When Matthew Parker graduated high school he did as many grads do, and dreamed of what his future career path would look like. He had goals and ambitions; knowing that eventually he wanted to work with animals in the community. However, he felt like he was below sea level, staring up at very high mountains between him and his dream.
An intimidated, young Matthew with Asperger Syndrome—now known as Autism Spectrum Disorder—and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) started volunteering, hoping that it would turn into employment. “My very first working job was over at Atria. They had me clean dishes, but they decided not to hire me because I was having a hard time multi-tasking, communicating and adapting to changes,” remembered Matthew, “I really struggled quite a bit when I was younger.”
Matthew remained determined to succeed as he found employment at PRIDE Industries. In a specialized environment for individuals with disabilities, Matthew found supports that he never had before. He practiced basic soft skills necessary for employment, such as good hygiene. “They designed a worksheet for me with visual hints so I could get better about having cleaner hands and less germs,” said Matthew.
A case manager at PRIDE saw immense potential within Matthew. “I quickly realized that Matthew was so capable,” said Dawn Horwath. “We could give him any task and he could do it.”
PRIDE tapped into many resources throughout the years to prove to the community what a capable employee he is. He participated in multiple PRIDE operated External Situational Assessments (ESA)—trial community jobs to assess workers’ capabilities. In 2005 he completed Personal Vocational and Social Adjustment (PVSA) services—person-centered training to overcome barriers including communication, assertiveness, anger management, etc. “It was amazing to see such incredible growth and determination in Matthew with each step,” said Dawn, “It has been a long journey, but we never gave up on him.”
As someone who previously needed repeated patterns and routine, he was finally adapting to a variety of job responsibilities and conquering barriers one by one. “I used to have a hard time when things changed all of a sudden,” Matthew reminisced, “but now I have learned how to handle it and I am much more flexible.”
A speech and language counselor, Dyann Castro-Wehr, partnered with PRIDE to help Matthew overcome communication barriers. “Dyann has been great at helping me,” said Matthew, “sometimes I would tell her about a situation and she could figure out a little trick to help me overcome it.” Dyann created an anger meter for Matthew to become aware of his feelings and express himself in the best way possible.
Each day of Matthew’s journey at PRIDE was a stepping stone to his employment in the community. Community employment brought new successes and new disappointments, but now he’s applying his communication and problem solving skills—something that has been beneficial in many facets of his life, especially as he adjusts to newly married life.
Matthew has been successfully working in the kitchen at Cascades of Grass Valley, a retirement community, for a year and a half. PRIDE Employment Services still work with him to ensure his success continues. “It makes me feel so relieved,” Matthew said about his PRIDE job coach meetings, “because I have a much better support system than I did when I first started out.” Together Matthew and his job coach have weekly discussions to work out any difficulties he might have at work.
As Matthew reflected back on how far he’s come, he proudly said, “I feel pretty good about myself. I have a great life going for me right now, but I definitely have a goal in mind so I’m going to keep working hard to get there.”
Congratulations Matthew on conquering one more stepping stone. You’re on your way to your dream job!
By guest blogger, Nicole Richards, rehab/marketing intern at PRIDE Industries Headquarters.