Adding a New Responsibility
One day the head clerk said we might have to switch Ian’s work times because he needed someone to gather carts during the same time that Ian was working. I responded, “If I bring in a job coach to teach that, could he keep the same times?”
So the debate began. Is Ian safe enough to bring in the carts? How will we teach him? Is this a smart thing to do? There are cars coming and going, and backing up.
We watched a couple of other baggers bring in the carts, gave Ian the brightest orange vest we could find, and let him go.
The good thing about bringing in carts is that there is not really a right or a wrong way to do it. While they taught it in a systematic way, the reality is that there are not always carts to be brought in. I quickly learned bringing in carts is perfect for someone who has a short attention span and is easily distracted.
Ian’s new work schedule was to gather carts for an hour, bag for an hour, gather carts for an hour, and bag for an hour. Within two shifts, the head clerk told me, “He’s doing way better at bagging now.” I started thinking: gross motor, fine motor, gross motor, and fine motor. Works great. We didn’t even plan this one.
- Use mantras
- “Bag ‘em up” – All the baggers use the mantra. It is very cool. “Round ‘em up” – Used when they are going out to do the carts.
- Ian would leave his area when the fire fighters came in. We approached it from both sides. “Ian, you can go say hi to the firefighters, but then you have to come right back.” And, since we have gotten to know the firefighters over time, I approached several of the fire fighters over time and told them about the issue. I asked them to say hi to Ian, maybe chat for less than a minute, but then to tell him he needed to get back to work. I actually had to do that with several of our neighbors and friends who frequent the store. When all else fails, you might hear this over the intercom, “Ian, we need you back up front.”
- Ian has learned how to “ask for something.”
I could tell you more stories about how some of the other employees took Ian to a Rockies baseball game, or how he sometimes chips in with the deli workers to order a pizza for lunch, or how he has started buying his own lunch, or how he sometimes buys coffee for the store manager, or how the store manager sometimes buys hot chocolate for him, or how Ian has observed what kind of soda the other employees like to drink and Ian will buy occasionally buy it for them, or how Ian sometimes wears a tie to work; the stories go on.
Or the time when Ian got to meet the President of Kroger (yes, the top guy, Rodney), and Ian said, “Hey Rodney, how’s it going?” The smile that came to Rodney’s face? Unforgettable.
I never thought Ian would be able to work at a job on his own, without a job coach. But he is not just working, he is thriving – he has been at the store for nine years – and the other employees like him for who he is. I cannot imagine a better place for him.
I went up to the store manager after Ian started working there and I thanked him for hiring people with disabilities. He said, “That is just what I do.” I said, “You need to know – it’s a big deal, a really big deal, and I just want you to know how much I appreciate it.”
He smiled, “It’s good for all of us.”