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Meridian in the News

New abilities lead to independence

Mar 11

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Monday, March 11, 2013  RssIcon

FACT: There are more than 105,000 people with multiple and profound disabilities working nationwide.

TYLER HILL NEEDED A JOB, SO IN MANY ways his story was no different than that of any other young person looking for work.

Except Tyler Hill is deaf.

The 23-year-old New Castle native had lived at the School for the Deaf during his teen years. Now older, he wanted to get a job. But he had no experience. That’s where Meridian Health Services came in, with training and counseling that helped Tyler.

“Before I found a job, I tried to go to college, but that didn’t work out,” says Tyler through interpreter Susan Howell. “So I decided it would be better for me to get a job.”

After searching for agencies that might be able to help, Tyler turned to Meridian.

“My goal was to find a job so I could have a better life and take care of myself,” he says. “And I found this, and it has been helpful.”

Supported Employment, as it is called, is actual paid work experience for people who have severe disabilities and a demonstrated inability to gain and maintain traditional employment. Before 1986, there were few opportunities for the disabled to find and keep a job. Today, according to one study, there are more than 105,000 people with multiple and profound disabilities working nationwide. The obstacle is not getting a job, says Susan Buckingham, who supervises the supportive employment program. It’s keeping it.

“Communication is the key,” Buckingham says. “The worker and the employer have to communicate well. Otherwise, there can be problems. Sometimes, the employer may be scared to death of hiring a person with a disability, because they don’t think they know anyone with a disability, although there are a lot of people with disabilities.”

One of the services at Meridian that helped Tyler was counseling.

“The counseling and the supported employment really improved my life,” Tyler says. “It’s made things a lot better. For example, I could share my personal problems with the counselor, and she would give me some advice on how I could help that and how I could improve my life and make that better.”

Tyler’s job coach stepped in to assist when Tyler found a job opening. “So the job coach talked to the restaurant and said, you know, ‘Do you have new vacancies? How would you feel about this? Would you do an interview?’

“And so she helped me set up the interview and things like that, and it went well. Red Lobster hired me, and it has been good ever since.”

Tyler says he benefited from the care Meridian Health Services provided him through vocational counselor Kathy Maynard.

“She’s very friendly, very flexible,” Tyler says. “It’s easy for her to understand me, and it was very easy for me to get along with her.”

Tyler says his next goal might possibly be college, to study psychology.

“I like to help people when they’re going through a hard time,” he says. “I’ve had hard times in the past, too, so I understand.”

For now, though, he’s concentrating on his job and maintaining communication with his co-workers.

“I feel that they really respect me and enjoy working with me, and I enjoy working with them,” he says. “My life’s a lot better now than before, for sure.”

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