All Kinds of News for March 07, 2018
In 2010, Q&A Associates began one of the goals, to help their clients on the Autism Spectrum find and maintain employment. Q&A partnered with Canaan Valley Resort and Conference Center, a West Virginia State Park, to ensure their clients with autism can achieve sustainable employment and be valued employees of the State Park. This successful partnership has allowed parents to put their fears aside about their adult children's employability and ability to sustain employment.
This winter, the Canaan Valley Resort continues to employ 5 Q&A clients. (There have been as many as 7 clients working concurrently). In the spring and winter, all Q&A clients attend a job fair at Canaan Valley Resort, and go through the practice of applying and interviewing. When they are hired, Q&A mentor staff provides transportation to and from work, and helps support them in preparing for work by dressing appropriately, having clean personal hygiene, and settling into a grounded state of mind.
Keith Bishop, Director of Operations for Q&A Associates, described the following scenario. “One day, we received a call from the HR Director at Canaan, and she was struggling with what to do with one of our clients employed there. We set up a meeting, and the HR Director, department heads, and General Manager Steve Drumheller sat down at the conference table. We opened the meeting with the assurance to all the department managers that we want to help. With that out in front, Becky Boyers, the HR Director outlined some struggles one of our clients was having at Canaan. As we listened to the issues, it became clear that the team at Canaan had not dealt with employees challenged with Autism in such a direct way. Over the next hour, we went through the Autism Diagnosis and how we address these challenges at Q&A. You could see their faces relax and everyone began to open up and become creative as to how they could help our clients. That was almost three years ago, and “Dave” (all client names have been changed), still works there.”
When supervising employees with Autism, there will always be challenging issues, such has hygiene, appropriateness around coworkers, eating too much in the employee cafeteria, hiding in the break room when they should be working, etc. The staff at the Resort can and often do call Bishop or other Q&A directors to discuss the issues and jointly form a plan to support both the client and the resort so that the relationship is beneficial to all.
"Dave" would often show up to work un-kempt or with body odor. When this occurred, the Life Coaches and Mentors would work with "Dave" to help him understand and adjust his behavior so that he could continue working. His supervisors at the resort would hold him accountable, but also provide support by allowing “Dave” to take a shower in the gym prior to working in the dining room.
Another Q&A client, "Josh" would eat several plates of food from the employee canteen. In fact, he ate so much that he would go find a place to lie down because he was too full to work. When the resort called, staff worked with "Josh" to help him develop a better understanding of how to manage his lunchtime. He did get better at making food choices and developed better self-management, and now only gets a small plate of food for his lunch or dinner. He has also lost weight and gotten much better at his job. He, too, has held his position at Canaan Resort for over a year. The supervisors of "Dave" and "Josh" often report that they love working with them, and that they are great to have as employees.
Q&A makes a habit of communicating and working with the employers in the local area to help the entire community grow. By educating the employers on how to work with adults with Autism, and finding the right place in the workforce, everyone benefits, including the hundreds of thousands of customers that come to Canaan Valley Resort each year.
Takeaways for assisting young adults who are on the spectrum in the workplace:
- Meet with potential employers first. Let them know who you are and what your mission is. Employers are usually open to exploring possibilities.
- When you have a client applying, take the time to introduce them to the place where they will work. Visit the establishment a few times.
- When the young adult applies, go through a trial application process, including role-playing: how to introduce oneself, questions clients may need to ask, questions the employer may ask of them, etc.
- Make sure the employer knows that the young adults are applying and provide the employer some insight on each young adult.
- If the employer decides to hire, set up a meeting with the key staff who will be working with the young adult. This is a great way to open channels of communication with the employer. Let them know the program's role as well, and how the program can help outside businesses develop the young adult into a valuable employee.
- Educate the employer and staff about autism and the challenges and benefits. This information can prove to be valuable to everyone.
- Follow up! Make the time to check in with the employer and key staff. Ask about areas/issues a program where can help. Make sure they know that they can call anytime and discuss specific ways to partner with them.
About Q&A Family of Programs
Q&A Family of Programs works with young adults ages 18 and up, providing opportunities for each of them to develop independent, functional, and happy lives with a high level of quality. Our clients have struggled to reach independence for a variety of reasons such as the inability to develop and/or implement the life skills needed to be successful, or struggling to obtain consistent employment. Our goal is to help these individuals find meaning and an authentic purpose for their lives and a practical path to achieve their goals.
About Canaan Valley Resort and Conference Center
Canaan Valley Resort and Conference Center sits on 6300 acres in Canaan Valley, WV, with 160 recently renovated guest rooms, 23 cottages, world class ski and tubing area, ice skating rink, 3 restaurants, gift shop, sporting clays area, indoor and outdoor pool, and an 18 hole championship golf course. With such a large offering, finding employees who will last and are customer-focused is a difficult task.