Due to his developmental disability, Christopher struggles with a number of issues including staying on task and social awkwardness. Nevertheless, Christopher has always had the desire to make friends and lead an engaged life in the community, which includes having a job.
Christopher, 23, lives with his parents and younger brother and sister in Gwinnett County. He attended Central Gwinnett High School and participated in the Adapt program at The Monarch School during his senior year. These days you might find Christopher, joking with the chefs at TGI Fridays where he works on Friday and Saturday nights, going to a movie with his girlfriend, or enjoying a friendly game of bocce with friends.
Christopher and his family began working with AADD’s employment program last year. The first step of the customized employment program is a two month Discovery phase, where the AADD employment specialist works with the participant, family and close friends to identify interests and skills that might lead to a successful job placement.
During the discovery phase, Christopher’s AADD employment specialist, Julia Massey, noticed that Christopher likes to please others and is at his best when he is able to keep moving.
One of the discovery activities is to assess how much demonstration a participant needs to do a task such as rolling silverware. For example, can they do it from watching a video? Can they do the task after reviewing a step-by-step PowerPoint instruction presentation with pictures? Can they do it from a personal demonstration?
Julia also took Christopher to a group activity at a Meals on Wheels Christmas program for seniors. This offered Christopher an opportunity to practice skills in a real life setting. Christopher brought food and water to the tables for the seniors and helped clear the tables after the meal.
After seeing Christopher’s skills on these tasks, and satisfaction on a job well done, Julia got the idea that a restaurant environment might be a good fit. He enjoyed the work and was good at it. A restaurant might also offer a position where Christopher could be on his feet and on the move.
During the second phase of the employment process—Development, Julia approached the restaurant manager at TGI Fridays who was receptive to the possibility of hiring an individual with a developmental disability.
Christopher liked the idea too. To be sure, Christopher and his family went out to eat at TGI Fridays and observed the type of work he would do. The restaurant owner gave Christopher a few sets of TGI Fridays napkins, silverware and paper bands to practice the task of rolling silverware and a manager give him an explanation of table set up for Christopher to practice.
Christopher was eager to practice and called Julia frequently to update her on his progress. Soon, Christopher and Julia met with the manager and an employment agreement was made.
Now, Christopher is in the third phase of the employment process—Job Coaching. After a couple of months of one on one job coaching, Christopher is successfully working independently bussing tables and rolling silverware each Friday and Saturday night.
Julia reports that Christopher is progressing on the job.
“At first, he cleared 1-2 cups at a time taking them back and forth,” says Julia, “but now he stacks the cups up high and has really gotten the hang of it.”
“He will never roll a dirty piece of silverware. He really inspects each piece of silverware,” continued Julia.
According to Julia the TGI Fridays management and his coworkers are all happy with Christopher’s dedicated and dependable performance. His job makes the wait staff, dish washers, and hostesses’ jobs easier.
Christopher’s mom says his confidence has really improved since he began working. “He tells everyone he has a job and walks with a swagger in his step,” she shares.
Christopher has a sense of pride in himself, works hard and enjoys what he does. We are so glad we were able to help him fill in that missing piece to his meaningful life.