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June, 2019

Chris: An Inclusive Employment Success Story

2019-06-20

As a child, Chris Sayer was a familiar face around Burnaby Mountain Golf Course. His family took him there regularly to practice on the driving range, feed the ducks and have snacks in the kitchen. Little did they know those experiences would lead directly to his first job.

"Chris got to be well known there and he always was interested in helping out with the servers and in the kitchen," says his mom Shawn. "We always spent Mother’s Day at the breakfast buffet and the manager asked if Chris would like to run omelet orders and clear tables. That is how his employment began."

That was ten years ago, and Chris remains an important part of the kitchen crew today. "I clean dishes – loading the dish machine and scrubbing pots," he explains proudly. "Sometimes I assist the chef with other tasks."

Chris’ parents took a hands-on role early on to help Chris successfully transition into the work environment. "Glen (Chris’ father) worked in the hotel and restaurant industry and was familiar with kitchen dish machines," says Shawn. "He agreed to go to work with Chris, where he demonstrated what was expected and how to be safe. Later, he stayed close by so if Chris had a problem or the staff needed assistance communicating with Chris, he was there." Eventually, everyone was comfortable, and Glen was able to step back and allow Chris to work fully independently. It really helped that Chris’ new co-workers and managers were understanding, friendly and willing to take the time to explain things to him.

It’s those people who make the golf course Chris’ favourite place to work. "When it is really busy and the dishes pile up, it’s hard work. I get exhausted," confesses Chris. "But I love working with all the people in the kitchen, and the customers who know me."

A few years into his job, the City of Burnaby took over food services from the independent operator who ran it previously, and Chris had to reapply and go through a job interview. Glen was present throughout the interview process, but Chris answered all the questions appropriately on his own.

Chris is a highly motivated worker who actively thinks about ways to be an encouragement to his colleagues. That fits in with his future goals, which include doing more prep work in the kitchen and helping the chefs more directly.

According to Shawn, having a job has given Chris a routine, independence, purpose and responsibility. It also gives him extra spending money to enable him to save up to purchase items that are important to him.

That success starts at home. "We really feel that getting involved as parents along with your child, and spending time volunteering with them, helps to build relationships that can lead to career opportunities," says Shawn. "Find out what your child is passionate about. Get familiar with the location and the people working there. Spend time with the people in that environment and get to know them."

And when it comes time to apply for the job, Chris says it’s important to remember the basics: "Always be on time, dress appropriately and work hard."

For Chris, those things are just par for the course.

The Inclusive Employment Success Story series is co-presented by the Down Syndrome Resource Foundation and Canadian Down Syndrome Society. Check the DSRF blog and CDSS website from June 10-20, 2019 for additional stories.

Danielle: An Inclusive Employment Success Story

2019-06-18

Danielle Juilfs is one exceptionally busy young lady.

When she’s not serving as an ambassador for the Down Syndrome Resource Foundation, working at DSRF’s front desk, or winning medals in multiple Special Olympics sports, she can often be found walking the aisles of Loblaw City Market – her workplace of four-and-a-half years.

After completing school, Danielle enrolled in an employment preparation program at Capilano University. There, she received training in general work skills, resume writing and job expectations, and engaged in temporary placements to gain experience. Meanwhile, her father Jim was taking her to his office regularly, where Danielle worked with office staff to complete basic clerical duties. She also learned and practiced various bus routes in order to become comfortable traveling independently.

When she was ready to take on the working world, Danielle connected with posAbilities, an employment service agency that assists with placements for those with special needs. posAbilities provided additional training, as well as assistance with interviews and job searches.

Jim is quick to recommend such services to families preparing to transition their adult children to the workplace. "Begin the process early and take advantage of the services offered for work experience and job training. Expose your child to many different experiences for work and in life in general to prepare them to handle challenges and change. Keep in mind, it’s important to enjoy the work as well as being capable of performing the duties."

Indeed, Danielle enjoys her position at City Market, which she landed quite quickly after beginning her job hunt. In her current role she stocks and organizes shelves, ensures products are facing outwards, and checks the expiry dates of products.

Danielle is thriving in her role, with the only significant hurdle being her small stature. "Some items are heavy to lift," she admits. "It’s hard to reach some items on higher shelves."

Fortunately, her colleagues are quick to lend a hand when necessary. "There was been some job coaching at the start, but the store staff have taken her on quite willingly and provided the training and supervision she needed," says Jim.

Danielle’s friendly personality is perfectly suited for a job with lots of social interaction. "I love working with my colleagues and meeting people in the store," she says.

"She is very social and enjoys working with others," affirms Jim. "She has really blossomed as an individual. She takes pride in her job, being involved in the community and having responsibilities."

Looking to the future, Danielle aspires to work in other departments of the store. "Especially the bakery," she emphasizes.

As busy as it is juggling Danielle’s full schedule, "it is nice knowing she is being active and engaged in something productive," says Jim. "She is becoming more independent, which is critical as she moves forward for when we are no longer able to provide help."

Danielle certainly sees the value in it. "The job has made me more responsible, follow a routine and be on time. I take pride in having a job. I feel honoured to have a chance to work."

The Inclusive Employment Success Story series is co-presented by the Down Syndrome Resource Foundation and Canadian Down Syndrome Society. Check the DSRF blog and CDSS website from June 10-20, 2019 for additional stories.

Tiffany: An Inclusive Employment Success Story

2019-06-12

From an early age, Tiffany King began developing a strong work ethic. By assigning her duties around their home and hobby farm, Tiffany’s parents Toni-Anne and Lance started her on the road to productive employment – a road that eventually led to her current position as a busser at the Willowbrook Mall Food Court.

“Diligently working with Tiffany from an early age to ensure she gained the ability to be a productive citizen was one of our main goals,” says Toni-Anne. “Due to the fact we had a home-based business, we were able to offer Tiffany the opportunity to help out and continue to learn work skills. We were also able to ensure a parent was always home to offer guidance.”

As she approached adulthood, Tiffany participated in high school work programs and a variety of volunteer opportunities at diverse venues including a preschool, a children’s daycare, a seniors rest home and a café. Building upon these experiences and others, Tiffany later enrolled in a work program that secured a job at Milestones Restaurant where she worked in the kitchen pre-packaging food for the cooks for over 10 years.

Of course, employability entails more than just job skills. “We also enrolled her in organizations and programs that promote self-esteem, organization and social interaction,” Toni-Anne emphasizes. One such program was a 6-week acting intensive with a theatrical company offered through the Down Syndrome Resource Foundation, after which Tiffany was invited to join the acting company. This led to an exciting acting career that has given her the opportunity to travel to Toronto, Ottawa and Hong Kong.

A year and a half ago, Tiffany began her current position at the mall, which she obtained through a work program. Like every job, it has its ups and its downs. “I enjoy clearing tables and trays,” says Tiffany, “but I don’t like it when customers are rude.”

The latter is thankfully rare, but there have unfortunately been a couple instances when a patron has ridiculed or bullied Tiffany for her perceived ‘difference’ or ‘inability.’ She is not afraid to stand up for herself.

“It’s impactful because it’s a reminder that she is different and special and that not everyone understands that,” says Toni-Anne. “But she speaks openly and honestly about how it makes her feel. At this point in her life, it seems to affect us worse than it affects her. We are proud of the self-confidence she has developed.”

Transportation has been proved challenging at times. The family has found that the local HandiDart disability transportation service works best for them, but they still have to stay on top of it. “Tif loves the independence,” says Toni-Anne, “but we try very hard to have someone at home to be sure HandiDart shows up when they are scheduled.”

Communication is another area that has required some work, to ensure that Tiffany understands her work schedule and that it fits with the family’s plans. “We keep a very open dialogue with her employer to ensure we are aware of any issues that have occurred during her shift, so we can help her understand the issue and move forward positively. This has created stability both at work and at home. As soon as an issue comes up, we try to deal with it before it disrupts her structured life.”

The results have been very positive. “I enjoy what I do,” says Tiffany. “I enjoy being with people; I’m proud to wear a uniform and to do work.”

There’s no questioning the value that employment contributes to Tiffany’s well-being. “Working has given Tiffany a life, a reason to get up in the morning, a sense of usefulness, an opportunity to be active and much more accepted in the community. Tiffany is so proud when someone comes up to her and either thanks her for a job well done.”

Tiffany’s success is proof positive of her family’s steadfast belief that Down syndrome does not need to be a limitation. “Instil the belief in your child living with Down syndrome that they are able to contribute and be productive in their own way,” says Toni-Anne. “And then, as a parent, encourage and support their growth wherever possible. Watching Tiffany become a productive adult has been a complete family effort.”

The Inclusive Employment Success Story series is co-presented by the Down Syndrome Resource Foundation and Canadian Down Syndrome Society. Check the DSRF blog and CDSS website from June 10-20, 2019 for additional stories.

Scott: An Inclusive Employment Success Story

2019-06-10

Scott Fattedad is something of a celebrity in his small town of Tsawwassen. Wherever he goes, he’s sure to bump into any number of friendly faces very pleased to see him – most of them belonging to customers he’s cheerfully served at one of his three jobs.

Scott’s primary job is at Thrifty Foods, where he’s been a popular team member for 16 years. “My main duties are front end customer service, such as packing groceries for customers,” he explains. “I empty the recycle bins, take returns to the back, and put new bags in the bins. I also work in produce, usually bagging vegetables and putting them out.”

After completing school, Scott took a job preparation course at Kwantlen College, and they arranged various work experiences for him. Towards the end of this program, Scott had set his heart on working at Thrifty’s, and Kwantlen made the introduction. It’s been a great fit for both employer and employee.

Scott’s mother Mary Lynn wholeheartedly endorses this approach to transitioning from school into employment. She suggests that parents enroll their son or daughter in a program that provides training, job experience, and assistance in deciding what they wish to do. “Some of the programs also provide a job coach for awhile, which can be very helpful for both the employee and the employer,” she notes.

Scott agrees. “You need to get training on the job and take some training first, but don't be scared to take your resume to places you would like to work. Always make sure you are clean and dressed appropriately when job seeking – and SMILE!”

Starting a new job has its challenges for all of us. Scott recalls his biggest hurdle being learning all the safety rules and procedures for his job, but says he knows most things now. That’s due in no small part to Thrifty’s positive, proactive approach. “We all learn differently,” emphasizes Scott’s manager, Laurie Jaggard. “We train, communicate, and coach” – just as you would do for any new employee.

Mary Lynn remembers a couple of challenges in particular. “Scott worked from 10-2 with only a 15-minute break, but he wanted to eat some lunch. This made him late getting back to the floor. I discussed allowing him extra time to eat and just having him stay longer at the end of his shift, and the manager agreed. He also used to get more hours, but the store cut back. We were able to help Scott successfully advocate for a few more hours on another day.”

Any accommodations that Thrifty’s has made have been well worth it. Laurie says that Scott brings an invaluable positivity to the work environment, which rubs off on other team members. “I love everything I do – especially being friendly with all the customers and my co-workers,” says Scott. “And I like earning my own money!”

“He loves going to work and it gets him moving and out of the house... he might just sit and play video games otherwise!” says Mary Lynn. “Also, the extra money enables him to purchase things he wants and pay his own way. Because he lives at home and pays less rent than he would otherwise, he has been able to save for holiday trips and recreational programs.”

Just as valuable as the money is the impact on Scott’s personal well-being. “I think having a job, even a few hours per week, really helps a person feel valued and helps their self-esteem immensely,” says Mary Lynn. “Plus, they often become great ambassadors for others with Down syndrome or other developmental disabilities.”

Scott’s advice for individuals with Down syndrome just starting out on their employment journey? “Just keep on trying and don't be afraid to ask for help.”

As for his employer, Thrifty’s is quick to endorse inclusive hiring practices. Asked why they chose to employ an individual with Down syndrome, Laurie answers without hesitation: “The better question is, why would you not?”

The Inclusive Employment Success Story series is co-presented by the Down Syndrome Resource Foundation and Canadian Down Syndrome Society. Check the DSRF blog and CDSS website from June 10-20, 2019 for additional stories.

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