An inspiring transition from school to work (Part 1)

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014


I WOULD like to share the story of a youth with special needs who have successfully transitioned to a work placement through a collaboration between his teachers, his parents and a kind-hearted restaurant owner. This article was extracted from the journal of every dedicated teacher and principal, Teacher Ann Angeles.

Let us get inspiration from a true-to-life experience such as this:

John (not his real name) studied and was trained in ILLC for two years. At ILLC, he was taught work behaviors, attitudes and skills necessary for future employment. Since he expressed interest in working in a restaurant, he was assigned at the Food Service Unit of the school’s Job Readiness Program (JRP). There, he was taught how to cook simple snacks and other tasks related to working in a restaurant. He learned how to take customers’ orders, collect the payment, serve the food, and does the kitchen clean-up afterwards. His experience prepared and trained him in all the duties a waiter entails.

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John underwent an interview with a restaurant manager before he was hired. To help him gradually adjust, he was only tasked to work 4 hours a day, 5 days a week, and was given simple tasks. He was given a partner waiter to supervise him in his duties such as in table setting, greeting of customers, and maintaining the restaurant’s cleanliness. To ensure that things were running smoothly for him and the restaurant, I regularly visited him at work and offered on-the-job support to help him adjust to his workplace. As he became more efficient, the on-site coaching was gradually lessened but continuous monitoring and job support was still being given to him.

After a few months, upon the recommendation of his supervisor, his working hours was increased to 8 hours a day from Monday to Saturday. In addition to his present duties, more work responsibilities were given to him. He started giving out menus, serving food and drinks, and refilling customers’ water glasses.

Eventually, his work status was officially changed from probationary to regular employee. He started to earn an equal salary and enjoyed the same employee benefits like his normal counterparts. His parents were happy that John was enjoying his job and was learning to be more independent day by day. He commutes to and from his house and workplace independently. Every day, he wakes up early and is excited to go to work. The parents are thankful that his employer, the Emerald Restaurant, has wholeheartedly accepted and supported John and his needs. His co-workers have been very supportive of him and have always treated him well. The supervisors only have good things to say about him. They always rave about how hardworking he is. He has a tireless energy and always welcomes tasks and responsibilities given to him. According to them, he shows initiative and does not wait to be told what to do; he loves to keep himself busy. His innocently honest and happy disposition has endeared him to all his supervisors and co-workers.

His supervisors admitted that initially, John needed a lot of supervision and guidance. However, he was very interested to learn and after quite some time, the assistance was gradually lessened as he got more used to the job and the skills required from him. During off-peak restaurant hours, he is being taught how to take drink orders from the customers. One of his supervisors happily reported that John can even spell words better than the other waiters. He has reportedly matured and has shown more self-confidence in the almost 3 years that he has been working there. He saves most of his salaries and was very proud when he was able to buy a cellphone using his earnings. He has also bought other necessities like shoes and uniforms with his salary.

We, his teachers, are proud of him for what he has achieved. He serves as an inspiration to everybody to never give up, to never lose hope. Despite having disability, he has proven to everybody that although he may have limitations, it has not stopped him from living his life and becoming a productive member of our society. (To be continued)

*****

Jane Ann S. Gonzales is a mother of a youth with autism. She is an advocate/core member of the Autism Society Philippines and Directress of the Independent Living Learning Centre (ILLC) Davao, a centre for teenagers and adults with special needs. For comments or questions, please email janeanngonzales@yahoo.com).

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on February 12, 2014.

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