Using technology as a natural support, Bryan Leonard hones his skills
Today on our blog, in support of the upcoming event Inclusion Saturday, we feature our employee Bryan Leonard, who also happens to be celebrating a birthday this week. Happy Birthday, Bryan!!!!
Each week for the past five years, Bryan has walked into the SimplyHome office, usually with a huge smile on his face, ready to get to work. But today, Bryan does something new before beginning his janitorial work: He checks his tablet. As he makes his way through the office, he uses the tablet to mark each task as completed, tapping an icon when he cleans a room, tapping an icon again when he resupplies paper items, tapping an icon again when he finishes vacuuming each floor. When all his tasks are marked as completed, he then uses his tablet to check his calendar, to see who his work buddy will be. Together they will finish the day with a bit of fun and hanging out.
Using a tablet to manage his own tasks is a big change for Bryan, and one that has really enabled Bryan to grow in self-direction at work.
When Bryan first began to work with us at SimplyHome, he needed ongoing training and one-on-one support. The Arc of NC (Asheville), which helped facilitate his employment, secured a job coach who accompanied him each week. With that structure of training and supervision in place, Bryan began to develop the skills and confidence to complete his tasks independently.
The first year, Bryan’s main challenges were to identify his tasks, complete tasks in a timely manner, respect his coworkers’ work demands, and effectively communicate his observations, his frustrations, and the things he enjoyed. At the time, he was also adjusting to a cochlear implant, which greatly increased his ability to engage with others, but also presented challenges in terms of how to modulate his speaking voice and circle back if something was unclear. During this time of growing confidence, Bryan’s job coach stepped back into a shadowing role, and then stepped back again: now he just makes brief monthly visits. Open communication between Bryan, his job coach, and SimplyHome staff has supported these transitions.
Then, about three years into Bryan’s employment, we noticed a change. As Drue Ray, Director of HR at SimplyHome, puts it, “About year 3 with us, we all started to notice an increased level of maturity and interest in SimplyHome. Instead of asking someone what to do or how to do it, Bryan started offering and implementing problem-solving solutions of his own. As his confidence in his role has grown, he has continued to offer solutions to his time management and routine, and he has asked for additional responsibilities.”
Using the tablet, the latest stage in Bryan’s growing independence, has been the most exciting for his colleagues at SimplyHome, simply because we get to watch it unfold in person.
A few months ago, under the guidance of Cameron Kempson, SimplyHome’s Director of Education & Consultation, Bryan began using the task management app on an iPad. With this new structure in place, Bryan has once again grown in his capacity to self-direct and self-advocate. Recently, he considered his various tasks and the time they take, and then modified the flow of his work in order to make himself more efficient.
Bryan has also learned to mirror actions in order to improve or modify his workflow. One day, he watched Amanda Benepe, our Intake Coordinator, add a new task to his tablet, with a photo and a description of the task. Bryan then surprised her later in the afternoon by showing her how he’d added his own task, photo, and description to his schedule.
What’s next for Bryan? He’s beginning to translate the skills he’s learning on the job to using technology at home and in the community, to self-direct his routines and manage his life outside of work.
Over the course of Bryan’s employment, the staff at SimplyHome has learned that providing flexibility to Bryan creates opportunities for him to grow in self-direction. Bryan is a true part of the team who is contributing, trusted, and held accountable for his schedule.
Community supported employment includes more than just hiring someone with disabilities. Because real inclusion means holistic inclusion in the workplace, you’ll see Bryan at our office birthday parties, staff and family outings, and our much-anticipated Christmas party.
No event is more anticipated in the office than Bryan’s birthday, which he reminds everyone about for several weeks ahead of time. This year, Bryan turns 25. He has goals for himself – his dream job is working at Ingles Supermarkets. With new skills under his belt, a penchant for hard work, and an ability to bring enthusiasm to the whole team, we are all excited to see how Bryan will continue to grow.
Find out more about Inclusion Saturday, which raises awareness for inclusive opportunities in North Carolina.