>>APRIL LYNCH: Hello there. My name is April Lynch. And I work for
VCU rehabilitation research and training center and today I will be talking
about customizing employment and strengths of a sports fan. So just taking a look at the starting point
of when I am first meeting my client, I am going to conduct an intake which
is really just a brainstorming session with a client and his support network. So the individual is usually
at the meeting with the vocational counselor or employment specialist, the
client and whoever is in their support network like maybe mom or dad,
grandparents, siblings, whoever is really supportive in that individual’s life. And we are there to really brainstorm what
the client would like to do employment wise and come up with some different objectives
based on exactly what their strengths are and maybe even some barriers
that we might have to work through. This particular client that we are taking
a look at today had a dream and passion to work in a sports facility. He had always been told, you know, do sports
as a hobby. That’s an interest of yours. And he had never really thought that
he could actually pursue employment in that area. He had been working in a
hospital setting for about five years performing very well in his job. And
then he got to a point where he started to realize that he was ready for a change. He really at that point started thinking more
and more about that dream of his to work in an athletic setting. So he met services through DARS eligibility
and came back to VR to pursue employment services with me. We were taking a look during the intake at
his different hobbies and interests, how much he was volunteering already
in the community and how involved he already was as well as his different
hobbies that he was pursuing in the athletic area, dodge ball, bachi ball,
basketball, anything you can name. He is even going to community events that
are for sporting events in the area for VCU as well as other universities in the
area. And he was very motivated
by these different hobbies and interests and thought that this could be a really
great fit for him as far as an employment setting. Another idea with working in this type of
setting that athletic department would really allow him to feel motivated by
peers around him that also have similar interests. Although he is there to work he still enjoys
being around people that have similar interests to him
and similar goals with being, you know, in an athletic setting. Last we really went through his different
skill sets that he had learned while working in
the hospital setting as well as his different volunteer positions he had participated
in throughout the years of, you know, after being out of high school,
and just in that transition age of trying to decide what his next step was as
far as employment. So we really
looked at his different skills that he had gained in that position at the
hospital, which were particularly sanitation skills, understanding universal
precautions and just taking care of controlling infection rates in a different
health care facility. So we could really look at this as transferring
in to an athletic setting that those skills would be transferrable. Once we got in the job seeking and
development stage this is really where the client myself as the counselor and
his support network had identified that working in an athletic setting was his
ultimate goal and how could we pursue this goal. So at this time really talking about the client
about how he would participate in the job search and what exactly his goals
were as far as working with his employment specialist. So at this time we talked about the opportunity
to participate in working interviews. This is a great way for employers to allow
individuals with disabilities to come in and really try out the job and just
show them what they have got. Sometimes being in a pressured interview panel
type scenario can bring a little bit of anxiety. It could cause someone to
not be able to really show their true colors and exactly what values they bring
to that work culture. So taking kind of an outside look, thinking
outside of the box and looking at creating that working interview opportunity
and letting them try out some different job duties and really just getting
an assessment of them being in that environment. At other times an individual might still want
to participate in a verbal interview. But working with the employer, having myself
as the employment specialist and the employer working
together and really collaborating on how those interview questions
can elicit the best responses from that potential employee. And this particular employer that we will
take a closer look at here shortly thought outside
of the box as far as how we can make that interview process comfortable and
coming up with different interview questions that would really get the right
responses to describe why this client was a value to this position. And how they could be an asset to this company. Another way that employers could really open
their doors up and think outside of the box as far as creating interview
opportunities for individuals with disabilities, sometimes just getting
an idea of what that potential business is about, what their needs are, what
the facility looks like, so getting to have a tour experience. Maybe even an informational interview, sitting
down with the employer or different employees on
that site and really getting an idea of what the different jobs are, almost
like a job shadow in a way. So
really getting an idea of whether this could be a potential fit for them
employment wise. And then also in the job seeking and development
process as an employment specialist the goal is to really serve the
client but then also serve the business. So getting to know the needs of that employer
and really understanding exactly how that client will
best fit in to their needs and also highlight that person’s strengths as well,
which then speaks to the point of having a motivating environment and having
different job duties and aspects to that position, that allow that individual
to feel motivated to go to work each day and to really take ownership and
pride in their position. So during the process of seeking the right
employer, this is the job of the employment specialist or vocational rehabilitation
counselor. Going
through the process of identifying potential employers that could be a match
for your client. That is seeking work. Really identifying fostering
environments, individuals that are willing to understand the support employment
process, working with an employment specialist or job coach to promote the
independence of that client, providing an integrated work setting and inclusive
work setting that promotes that individual being connected with all different
types of employees and really being a part of that business and taking ownership
of that person being their employee. Also, you know, looking at the job duties
that are specific, based on those needs that the employer has. So really just dependent on what different
job duties that they are looking to fill. A lot of time you could take different
positions that might be considered high turnover, or maybe some job duties that
are not as motivating to some of your employees but might work out well for
our clients that are seeking employment. And what they can do is really take
those job duties and customize them in to a fitting position for someone that
is very motivated by those duties. So again exploring that company for their
potential needs and how the client can fit in to that. Again going back to the motivational factors,
there can be motivation in the different duties the clients have or the
employee is experiencing. It can
be motivating in the sense of types of people they are working around and overall
just that culture of workplace and in the gym where this individual became
employed and that I’m going to explore here shortly, really getting to know
his coworkers and feeling comfortable with going to them and identifying them
as natural supports during times when he feels like he might need some extra
guidance or support and his job coach may not be on the site at that time. Looking for individuals that are very supportive
of working with our clients as well that can promote their strengths and
independence ultimately. And then a plus as well with working with
employment specialists, employers can bring the employment specialists on site
to do disability awareness training and this promotes that fostering environment
in your company and allows the other employees to really understand exactly
the support employment process, working with individuals with disabilities
and really highlighting their strengths. And we can tailor these specific trainings
specific to that person that is interviewing and then potentially
placed in that job. What I like to
do when I’m meeting with employers is if they have like a team huddle, a team
meeting, staff meetings that they do on a weekly basis, working that employer
to set the whole team up for success and then in the end promote the independence
of that client. By just having that time to really come together
and collaborate with the business of what is working
and where there could be room for improvement. So then moving on to the interview and placement
process. In this
particular situation the client was seeking to work this sports facility, and
myself as the employment specialist I went out and met with different businesses
and talked to them about, you know, what duties were going on in their sports
facilities. This was my time to be seeking that right
employer and using those job development tactics to identify a fitting
environment for my client. Through networking and other connections on
campus, I was able to gain a meeting with the facility manager at the VCU Cary
Street gym. We met and we talked
about my client and we talked about his different strengths and abilities and
how that could really be a part of their work culture and how they could see
that really helping improve some productivity and efficiency throughout the
business. And what we talked about how they would often
work with student workers because on a university setting you
will often see student workers fulfilling part-time jobs. And although we didn’t want to take away from
that we wanted to fill in the areas where maybe
they didn’t have that consistent work year round because with student workers
they can only be working potentially for the school year and then going
home during the summers or breaks. So again speaking to that really reliability
and if there is any high turnover occurring in the business, how can we fulfill
that need and give you a valuable employee. So in this particular situation, there is
some areas in housekeeping that could really be more concentrated on
and they were working on expanding their team. They had some student workers as well as some
individuals from our VCU assist program doing some interning
and helping with sanitizing equipment and working as far as the recreation
side with giving out basketballs and different duties like that. We saw there was a need in housekeeping and
there is high turnover. So having an employee that would be reliable
and long term was a win win for both of us because we — my client is seeking
long term employment that’s fulfilling and gives him that daily purpose. And they were seeking an employee
that would fit their needs. So what we did is we took an hourly housekeeping
position in the VCU rec sports department and we had my client apply for this
position. And from that point once we had him in the
system we were able to start customizing that position to fit their
needs. So also during this time while we were waiting
for the application to process and going through that onboarding or preparing
for the onboarding with human resources, I was working with the employer,
the two specific managers that would be, you know, overseeing my client. And we were talking about different
interview experiences to bring my client in to that process and what would be
the most comfortable for him but also allow them to get the information they
need to process through human resources. So we talked about how my client may have
a little bit of a barrier as far as just having a typical verbal panel interview
that may cause a little bit of anxiety as far as sitting in a room and
having a lot of questions given to him at once. So the employer and I brainstormed and we
came up with an idea to tour the facility as well as an interview. We came up with different
questions and rephrased those a little bit to really fit the needs of the client
to really elicit those responses that would demonstrate how well his skills
and his personality would fit in to this work culture. At this time we decided to schedule the tour
and it was titled an interview though. And we were able to bring my client in, have
a tour of the facility and he was motivated and so eager to be in
this setting and walking around and engaging with different employees in the setting
and the managers and casually asking him these interview questions while
she was taking the tour really was a great opportunity for him to give responses
based on what he was seeing in his environment and how he could see himself
really fitting in to this work. So as we took a tour of the facility and got
to see all of the different athletic areas, the racquet ball room and pickle ball
room and field and the outdoor adventure program, this is what he is doing
in his hobbies and interests each day when he is not volunteering. So to see that these were the types of
environments that he could be working in and actually employed was extremely
motivating for him. So they were getting enthusiasm and they were
getting a lot of positivity throughout the interview
and seeing this could be an individual that would fit very well in to
their business. Once the tour was over, because my client
had an established rapport with the employer as well as the different managers
that were interviewing us throughout the tour, we were able to then
go in to the conference room and really just talk about who he is as a person and
what he could bring — what his strengths were and what he could bring to their business
and particularly that position. And we brainstormed a job description at that
point. So it really was a
rewarding experience not only for the client, but then also for the employer
because they were able to see that thinking outside of the box and having
different interview opportunities really gives a different chance to
individuals that may not fit in to that cookie cutter interview process. Arranging that tour, rephrasing those interview
questions gave the confidence to my client to perform in an interview experience. From that point we were
able to then confirm a start date and the client was able to then consider himself
an employee of the VCU Cary Street gym as a VCU sports associate. From this point we were then moving in to
what we call the job site training aspect. So the client was then placed. We had started doing some onboarding
with human resources at this point which was some online modules. Of course,
I was there to support my client through every step of the way because there
may be some areas in those modules where some extra learning could come in to
play and specific visuals I could be using to really make these associations
and connections between the training modules and what exactly that would connect
with in his duties that he would be doing each day in his job. So instead of
just kind of having an overview of these modules, really making these concrete
examples and very black and white of how exactly this individual with autism
could succeed in the workplace. So throughout the job site training process
we came up with the idea to chain the duties together. The employer was extremely supportive of giving
us the checklist that each employee completes and we were able to go through
it and highlight the areas that were very motivating to my client. This was
promoting buy-in, autonomy, choice. My client was very excited about being
able to choose his duties and also be able to give back to the gym setting and
be able to really perform some skills that he had a lot of experience in as
far as when he was working in another health care facility and being able to
just promote that constant sanitation and cleanliness of the environment and
allowing others to feel comfortable with coming there to work out and being
motivated by that. We continue to chain duties together throughout
the job site training process. And then what we would do is implement supports
based on areas where the client might need some
reminders. And in this particular
case the client was really seeking a smaller support that would give him those
daily reminders if he was having an off moment and couldn’t remember the
transition to the next task. But he really didn’t want to be carrying around
a clipboard with all of his duties listed on that. He wanted to have something
tucked away so when he needed that reminder he could pull it out, but during
the times he felt confident and dependent he wasn’t having to carry different
supports around with him. He had it if necessary. Being able to implement those supports is
a way of thinking outside of the box to reach independence for that client
and teaching those supports to the employer and coworkers on site because ultimately
this can then create the opportunity for natural supports and allow
this individual to really be integrated in to the workplace and be a part
of his team and his coworkers. And although as an employment specialist if
a need comes up and additional training is needed that’s absolutely okay. And we would like to be that
resource for the life of employment. However this particular individual really
wants to show his independence as much as possible. So making that environment
as fostering as possible was key in this particular situation. So using that checklist or that visual textual
support as well as really identifying the appropriate natural supports
throughout the facility to promote this connection with the client. To make him just really understand and accept
that he is an employee of VCU Cary Street gym, and as he continued to Excel
in his duties we would add to his checklist. And to this date we continue to
add in new duties as he masters different ones. Remembering as an employer
if anything wants to be changed in the routines or additional training is needed,
we are absolutely there to support you there for that in a process we call follow
along or ongoing support. They felt satisfied and as the employment
specialist my observations are that the employee and
client is independent in his duties, and he is feeling comfortable in his environment. So at this time I have made my presence fully
offsite during the job site training portion. I was there every single day up until the
employee was fully dependent
and letting him work independently for different increments of time. And if he continued to succeed in these areas
I would continue up my fading to maybe not as proximity fade which is where
I am on site and doing some observation from afar but then actually taking
it further and fading off of the site. At this time that’s really promoting the independence
and autonomy of the client and allowing them to see that they
can work independently. And although
they have their employment specialist or job coach still as a support and
resource that they can be an independent employee like the rest of their team. In this time when we are in follow along we
are keeping that open line of communication with the employer. We are encouraging you to reach out to us
if additional duties come up and you would like additional training so they
can expand their task list or even if there may be some issues going on with
certain duties and we have to go to back to the drawing board and think about
replacing that with another duty or what training or supports need to be
implemented. So again this is really another brainstorming
session. And we can, you know,
do this at least twice a month, but if the employer would like the employment
specialist on site more frequently that’s absolutely an option. And again just
keeping that open communication and feeling comfortable with talking to the
employment specialist about ways that you can really increase that independence
in the client. And then also if there is any additional modules
that come up because we work for the university at times
there will be, you know, modules that have to be annually renewed. And during those times if the client needs
support with going through those different modules I will go on site and we
will pick a time after his break or appropriate time during the shift that day
to work on those modules and allow him to successfully complete the trainings
just like the rest of his team. So he can really be following along as well
with what they are doing with their policies and procedures. And again just promoting that ownership of
him being an employee of that company. And, you know, just lastly like I mentioned
checking in twice a month this could be in a form of an e-mail, communicating
with the managers on the phone or through text message if that’s the way they
like to communicate and also coming and checking in on the site and doing some
observations and checking in with the client and making sure that satisfaction
is across all levels with the employer as well as them. So that follow along
is really the life of employment. We are here as a resource to continue
customizing these positions to best fit that person but as well the employer’s
needs. And so really just tying up the main goal
of customizing employment, a lot of positions may not be the right fit for
a particular individual and thinking outside of the box and being able to customize
a position or restructuring a job to really fit that person and their strengths
will promote long term employment and retention due to them feeling
comfortable in these duties and feeling so satisfied and having that purpose
because it does highlight their strengths and motivational factors. So this particular individual as you can see
he is employed to this day. We
are coming up on about a year and a half of employment. And I was actually
with him yesterday and he said that this is his dream job. And it really — his
dream came true with finding this employment and being able to maintain it and
being motivated by his peers and his environment. He gets to interact with
former high school students that were peers of his. He was an equipment manager
for his high school football team. And a lot of football players that are VCU
students will come out and work in the gym. And the entire time I am doing
observations I am seeing that connection between him and his peers as well as
his coworkers and him getting that praise and affirmation each day which just
reinforces that this is his purpose and why he is motivated to go to work each
day and excel. And this satisfaction and purpose in this
one particular client has led to many other, you know, additional
placements and partnerships that have continued through VC rec supports which
I will touch on here shortly, but one of the school connections is, you know,
he is a sports fan as we had said in the beginning. And he is very motivated by athletic events
and different outings and a part of being a VCU employee,
a huge area of reinforcement and motivating factor for him is he gets a free
gym membership and can access the gym if he would like to. And he can be a part of different athletic
outings that the rec sports association is promoting. He has gone on river outings and participated
in different events that are going on throughout the facility. And this speaks to that motivation of the
job and allowing him to fulfill his dream of being a part of this work culture
and that athletic and sports facility. And the way this is continued on in
our partnership is being able to duplicate this position that we customized
at the VCU Cary Street gym, at another gym on campus who is under the same
leadership. And they were just very satisfied with what
was happening with this particular client in his job and how
motivated he was and what he was doing and they decided to take a similar job description
and then duplicate it in another facility. And we were table to have another client hired
on who had similar strengths and transferrable skills
from other job history. And this
has continued to open doors throughout the VCU campus. More departments are
willing to work with VCU business connections and VCU ROTC and really just
opening those different opportunities in their administration departments to
lead to potential assessments for other clients. And if it ends up being the right fit for
the right client it can lead to that as well. So really fostering that partnership and not
just seeing it as one position but how can we work together
and collaborate to continue making great things happen across the VCU campus
and in the community. Just in final words customizing a position
for an individual can really promote their autonomy, their ownership of
that position and really just highlight their strengths to help them succeed
in long term employment.

Customizing Employment: Strengths of a Sports Fan
Tagged on:                                 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *