The services that the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation offers make so much sense. The goal is to mitigate factors that make competitive employment difficult for people with disabilities. The idea of “Supported Employment” looks like it fits our situation, over here, like a glove. But it is not a glove, it’s cheese…and I am a mouse. I have run the gauntlet in search of my tasty prize – the walls of the labyrinth are made of red tape, long waits, inept agencies unprepared for their stated missions and misinformation. I wrote another post explaining the pitfalls of all this here.
But one sunny day, 13 months after first meeting with DVR, Ethan was offered a spot with an agency that could provide a legitimate Trial Work Experience during which someone would take him out into employment situations in the community to assess if he is eligible to be supported by DVR. Baby steps.
I pushed for this. I wrote letters, attended appointments and made phone calls – a lot of phone calls. I insisted that this process run its course and Ethan be afforded an opportunity to prove that he could learn and interact appropriately in a work environment. I finally met with a woman who had completed other TWE assessments, had actual job sites to utilize and had current time in her schedule – Oh! Happy Day! We signed papers and talked about goals and outcomes. We made a date to start.
Ethan got ready for his first day of evaluation in the way he knows how to get ready to ‘go workin’ – black pants and a polo shirt. He said he wasn’t going and he said he did not want to work – because THAT is what Ethan does. I pretended that I was confident and excited that Ethan was getting a chance to ‘prove’ he has work skills – because THAT is what I do. It felt like a bouncy ball was loose in my stomach as we drove to a local Marshalls to meet his job coach. With a cheery and lighthearted voice ~ as if!~ I reminded him to do all the right things. He responded with a firm “Hush! Mom’.
After introductions and a brief good-bye I walked to my car willing myself to look forward. I tried to think about Target and Starbucks – not the things Ethan may or may not do during his 1 1/2 hour assessment. I pictured him happy and productive and compliant – I tried not to picture him sitting on the floor insisting that his knee hurt or his pinky had a hangnail and assuring the job coach that he could not do any of the tasks at hand. I made sure my ringer was on and turned up. I stayed in the Target store 500 yards from where he was working. I did not share this with the job coach.
I waited until 10:28 to walk to the front door where we agreed to at 10:30. I reminded myself to breath when I realized that I clearly was not. I steeled myself by working to put a neutral expression on my face when I just wanted to vomit. I could see the job coach and Ethan sitting in chairs directly inside of the automatic doors. As I approached, the job coach gave me a very ‘knowing’ look – obviously something had solidified in her mind. Ethan shook her hand, said thank you and went directly to the car. I thought that was a VERY good idea.
Well…she said…he’s great. He did excellent. He has good interpersonal skills and introduced himself to everyone. I only needed to show him a task once, he understands how EVERYTHING works. He was not fast, but he is accurate, he seemed to take pride in his work and used quite a few troubleshooting tactics when challenges came up.
I slowed my thoughts to catch up with what she was saying. I wondered if she could hear the breath that I had been holding escaping through my pores. I nodded and thanked her. I told her I was grateful that she took the time to work with him. We agreed on another block of time to continue their work together.
I got into the car where Ethan told me that he did good work and now he deserved an iced coffee. I said, “Dude, we deserve friggin’ medals AND iced coffee!”
During my first meeting with the job coach, she asked what my desired outcome of the Trial Work Experience was. She wanted to know what type of work he wanted and whether we were seeking full or part time employment. I told her that I wanted to identify work that Ethan was capable of doing that would bring him a sense of pride and accomplishment. I let her know that I did not care if it was 1, 2 or 10 hours. I told her I wanted him to interact with people, burn a few calories and use his brain.
I knew he stood a chance of having some success with her when she looked at me and said, “That is a very reasonable request, Mrs. Costello.”
Isn’t it though?