to work in the kitchen, three days a week, eight hours a day.
Christian | I’m a prep cook assistant there. I do most of the lasagna work there. I get all the stuff ready for the lasagnas as far as just preparing them, dating them, sticking it in the freezer, refrigerator, where it goes.
Narrator | But even though Christian has advanced training for a job he now does well, his employer has set up a system to keep more motivated and on-task. Christian’s dad, Jim Schoeller:
Jim | They put together a program where, if he can achieve certain levels of performance, he’s got an incentive program where he gets a raise, I think it’s 25 cents an hour. I think he’s gotten two or three of those.
Narrator | Having an employer who is willing to creatively address Christian’s job performance and help him improve has been critical to his success. Ignoring a problem because an employee has a disability is a mistake, says Mike Beyer, a manager who has hired several people with mental retardation.
Mike (Kathy’s boss) | If there is a problem with job performance, we’ll approach them the way we would any other employee, except maybe be a little more clear or gentle in explaining it to them. But no, we’ll approach them the way we would any other employee.
Narrator | Beyer believes that employers should not be afraid to try to work with a person with disabilities. But as the head of a car dealership that survives on its profits, he is careful to hire people he thinks can do the job. After all, Beyer says:
Mike | We don’t want to create positions for people, because business is still business. You need to watch personnel expense and stay in business for the 80 families we support.
Narrator | There is a reason why Mike Beyer is as good as he is with people with mental retardation and other disabilities. He’s had personal experience with his sister Kathy.
Mike | Well, part of it growing up with a sister who’s mentally retarded, I mean, to us it was just a normal thing, a natural thing. I thought people with disabilities and handicaps were a part of everyday life. Her IQ is lower that some of the other individuals we’ve had here, so we’ve had to try her at different things. It’s trial by error basically.
Kathy | A petite, trim redhead in her forties, dressed in a stylish woolen pink suit, Kathy Beyer commands her office space with a light hearted manner and what seems to be complete self-assurance. She works full-time and is busy. She has a desk, several filing cabinets, full in and out boxes, and a computer.
Kathy | I’ve worked at Don Beyer Volvo fourteen years, and now I am doing filing, doing inventory, doing clerical work, doing the checking in, doing the paychecks, and answering the telephones. And that’s the jobs I do here at Don Beyer Volvo.
Narrator | Like Christian who went to trade school, Kathy too has received advanced training . . . in her case on the job.
Mike (Kathy’s boss) | Over the years she’s learned many, many different tasks. And do them very well. All sorts of things that we never thought she was capable of doing.
Interviewer | So it looks like you’re using Windows 95 here?
Interviewer: It says Windows95. What are you using here?
Kathy: I just type up the addresses and stuff like that. Like I type my name: Kathy S. I can’t spell Beyer. B-Y-E-R. I can’t spell that. B-E-Y-E-R, Kathy Beyer…
Mike: I think we raise the standard for her every year. When we sit down and do her performance review, we ask her, “What do you want to learn next?”
Kathy: It’s not easy, but we talk about it. Michael comes in and talks to me and says, “How do you like—What do you do?” I say “I like filing, I like working on the computer, and I like doing the checks for the employees on Fridays.
Interviewer: Does he ever say anything bad about how you’re doing?
Narrator: Over the years Kathy’s brother and the other employees who have worked with her at Don Beyer Volvo have taught her new skills when they think she is ready and have taken away a few of the jobs she found too difficult to do.
Mike: We don’t want her to be bored. We want to keep her productive, just for her own sake. She will probably spend her whole career here, and she needs to be challenged.
Narrator: Kathy has been challenged and she has the confidence that shows she feels appreciated and useful. She knows she’s good at what she does. She lives on her own, has lots of activities, and is an active spokesperson for people with disabilities.
Kathy: I belong to People’s First, I belong to the Meet and Mingles, I belong to the Fairfax Chapter, I go bowling with my house mates, and we have fun. And sometimes we go out to the Government Center, and I get to speak in front of the Board of Supervisors.
Narrator: Kathy has strong opinions and she’s not afraid to share them.
Kathy: There are a whole bunch of people who are out in the world who need to get out and get a job. And they need to go out and talk to their job coach and get out and find a job and be just as independent as I am. And that is what those people should do.
Narrator: But nevertheless for people with cognitive disabilities, that opportunity—the right opportunity—never seems to come. That’s the problem that one business has set out to address:
[Bakery sounds: walking sounds, wind chimes.]
Narrator: Opening the front door at the Wild Flour Bread Mill is a fragrant and eye pleasing experience. Ahead on the counters are rows of carrot cakes and lovely looking breads. But before you even get there, you have to pass by the little knick-knacks: dried flower arrangements, a few stuffed animals and note cards with poetry. This one, written by one of the workers, is entitled “Chocolate Cake.”
Chocolate Cake Poem (read by Jean Wood, owner of Wild Flour Bread Mill): There it sits, so bold and grand, like a queen waiting for the court to bow. While I seek to grab this air, and touch the hem that folds underneath. But wait, is that a fork I spy, standing guard, not wanting to allow me past? What invisible spell this lady cast, sliding silently into my heart. Come my darling, your veil forces my smile. You belong to me.
Narrator: It’s enough to make your mouth water and when the workers take a break, they often come to the front of the store to buy something.
The Wild Flour Baker is based on the entrepreneurial model developed out of the University of Oregon, a model that emphasizes the developing of small businesses around the capabilities of the workers. The company employs both people with and without disabilities.
Most of the time everyone is busy in the back in a large cavernous room with the radio cranked up, preparing all that food. We asked them to turn the music down so we could talk on tape.
Interviewer: Hi. Can you tell me your name?
James: Jimmy Reader. James Reader.
Interviewer: And what are you doing, James?
James: Cutting apricots.
Interviewer: That’s a lot of apricots. How are you doing that?
James: With scissors. Very carefully.
Narrator: Jimmy Reader has been working at the Wild Flour Bread Mill for 3 years. He’s a small and pale young man, and he wears very thick glasses. Jimmy’s boss, Jean Wood, says he has cerebral palsy and is nearly blind. He also has mental retardation.
Jean Wood (James’ boss): But you know, he still sits there and grates the carrots and does grating zucchini and he can cut up dried fruit. Came in, he has a tiny bit of vision so he can tunnel vision right in front of him, And now he’s using a sharp knife. We have people here who are blind and deaf, and everybody here has a primary diagnosis of mental retardation. But they have all these other things, too. And the bakery is probably better than any other job that I can think of, because they immediately see people using their products, someone going out in the front of the bakery and buying their apple pies that they cut up the apples for or the carrot cakes that they grated the carrots for. They’re really very proud. I mean, they walk taller. You say, “Come on roll man, it’s time for you to do your job” and this fella who never could hardly walk at all pulls himself up to full height and walks over there and takes the rolls off the shelf. So, the bakery is very exciting that way, because it’s an immediate thing. They see what they’re doing is immediate.
Narrator: Sales are steady and business is increasing. Wood says the Wild Flour Bread Mill is breaking even.
Jean: This is not anything that couldn’t happen anywhere. We got grant money to start the bakery, and it took a little more money because we had to buy equipment. An operation like this could start on a shoestring. It just takes somebody doing it. Everything in here has been donated. All the furniture has been donated. Refrigerator has been donated, everything. We have done nothing to put any money into, except our supplies and that was a couple thousand dollars, so . . .
Narrator: Jean Wood says she got the idea of starting this business while she was working in the public schools.
Jean: We do a fantastic job in the public schools in providing work experience for people in special ed classes. But then when they graduated, there wasn’t anything. There wasn’t anything for these people with more severe disabilities. And they would end up in sheltered workshops or in developmental units where they just strung beads or did things like that. I got so frustrated with this, and that’s how I ended up with Wild Flour and now Windflower.
Narrator: If you didn’t catch that, Wild Flour and Windflower are two separate businesses: The bakery and a craft production shop.
Jean: These are people who need constant support in their life, and the people who can talk, even though we don’t have a lot of people who can even talk at all, will tell you, “This is so much nicer than working in a sheltered workshop. We’re doing stuff that is different.” I mean, they’re doing stuff that they see somebody is going to buy, and they feel important about it.
Interviewer: Do you want to give us a tour?
Jean: Sure. This is our work space here, and every person here has a desk and we bring the work to them or they get it somehow, and the person that sits at this desk right here is a man who is in hi 50s. He’s in a wheelchair, he’s completely deaf, he is blind in one eye, and he is an absolute work-aholic. I mean, if we don’t have work for him, in front of him, all of the time, he starts to pound on the table. He wants more work there. And it is kind of hard to explain to someone who doesn’t hear and can only see out of one eye that we’re trying to find jobs that he can do. One of the things he’s doing now are these note cards. What he does is, we give him the paper and he tears around the edge of the poem, then pastes it on the back, and then we put our logo on the back and he pastes this on the back. Then we go through again, the second step is, he puts a little piece of hand-made paper up here, a mulberry paper in two different colors, and that’s our finished product. So he really has a lot to do with it.
Narrator: Two employees with disabilities, Ruden and Oren, write the poems that are pasted on these note cards. That’s where the chocolate cake poem at the bread mill came from—the craft shop.
Jean: This is ” A Little Voice” by Oren: “I cried one night, when it was all dark outside, when no one heard and my mind played tag with the wind. Inside me is a small little voice that only I can hear, or so I thought. Where are the words that others speak that I so want my mouth to say? Then on my arm a feather fell, and I heard a nearby bird. I lifted up my head, my heart joined his, and I was not afraid.” Now this is a fellow who doesn’t talk at all. Oren’s primary disability is autism and mental retardation. (Interviewer: And how old is he?) Oren is now 21.
And we’ve tried, at the bakery and here, to develop a product line that takes into account what our workers can do. And we have a lot of stuffed animals, because almost anybody can stuff a stuffed animal, whether it’s with polyfill or some kind of scent. We have those little owls over there, tiny little owls filled with balsam, and people have learned how to measure out how much balsam goes in the owl, and then Marie, who comes from the school, will hand sew them up at the bottom, and somebody else ties the little ribbon around it. And all of these products, everybody has some part of. We have bookmarks here made from some of the our poetry, and even if it’s as simple as punching a hole in it, and we’ve punched a whole in the top just to tie a ribbon in it. The hand tags we do. We have hand tags hanging all over everything, because that’s a job for several people. Somebody punches the hole, somebody ties the ribbon in, somebody has to do the next step in it, putting it on the shelf.
Elliott: My name is Elliott Bennam. (Interviewer: And what do you do here, Elliott?) Work stuffing animals.
Narrator: Hunched over his desk in a folding chair, Elliott works intently with his head down. He’s 35 and tall with balding hair and large hands that don’t seem to do things easily.
Jean (Elliott’s boss): Are you a good worker?
Jean: Why are you a good worker?
Elliott: Want to make money. Want to save money to go on a trip.
Interviewer: Where do you want to go, Elliott?
Elliott: I want to go to Virginia Beach and Yonkers. And next year I’m going to New York!
Interviewer: What do you have to do to be a good worker?
Elliott: Work. Take a little time and don’t make mistakes.
Narrator: Like all employees here, Elliott has had to learn proper office decorum.
Elliottt: When you work for other people, you have to ask something when you ask for more work!
Jean: When you need some more work, you ask for it. Right? Is that what you’re saying?
Elliott: Yes! Yes!
Jean: Could you stop swinging your head and say that into the microphone?
Elliott: It is to say that I have to ask for more work. When you ask something for more work. If you run out of more work, you have to ask. That’s what I mean. (Counting)
Jean: Elliott has a rain man kind of number sense. This is a great story, I have to tell you this one, too. When Elliott first came here, we didn’t know what he could do. We didn’t know what anybody could do. So we gave him some raffi and said, “Now could you cut this in half?” So he’s cutting this raffi and he’s counting it. Now we didn’t ask him to count it, but this is just his number sense. And he’s counting “two, four” and I could hear him saying this to himself, “Cut six, eight.” And then somebody said, “Elliott, sing a song.” So Elliott sang a song, and then while he’s singing this song, 3 or 4 verses or whatever it was, he’s cutting all the while. He finishes the song, and he goes, “36, 38.” Then he sings some more, 3 or 4 more songs. He finishes that batch and he goes “78, 80, 82.” Incredible. I mean, we have some great, great people here.
Narrator: The point is that Elliott finishes cutting and counting his batch of raffi and then keeps working. He may add a little vocal color when he does it, but he gets the job done. Every employee, says manager Jean Wood, must pull his or her own weight. Both those without disabilities and those disabilities do, usually unaided.
Jean: Well, you know it is just like any other job. They feel really important, and this is the basis of what’s important on the job is you feel needed, you feel respected, you feel like whatever you’re doing is important to somebody else.
Narrator: And Wood says that importance has been recognized and supported by the local community. Donations have continued, neighbors volunteer to come in and help bake cookies with the workers, and Wild Flour Bread Mill and Windflower Craft Shop are finding a niche.
Jean: People want to support the bakery, because we’re giving jobs and it’s not just a handout. They’re earning their way there.
Narrator: Wild Flour sends its workers with disabilities out on the pastry truck that makes deliveries four days a week to offices and Jimmy Reader proudly enjoys the chance to show off the products.
James: I say, ” I’m from the Wild Flour Bread Mill. Do you want baked goods?” (Jean: Do you want some baked goods?) Yeah. (Jean: And then what do they say?) They say yes or no.
Jean: Remember that time when you first started going out and you told people that we even do your tax returns if you buy bread?
Narrator: What do you say now to make people want the bread?
James: I say I’m a very innovative guy.
Jean: It’s been very worthwhile doing this project. I don’t want to stop with these two businesses. I want to go on to do something else after this. I see the difference it makes in these people who come here.
Narrator: But while she’s dreaming and planning her future expansions, Jean Wood also has a more immediate goal: To cook something she and the employees at Wild Flour made last year.
Jean: We made the world’s largest brownie. And all of our workers went and presented this brownie and they had some national celebrity kind of people there too. Why, people just about jumped out of their skin! They were so excited to be a part of this and up there and in front of everybody and everybody taking their picture and because they were important and they had made this great big, thirty-foot long brownie. And we’re going to do it again this year and make it bigger!
Narrator: After hearing these stories, Cory at the enclave at USGS, Joe at CVS, Rob at Blockbuster and the Mitre Corporation, Martin at the police station near Acama Pueblo, Christian at Lido’s Restaurant, Kathy at the car dealership, and Jimmy, Elliott and the others at the Wild Flour Bread Mill and Windflower Craft Shop, we’d like to leave you with one final thought:
It was suggested by Roz Slovik of Oregon, not in a Pollyanna way, but with serious intent. Perhaps it’s a place to start, or a way to look at something differently, or an exercise that may help to get conversations going.
Roz: One of the things that is so important to emphasize is providing opportunities for people to dream, kids and families, and to build on their dreams. No to shatter dreams. What is it that you want? What is it that you want for your son or daughter? And let’s think about some ways we can help you to get there. I think it is important to prioritize dreams and to talk to about those things that are non-negotiable, perhaps. Let’s talk about what you’re good at. Let’s talk about the kinds of things that work for you. Let’s develop some action plans, some strategies to build on your dreams. But start off by saying, “What’s your dream?” I don’t think that’s a question that is very often asked.
This tape was made by NICHCY, the National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities, with funding from the Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education. So is the booklet that goes along with this tape. NICHCY is located in Washington, D.C. The toll-free number to reach NICHCY is 1-800-695-0285.
You can also write to NICHCY at: NICHCY (spelled N-I-C-H-C-Y), 1825 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 700, Washington, D.C. 20009.
If you didn’t get all that, you’ll find both the telephone number and the address of NICHCY printed on the booklet that comes with this tape.
NICHCY would like to recognize the people who were involved in producing this audio tape. First, we thank our Project Officer, Dr. Peggy Cvach, at the Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education, for her commitment to the Clearinghouse.
Alyne Ellis wrote, narrated, and produced this audio tape. Our editors were Sara Escowitz and Lisa Küpper. Studio engineering by Preston Brown. Thank you to Canyon Records, Warner’s Special Products, Inc., Blockbuster Video and composer Tom Lofgren for use of their music.
It is Suzanne Ripley, Director of NICHCY, whose vision made this tape possible.
We send out special thanks and appreciation to the many people whose experiences and insights are heard on this tape. We enjoyed talking to each of you and wish you the very best of luck in the future.
Production of this audiotape and its accompanying booklet is made possible through the Cooperative Agreement #H030A300003 between the Academy for Educational Development and the Office of Special Education Programs of the U.S. Department of Education. The contents of this document do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention of trade, names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.
We encourage you to copy and share these materials, but please credit the National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities–NICHCY.
(Note: If you are interested in reading the booklets that accompany this audio program, access the text online: A Student’s Guide to Jobs or Technical Assistance Guide to Helping Students with Cognitive Disabilities Find and Keep Jobs.)
[The text of the student booklet is then read on this audiotape.]