Reid was one of the first people hired through the Work Independence Network (WIN)* pilot project. Reid has great social skills but limited communication skills. Prior to becoming involved with the pilot project in 2004, he was deemed "unemployable" by administrators in the school and vocational rehabilitation systems. Thanks to his own initiative and to some creative thinking by his job developer and job coach, Reid now works approximately 16 hours per week at the Rehabilitation Clinic at Harrison Hospital, where he cleans equipment, maintains the pool, play, and therapy areas, and stocks linens.
First, Reid's employment support provider approached the hospital's director about taking certain time-consuming tasks from rehabilitation staff and combining them to create a position for Reid. Once the director agreed, employment support professionals worked with rehabilitation staff and with the department's administrative assistant. Together, they examined staff responsibilities, the department's organization, and patients' needs, and identified tasks that rehabilitation staff could be relieved of. They combined these tasks into a job for Reid. As others in the department started recognizing that Reid was relieving others' responsibilities, they identified more tasks, and Reid's job grew as a result.
As Reid settled into his new job, he needed support to plan and sequence his work tasks. One strategy involved a digital camera. Reid took pictures at work and then brought the camera home so that his family had a better understanding of his day. He also started using the camera to develop his daily schedule. Reid takes pictures of each of his tasks, and then puts them up on plastic strips on the wall. One plastic strip shows finished work, and the other shows work that is left to do. Once Reid completes a task, he moves the picture of the task to the "finished" strip. Reid always knows which task to complete next based on the order of the pictures, which he sets up at the end of the day with the help of his supervisor.
This low-tech support helps Reid self-propel through his work-day, and has increased his independence. While increasing his autonomy, this tool also helps his coworkers to support him. Reid's coworkers always know where he is in his schedule, and can use the picture strips to offer him assistance and help him remain focused. Reid also uses sign language to supplement his communication with coworkers, and has been expanding his vocabulary, adding 5–10 signs per week. Reid has since started teaching his coworkers to sign during staff meetings, giving him the opportunity to be an instructor and enriching relationships and communication at work.
Reid's job coach has significantly scaled back the number of hours she spends with him per week as his independence has increased. He maintains some job-coach hours to ensure that the transition to natural supports from his coworkers goes smoothly. In addition, keeping a minimal job-coach presence establishes stability with the employer and shows the employment provider's commitment to ensuring a successful transition.
Reid has said that he loves his job at Harrison Hospital and he has made a significant impact on his department. Staff have documented that Reid's work saves clinic staff up to an hour and a half per day, increasing the time they have for direct patient care. In the five years that Reid has been at his job, his work has increased efficiency and cost-effectiveness for the department.
- Assess the work environment to identify tasks that pull staff away from their core functions. Reid's job coach helped the hospital assess what tasks Reid could do that would free up clinical staff to spend more time with patients.
- Develop tools that not only increase an individual's independence, but also encourage coworker support. Reid and his job coach developed a few low-tech, innovative ways to help him complete his work. These supports have fostered communication and enhanced Reid's relationships with coworkers, and have increased his independence at his job.
For more information contact:
Jennifer L. White
Able Opportunities, Inc.
*Work Independence Network: www.ableopps.com/win-program