(Photo above: (L-R) Jean and Felicity | Photo by Benjamin Edwards)
What is Job Coaching?
When a workplace hires an individual with an intellectual or developmental disability (IDD), the stage is set for a lot of positive outcomes. The new employee will begin receiving a paycheck and begin exploring a new social and professional environment. Coworkers will begin to see the energy that comes with a diverse workforce and perceive how small adjustments to accommodate someone living with a disability can benefit all employees. An accommodation can be as simple as a picture schedule, or a job coach to help teach and oversee tasks. Community members who are customers and clients of the business will see a broader range of abilities, perhaps changing their ideas about the important role everyone plays in
There are specially trained people who can support individuals living with disabilities in the workplace, facilitating positive vocational outcomes. Depending on the needs of the person receiving support, job coaches can help with training, developing accommodations, or even side by side assists to the person. While job coaches are available to the person as much as needed, the goal is for this role to fade out over the course of employment as the person becomes naturally supported by their workplace, supervisors and fellow employees. This allows people to ultimately become independent in their job to the degree that they are able. Coaches are funded through Medicaid dollars and they complete training in order to be able to do their work and support the person with their specific needs.
Felicity is a valuable, long-term employee of TJ Maxx. Her job coach, Jean, supports Felicity with schedule management, managing her anxiety symptoms and assistance when she needs to speak with her supervisors. “Felicity and I will go over beforehand what it is she needs to convey, and then I’ll ask if she’d like me to be the speaker. Generally, Felicity wants to begin, and I’m there on the occasions when she loses her words. Felicity takes great pride in her work, and desires above all to be professional in her approach to her job. Felicity also is an enthusiastic worker, and she likes her support people to be as excited about her work and professional ethic as she is!” Felicity is such a team player that her coworkers voted her Associate of the Quarter, a difficult title to achieve.
Due to her disability, Felicity receives monthly benefits in the form of a Social Security check. Because earnings can impact how much she receives in her monthly benefit check, Jean helps track Felicity’s monthly earnings so that they stay below a certain amount. “I assist with monitoring the schedule and tallying her hours so she knows she is staying within her limit.” In addition, when Felicity gets overwhelmed on a particularly busy day, “My presence helps Felicity feel calm because she knows she’s got a supporter on the spot. We discuss strategies for improving anxiety,” so the issue remains in check and she feels comfortable.
Sarah is a job coach for Garrett, an employee at Home Depot in Redmond. While Garrett operates nearly 100 percent independently when he’s greeting at the front door, one of Garrett’s seasonal jobs is to water plants in the garden area. Sarah helps Garrett move the hose around when “his arms get tired,” and assists in turning the water on and off when Garrett can’t reach the faucet from his wheelchair. He loves his job, and Sarah says she’ll talk to him, saying, “It’s 90 degrees out here and you’re watering and sweating, and people are constantly coming at you. I ask him ‘are you okay?’ and he answers ‘this is great!’”
employmentfirstcentraloregon.org for a list of local agencies who can help you find excellent candidates for your next job vacancy.