King County Developmental Disabilities Division School to Work (S2W) program has been very successful in transitioning youth from school to jobs. Students with more intensive support needs were not finding the same success – many were not referred to the S2W or if referred, often did not obtain an employment contractor to receive services. Therefore in all reality, these students with more intensive support needs were essentially excluded from the very successful S2W transition program.
I had inquired about participation for my son, Thomas, in years past. One administrator from Developmental Disabilities Administration told me that my son would not be eligible since the program tended to “cherry pick” those students who they believed would be the most successful – a method used to show a higher percentage of employment. I was also told that since my son did not live in “the community” he would not be eligible to enroll.
Luckily, with persistence and the development of a pilot program, King County together with several other agencies collaborated and initiated the High Support Needs S2W program in 2014. Ten students participated and 7 of those had jobs within the first year, 5 of those were employed before they graduated from their school programs.
Thomas was a ground breaker in this program – being the first participant who lives in an Intermediate Care Facility for those with Intellectual Disabilities (ICF/ID). Not only was he the first participant but he was also one of the 5 who had a job prior to graduation. He works 2 hours in the mornings (Monday through Friday) at Lowes in North Seattle. He absolutely loves his job! We hope that his success will lead others to have similar success stories.
This year KCDDD celebrated their 10 year anniversary for the School to Work program. A video was made highlighting a few of these employees on their job sites. Please do view the whole video as it is quite inspiring to see these young adults doing such great work. Thomas’ section starts at 16:30 into the video.
In meeting with other families in focus groups at the end of the first year, it was generally agreed that the employment vendor and employee coach was the person who could make or break the success of the program. Listening to the stories of how the employee coaches got to know the students and find jobs which utilized the students strengths and abilities was so inspirational and a huge thanks needs to go out to these dedicated providers.
Personally, we can not say enough wonderful things about those at Provail who have worked with Thomas. It has been a blessing to work with the team and be involved in this life changing event for Thomas. Having this job has greatly increased his quality of life and helped transition him from school to work and other life events involved in becoming a young adult.