The Journey is Only the Beginning

“Without PRIDE, I would be at home playing video games.”

Getting your first job as a young adult is usually a challenge, especially with a lack of experience and a college degree. This essential task becomes even more daunting when you have a disability. Brandon Alexander is a young adult with both Autism Spectrum Disorder and A.D.H.D. After graduating high school, he encountered many obstacles while searching for his first job. Brandon had sought help but still did not find employment after several years. Fortunately, this changed when he was referred to PRIDE Industries’ Employment Services in July 2016.

“Brandon had been heavily discouraged, but I knew that we could help him,” says PRIDE Job Developer Twila Overton. “His disabilities presented challenges for interviewing for a job position, such as sitting still, and giving direct eye contact and clear communication.” Twila worked with Brandon to help him develop employment soft skills and practice interviewing.

Practice soon made perfect, and in October both of their efforts paid off; Brandon was hired at PRIDE Industries’ contract at Beale AFB, CA as a cafeteria attendant. “This has been a wonderful opportunity,” says Brandon “I’m so happy to have a job. PRIDE has given me a chance to participate in the community and to earn a paycheck.”

As a cafeteria worker, Brandon helps contribute to the well-being of the soldiers at Beale AFB. “It feels good to have a daily routine and to work in a team,” says Brandon. Besides his coworkers, Brandon is supported by his job coach and Twila, who are available to help with any questions or challenges on his job. This support ended up being just what Brandon needed, and he was promoted to full-time after his first three months. “Brandon is wonderful with customers and has made great progress in his position,” says Food Service Manager Evergene Avent.

A job is accompanied by many more milestones to an independent life. With the funds earned from his job, Brandon opened up his first savings account. He eventually aims to find a residence of his own with the money he’s saved. “Having this position has also improved my confidence and ability to advocate for myself,” says Brandon.

Brandon wants to continue to work for PRIDE and become a lead cafeteria worker at Beale. We are proud to support him in his first job and his career aspirations.

Providing the Opportunity to Grow | Autism Awareness Month

PRIDE Industries _ Autism Awareness Month _ Cameron

Autism Awareness Month:

April is Autism Awareness Month, which highlights the challenges, conditions and recent research on this developmental disability. Autism encompasses a distinct group of complex developmental disabilities. Symptoms can range from very mild to severe, including difficulty with social behavior, communication deficits, fixated interests, and/or repetitive behavior.

More than 3.5 million Americans live with an autism spectrum disorder. Thirty-five percent of young adults (ages 19-23) with autism have not had a job or gone on to secondary education. Studies have shown that steady employment can help ease symptoms and improve functioning in daily living. Individuals on the Autism spectrum can often make excellent employees due to their careful attention to detail and quality of work. They just need to be given the opportunity.

Starting a Career: Cameron’s Story

Cameron Sonneborn is a young adult with Autism that works at PRIDE Industries’ Roseville, CA facility. He is the second person in his family to work at PRIDE Industries; his grandmother was a case manager back when it was a small operation on Berry St. in Roseville. “We loved the idea of him coming here,” says Frances Sonneborn, Cameron’s mother. “We didn’t have to worry about Cameron being judged for his disability. At PRIDE, there is only acceptance.”

PRIDE is Cameron’s second job. He earned his first job as a weekend busboy at a local diner in 2009 – the first in his high school Workability Program to do so. Typical tasks include clearing dishes, serving coffee and greeting the many regulars he sees on a weekly basis. His friendly attitude and strong work ethic have made him successful in this role which he continues to work at part-time. However, he decided to explore other career options, as well, after graduating high school. After a series of jobs in the community, Cameron found his way to PRIDE.

Cameron joined PRIDE Industries in the summer of 2013 as a hand packager. He works on a variety of different contracts for PRIDE’s customers. “One of my favorite tasks was sorting jellybeans. President Reagan used to like those!” says Cameron. He is very interested in history, especially in the presidents of the United States and has an impressive recall of each and every one. Individuals with autism are often very detailed focused. This attention to detail aids him in his work and can be depended upon for quality results.

Cameron aims to work, eventually, on more advanced tasks but is happy in his current position for now. He greatly enjoys socializing with his coworkers and friends, some of whom he has known since high school. “Cameron didn’t talk much as a child,” says his mother, Frances. “We have noticed that his vocabulary and confidence have grown as a result of his employment with PRIDE.”

Employment opportunity has allowed Cameron to start a career that he enjoys; we are glad to have him as part of the team. “You can recognize Cameron by his friendly demeanor and his collection of different colored sunglasses,” says Maria West, Cameron’s case manager. “He is always positive and a great member of the team.” PRIDE is proud to employ and encourage individuals like Cameron providing the opportunity to grow in their lives.

PRIDE Industries’ Employment Services Internship Program

PRIDE’S INTERNSHIP PROGRAM

Beginning a new career or re-entering the workforce is difficult for anyone. Individuals with disabilities, including veterans, often have an even harder time finding employment – and not for a lack of desire or willingness to work.

People with disabilities face unemployment at a rate four times greater than the general population. Veterans with disabilities often face a wide range of challenges, including translating military service skills into the civilian workplace.

PRIDE Industries’ Employment Services Internship Program provides a path for people with disabilities, including veterans to get their foot in the door or a fresh start in a new career. As a nonprofit social enterprise, PRIDE is nationally recognized for its expertise in empowering people to attain meaningful employment and increased independence despite the challenges they face. PRIDE serves individuals with a range of disabilities, including physical disabilities, sensory impairments, developmental and intellectual disabilities, and mental illness.

PRIDE’s internship program offers up to 250 hours of paid work experience within PRIDE or with a community employer. Through the internship, individuals get hands-on experience and gain soft skills while working in a safe and supportive environment. For people with little to no work experience, it provides a good resume builder.

In 2014, PRIDE provided 50 paid internship totaling more than 6,000 hours. The internship program is funded by generous donations made to PRIDE Industries Foundation. Many interns have achieved full-time employment. Following are a few stories of interns who successfully made the transition from intern to full-time employee.

SEAN ARTHUR

PRIDE Industries_Internship program_ SeanSean served in the Marine Corps from 2012 – 2014 as an Infantry Assaultman. While serving, Sean took friendly fire from a rocket launcher. “I now suffer from PTSD, partial hearing loss, two herniated discs in my lower back and a piece of metal in my knee,” says Sean.

When he returned home and healed, Sean started looking for employment. For seven months, Sean searched for opportunities. Despite his sacrifice for our country, Sean found it impossible to get a foot in the door to begin a new career.

His luck changed when he met with Frank Goehringer, PRIDE’s Veterans Liaison and Chris Chau, Referral Specialist. “They showed me all the opportunities that PRIDE had to offer with their internship program, and told me about their mission of hiring veterans and people with disabilities,” says Sean.

In September 2014, Sean began his paid internship with PRIDE’s manufacturing department. By December 2014, Sean was hired as a full-time production trainer at PRIDE Industries.

BARBARA BORIS

PRIDE Industries_Internship program_ BarbaraDisability can affect anyone at any time through illness or injury. In 2011, Barbara was injured on the job. Her employer refused to make accommodations for her disability and let her go.

Determined to find a new career, Barbara reached out to the Department of Rehabilitation. While attending a job club session, Barbara connected with Debbie Tomlinson, a job developer at PRIDE Industries.

Debbie and Barbara worked on improving her resume, cover letter and practiced interviewing skills while helping with the job search. Barbara’s enthusiasm for helping others was hard to miss; Debbie knew she would be a great fit at PRIDE. Debbie arranged an interview for a paid clerical internship.

In July 2014, Barbara began working at PRIDE as an intern. A few months later, she was hired as a permanent employee. As a Clerical Assistant, Barbara provides support to PRIDE’s Integrated Facilities Services business operations department.

JOSHUA BEST

PRIDE Industries_Internship program_ JoshuaIn 2013, Joshua graduated from college with a degree in computer information systems. Many college graduates have a difficult time finding that first job. Josh’s efforts were further complicated by the fact that he is Autistic.

Eager to find opportunity, Josh connected with the local Department of Rehabilitation and they referred him to PRIDE Industries. Soon after, Josh began working with PRIDE’s Employment Services. A job developer, and coach assisted Josh with interview training and job skills development.

After a few months of searching, Josh landed a paid internship with PRIDE’s IT department. “It was awesome!” says Josh. He became part of PRIDE’s technical support center.

Hard work and dedication paid off; recently Joshua became a permanent full-time PRIDE Industries employee in the IT department.

For more about Joshua’s Journey to PRIDE, click here.

HOW TO GET REFERRED

Individuals seeking services are encouraged to visit PRIDE’s website at prideindustries.com/people/how-to-get-referred. To assist parents, caregivers and individuals seeking supports and services, PRIDE has a dedicated referral specialist with vast knowledge of social services, our partners and of course, PRIDE.

Our specialist also coordinates PRIDE’s internship program referrals. So far this year, she has helped 17 individuals gain paid internships.

For more information or referrals to PRIDE’s internship program, please email our Referral Program Coordinator at referrals@prideindustries.com.

Providing Meaningful Opportunities

PRIDE Industries Intern Josh03

In 2013, Joshua Best, graduated with an Associate’s Degree in Computer Information Systems and a concentration in Networking from Sierra College.  As many recent college graduates do, Josh had a difficult time finding employment.

“Unfortunately, the job market was not looking for someone with a lack of official work experience, few networking contacts, and a disability,” says Josh. Josh has autism.

April is National Autism Awareness Month. Autism and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. Autism spectrum disorders can lead to significant social, communication, and behavioral challenges depending upon the severity. As well, there is a long list of brilliant minds and talents who have made significant contributions throughout history despite (or maybe because of) being on the spectrum.

The local Department of Rehabilitation referred Josh to PRIDE Industries. During the summer of 2013, Josh began working with PRIDE’s Employment Services, a Job Developer, and a Job Coach. The team assisted him with interview training and job skills development. “Josh was extremely diligent with all of his employment preparation activities,” says Debbie Tomlinson, a PRIDE Job Developer. “Even though it was difficult, Josh worked tirelessly with me and my team to improve his interview skills.”

PRIDE Industries _ JoshHard work and dedication paid off, after a few months, Josh landed a paid internship with PRIDE Industries’ IT support services department. “It was awesome!” says Josh. He became part of PRIDE’s technical support center. Josh’s duties included responding to work order emails, updating software, web browser issues, and answering the helpline. “Those few months were incredibly nerve racking; it was both humbling and a fantastic learning experience.”

The IT department was so impressed with Josh’s work ethic, diligence, and dedication – they offered him a full-time position after the internship ended. Josh became a full-time PRIDE Industries employee in January 2015 and has been promoted twice. Josh is currently a help desk technician for PRIDE’s IT department.

Joshua’s next goal is to obtain his driver’s license and a car. In the meantime, he relies on PRIDE’s transportation to get to work and takes public transportation back home. “I continued to receive support services and advice,” says Josh. “In addition, while I pursue my own means of independent transportation, PRIDE has supported me by providing transportation in the morning from home to PRIDE.”

PRIDE is proud to employ and support individuals like Josh. All he required was a little support and a chance to prove himself through a paid internship.  These are simple things for an employer to provide, and they can make a world of difference.  For Josh, employment provided a path to independence and pride.  And that – as they say – is priceless.

Joshua shares his journey to PRIDE in the video below:

Spotlight On: Mitchell Worthington

Mitchell Worthington_edited_web

Getting on your feet while transitioning from high school has never been easy; finding that first “real” job, navigating through college courses, or living on your own has always presented unique challenges. However, for youths aged 18-21 on the autism spectrum, getting that first start can be even more daunting.

Mitchell Worthington is a young adult employed at PRIDE Industries’ Roseville facility with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS). Asperger’s is an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a distinct group of complex developmental disabilities. Symptoms can range from very mild to severe, including difficulty with social behavior, communication deficits, fixated interests, and/or repetitive behavior. Studies have shown that continued employment can help ease AS symptoms and improve functioning in daily living. Furthermore, individuals with AS can make excellent employees due to their careful attention to detail and quality of work, and are often underutilized resources.

FINDING A PATH

After graMitchell Worthington_edited_blogduating high school, Mitchell started looking for employment opportunities. His case worker at Alta Regional Center referred him to PRIDE Industries; he became an employee in October 2011. Mitchell was first placed in the electronics department, but he aspired to find a position that would better suit his interests. With help from his case manager Justin Underwood, Mitchell explored different job options. He was placed in PRIDE’s shipping fulfilment operation, where he helped to pull orders shipped domestically and internationally. Mitchell thrived in the position. “It is these expanding opportunities at PRIDE that keeps me interested,” he says. “It allows me to learn and grow.” Justin describes him as a “real self-starter.”

When a landscaping position opened up at our Roseville facility, Mitchell stepped up to a new challenge. He arrives at the PRIDE campus at the crack of dawn, Monday through Friday. Despite the early start time, Mitchell has proved to be a reliable and motivated employee. In his new position he trims trees and shrubs and helps to keep the grounds in impressive shape, providing a beautiful welcome to guests and customers. He feels proud of what he and his co-workers have accomplished. “You wouldn’t think it…but man this place needed some cleanup,” Mitchell proclaims. “This should be good for business.”

He will soon have the opportunity to provide landscaping services at other PRIDE locations and is being trained on new landscaping tools and equipment.

When asked to describe himself, Mitchell says that he is “just like any other guy my age…I like shooting, hiking, and being outdoors.” Like many other young 20-somethings, Mitchell is starting to plan his future. With some job experience on his resume, he was able to get a part-time job at a local retail store. He currently lives with his family, but has set a goal of finding his own place and living independently. Mitchell is also enrolling in community college classes for the summer semester, and plans to explore a major in either mechanical or chemical engineering.

PRIDE is proud to employ and encourage people like Mitchell. Often, individuals with ASD just need the proper supports and a chance to prove themselves in employment. For Mitchell, employment provides the path to increased independence, self-sufficiency, self-esteem, and involvement in the community.

You’ve Always Had The Power

MCarroll
April is National Autism Awareness Month; we set aside this month to highlight the success of our employees. Meet Mason Carroll, a young adult working at PRIDE Industries’ Fort Polk facilities contract in Louisiana.

Mason began working as a Grounds Maintenance Laborer in early 2013. The opportunity to work for PRIDE Industries at Ft. Polk marks the beginning of Mason’s professional career – his first job. Although change and unfamiliarity are a challenge for Mason, he is aware of the obstacles it creates and he gets help to face them head on. Mason is quiet and extremely introverted, unless he is familiar with his surroundings. Despite his challenges, management had recognized Mason’s commitment, professionalism, and great work ethics. After completion of the probationary period, Mason became eligible for a promotion but he did not feel comfortable changing his work environment. After turning down the opportunity for a promotion Mason decided, he wanted more for himself. With the support of his counselor, job coach, and manager – Mason applied for the job promotion.

Mason is on the autism spectrum – he is diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. Autism symptoms can range from mild to severe and can be difficult to manage. Traits can include difficulties in social environments, communication, and behavioral challenges. One of his challenges is adapting to change.

Convincing Mason to take the next step in his professional career was not easy. After months of encouragement and support, Mason applied for and received the promotion to Maintenance Trades Helper in the HVAC department at PRIDE Industries – Ft. Polk contract.

To those who work with Mason, it is obvious he is skilled, dependable and an asset to PRIDE; however, he had to overcome his own personal challenges before taking the next step. Nearly a year later, he is happy with his promotion and continuing to adjust to the change. “Everyone in his shop loves him and always gives him compliments,” Sonja Matthews, Mason’s counselor says. “He is really a great young man and an asset to PRIDE.”

The video below is a “beautiful duo from a father and daughter, we hear about how a family fought autism and came winning. A strong message of hope and fighting invisibility.”

 

PRIDE’s structured approach provides a support system that includes job trainers, case manager/counselors, and supervisors who understand each person’s disability and are able to help with their day-to-day challenges.

We are so happy for you; keep up the great work Mason!

Autism Awareness Month 2014

Autism Awareness Month 2014

April marks Autism Awareness Month, an entire month devoted to raising awareness about this disease. Autism is the fastest-growing developmental disorder causing significant social, communication, and behavioral challenges depending upon the severity. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Autism affects 1 in 88 children, with a much higher incident rate almost five times higher in boys versus girls.

About 1 in 6 children in the U.S. had a developmental disability in 2006-2008, ranging from mild disabilities such as speech and language impairments to serious developmental disabilities, such as intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, and autism. However, the number of people diagnosed with autism could be reduced by nearly one third under new diagnostic criteria released last year. The Diagnosis Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) is a document of the American Psychiatric Association. The update made changes in how autism is defined – in particular, Asperger’s Syndrome, for which there is no longer a separate diagnosis definition. Some worry that individuals who would previously have been qualified for a diagnosis will be left out. Without a diagnosis, children may not qualify for needed services – when early intervention makes such a critical long-term difference.

 

Although symptoms and their severity vary widely, the majority of young adults with autism spectrum disorder don’t go to college, which impacts their employment options. This year alone, 50,000 adolescents with autism will turn 18. But for people on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum, high-tech jobs can be a perfect fit. They may flourish at engineering-type tasks or computer design, where their interaction with people is somewhat limited and an extreme focus on detail is a highly valued quality.

Autism Awareness Month 2014 high tech jobs

While PRIDE has been integrating people on the spectrum into our workforce for years (electronics manufacturing in particular), some large commercial companies are catching on, read more about it. More and more companies are learning that matching unique talents to the right jobs can provide a competitive advantage in addition to meaningful employment. PRIDE assistance in preparing these individuals for competitive employment opportunities includes development of an in-school training program that focuses on the abilities of this unique population. We are currently working with a private school in Sacramento on a pilot program that provides this training for transitional-aged students.

Collaboration enables jobs for people with autism, strengthening companies and improving people’s lives. If you know of a company that could benefit by employing the individuals we support, please email us at:  info@prideindustries.com.

A Blessing in Disguise

Joseph Sullivan 2013_B

“Once you label me, you negate me,” is a quote by Soren Kierkegaard, a Danish philosopher, poet and social critic of the mid 1800’s. When you label someone you fail to see their individuality, instead you see the person within the restrictions and stigma of such tag. Lisa Schmidt does not believe in labels. She raised her two children without placing emphasis on a label. Removing that label also means choosing your words wisely; Lisa uses the word “typical” as opposed to “normal.” “What is ‘normal’?” Lisa asks. “Everybody is their own person with a side of something else.”

Lisa is the mother of Joseph, 28, and Margaret Sullivan, 24.

Just by looking at Joseph and Margaret, you probably would not label them either. Joseph and Margaret are brother and sister, two young adults working at PRIDE Industries, pursuing a better future; they have friends and enjoy activities outside of work. Joseph is a tall, handsome man, with a sweet, kind smile, and loves sports – he is a devoted Giants fan! He is also a great bowler: “his highest score is a 252 – he got seven strikes in a row!” Lisa proudly says. Margaret is animated, excited about life, loves to mingle and make new friends, and is dating. Margaret is also a talented artist; she enjoys working on ceramics and drawing. By all appearances, they are your typical description of 20-something young adults.

When Joseph was born, it was unknown if he would make it past his first three days. He did, but as he grew older, it was clear he had poor language and communication skills. He was a bit socially awkward and had a difficult time making friends. At the age of four or five, doctors diagnosed Joseph with autism. Autism is part of the autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) a group of developmental disabilities. ASD symptoms can range from mild to severe and difficult to manage. Traits of ASD include difficulties in communicating socially, such as making eye contact, seeing from another’s perspective and difficulty in expressing thoughts and feelings.

Today, Joseph has a permanent position as a Hand Packager with PRIDE’s Supported Employment group working at TASQ Technology in Roseville, Calif. PRIDE’s Supported Employment Program partners with a wide variety of local businesses to meet their contracted workforce needs while creating community based jobs for people with disabilities. Our structured approach provides a support system that includes Job Trainers, Case Manager/Counselors, and Supervisors who understand each person’s disability and are able to help with their day-to-day challenges. “A few challenges Joseph struggles with are anxiety and expressing himself,” Thomas Andrews, Joseph’s Case Manager and Counselor, says. “If something is bothering him, he will need time to calm-down, and we have staff available to listen and help him through his challenge.”

This is Joseph’s second job, and his aspirations are to move beyond his current position to work in the community, preferably in the retail and customer service industry. However, he feels fortunate to have a job; he knows many other people do not have a job due to the economy. According to current disability employment statistics by the U.S. Department of Labor, only 21 percent of working age people with disabilities are employed.

Margaret 2013_A

Joseph’s younger sister, Margaret, also has a disability. After a long medical battle to diagnose her struggles, doctors concluded that Margaret has a developmental and learning disability, as well as epilepsy. Seizures are the only visible symptom of epilepsy. There are various kinds of seizures, and each type can affect people differently. Seizures can last from a few seconds to a few minutes. Lisa compares seizures to earthquakes, “You do not know when they will happen, but you know it will come.”

Margaret also works for PRIDE as a Hand Packager assisting on a variety of contract packaging projects. This is her first job, and she is thoroughly enjoying it. She says she enjoys meeting and making new friends, doing different jobs, and feeling comfortable with her co-workers. Margaret is also dating a young man she met through work.

While Margaret still has seizures, her mother Lisa believes that you cannot let epilepsy hinder your life. In fact, last year Margaret had a seizure while at work and her case manager was there to help her through it. “It is comfortable knowing she is at work surrounded by people who know her disability and know what to do,” Lisa says.

Lisa raised both children without placing emphasis on their disabilities; or limits on their abilities. The lack of physical manifestation of disability can be a challenge when outbursts happen. “The blame is put on the parents; we are called bad parents,” Lisa says. It is important to educate family, friends, and the public on various disabilities and advocate for those who cannot.

MLJ 2013_B

“Know your kids are more than their disability,” Lisa says. She also emphasizes the importance of not placing parents’ expectations and aspirations on their children. Lisa came to terms with the fact that her children were not scholars or all-star athletes. Instead, she accepts them for who they are as individuals. Lisa has always been open and honest with Joseph and Margaret. “I want to raise two self-sufficient, capable adults, who one day can be independent and live on their own when I am no longer alive,” Lisa says. “I want them to know that they need to be able to go on after a big loss.”

Parenting two children with disabilities has not been easy; in fact, it is often overwhelming. However, Lisa is a “glass half full” kind of woman. She sees a blessing in disguise: “If it was to happen, this is the best case scenario; because there is no competition or feelings of neglect.” Joseph and Margaret are best friends and their personalities complement each other. Margaret’s outgoing personality balances Joseph’s quiet nature, and her ability to make friends allows him to feel included. Joseph and Margaret not only have the same employer, they also do many activities together. “We make a great team at bowling,” Margaret says. The duo taught Margaret’s boyfriend to bowl: “We make great coaches!” They also share chores at home, including cleaning, dusting, doing dishes and taking the garbage out – all part of Lisa’s plan to get them ready for independent living. “They are very self-sufficient, more than they know,” Lisa says. Margaret is aware of her mom’s plan: “My brother is 28; and I am 24, we are getting bigger and bigger. Pretty soon, she wants to know if we will be able to move out.”

Lisa does not know when that day will come, but they are making small steps toward an independent future. With love, support and encouragement that day will come. “Our mom is one of the best parents, ever!” Margaret says.

“You go into being a parent with one ideal, but things end up being different, and it is a true blessing,” Lisa says.

App Could Transform Early Autism Diagnosis

Autism Awareness GraphicIn rural areas where there is a shortage of specialists, it can take a long time to correctly diagnose autism. Yet experts will tell you that early intervention is critical.

To help with the problem, the Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center, a Phoenix-based autism research non-profit.is developing a smartphone application that could help specialists diagnose autism sooner based on videos of children’s behavior uploaded onto a website.

The hope is that the app, the Naturalistic Observation Diagnostic Assessment, could help children get treatment earlier. If successful, the diagnostic process could take weeks instead of months or years.

Technology is making a meaningful difference in the lives of individuals with autism. You can read about this development in the article here.

Reaching For the Victory Line

RyanEdwards 2013_C

April is National Autism Awareness Month, each week we are introducing some of the remarkable people with autism working at PRIDE Industries. Today you will meet Ryan, a young adult with Asperger syndrome (AS). AS is an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a distinct group of complex developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. People with ASD are affected in different ways, and can range from very mild to severe.

Ryan Edwards, 21, is a Hand Packager with PRIDEs’ Supported Employment group at TASQ Technology in Roseville, Calif. PRIDE’s Supported Employment Program partners with a wide variety of local businesses to meet their contracted workforce needs while creating community based jobs for people with disabilities.

Ryan received job training at a PRIDE work site first, where many people with disabilities start their path to employment. Our structured approach provides a support system that includes Job Trainers, Case Manager/Counselors, and Supervisors who understand each person’s disability and are able to help with their day-to-day challenges. This young go-getter did very well in his first phase of training. After a few months, he was approached with an opportunity to substitute-in for a day at TASQ. His exceptional performance and enthusiasm at TASQ earned him permanent placement within the Supported Employment group at the company. Although he is working off-site, he continues to receive supportive services. Ryan receives case management and counseling, and has a Job Trainer on-site working with his group.

Ryan is a great example of PRIDE’s efforts to build upon the skill levels and aspirations of the people with disabilities we employ, helping create a path to independence and greater self-reliance. In a few months, Ryan will celebrate his one-year anniversary as part of the off-site group. His next goals are to increase productivity and concentration levels, and eventually work in the community, preferably within the zoology field.

“His attitude and stamina have improved, and he thoroughly enjoys the work and challenges he receives from his assigned job tasks at TASQ,” Justin Underwood, Ryan’s Case Manager and Counselor, says. During our interview, Ryan explained the work processes that have helped him increase productivity, and enthusiastically told us, “I am at 67%, which is almost to the maximum!” He also devised and implemented a strategy to manage his station, which in turn enhances his performance output. Ryan’s system consists of stacking boxes upon boxes at his packaging station.

Ryan has overcome a variety of challenges, not only at work but in his personal life, too. First was his speech impediment. At the age of five, he was barely able to speak single words, but significantly improved with a speech therapist. Children and young adults with autism like Ryan may have communication problems, including limited speech, or difficulty expressing basic wants and needs. Looking at him now, you would never know he has encountered such an obstacle; he has a remarkably positive attitude and expresses himself well.

Later, as a teenager, he dealt with the death of his biological father due to brain cancer. “To learn he had cancer was devastating,” Ryan says. After a long silent pause, he continues with, “but, at least he left a few good memories with me.” His two favorite mementos are a replica of a Megalodon, a prehistoric shark tooth, and a large Star Wars Lego set. Just like anyone, people with autism process grief in different ways. Here is a link to one mother’s touching story of autism and grief. Ryan honors the memory of his father by collecting large Lego sets, which is something he and his deceased father did together.

Ryan also enjoys watching movies; “The Blind Side” is one of his favorites. He is a 49ers fan; however, his favorite player is Michael Oher of the Baltimore Ravens. “The Blind Side was very moving, and watching him (Michael Oher) play in the Super Bowl was incredible,” Ryan says.

Much like his favorite football player, Ryan has endured challenges, but with persistence and support, he is tackling his dreams head on and reaching for the victory line!