How one family found their way forward, when the path to the future and a meaningful job was unclear.
After graduating from high school in Kelowna, Tyler felt like there was something missing. As he watched his twin brother Alex move onto university, he would ask his mother Daynna, “What’s next mom? High school is all done, what’s next?” Daynna, who was worried about her son’s future, wasn’t sure how to answer.
Tyler and Alex were both diagnosed with Autism at the age of three and a half. Daynna says that in 2002, their family was one of the first families in B.C. to receive Autism program funding through the Ministry of Children and Family Development. Both Tyler and Alex were non verbal when they first entered the school system and took part in a pilot project created by Dr. Gerry Kysela, called the Thompson Okanagan Autism Project. The program was a success and eventually turned into the Early Intensive Behaviour Intervention Program (EIBI) that exists throughout the province today. Alex and Tyler chose to continue their home-based program all the way through the high school years.
Alex graduated with honours and is now in his third year of university where he is working’s towards a degree in Cellular Biology. Tyler progressed at a different pace and excelled in his own way. His journey was also complicated by Catatonia and Crohn’s disease. Figuring out what would come after high school was no easy task for Daynna and her family.
The journey to employment
“In the early months of 2017, I met with a team at Pathways Ability Society,” says Daynna. “This is an amazing organization that facilitates employment for adults with disabilities. Pathways were never discouraging, and always focused on getting the right job for the right person. They completed a very thorough and detailed four-month discovery process with Tyler.”
Over a 12 month period, the Pathways employment facilitator Shane visited many employers throughout the Kelowna area. “Shane came up empty many times but he never gave up,” said Daynna.
Eventually Shane contacted Spider Agile Technology, an innovative and inclusive employer that creates modular and conventional power solutions. Spider has partnered with CLBC and Pathways to provide well paying, challenging and rewarding jobs for people with diverse abilities. Shane talked to them about Tyler and his unique set of skills.
“Soon after we got the call: Tyler had a job! A paying job! This was just so amazing for Tyler and our whole family. It was hard to hold back the tears,” said Daynna.
Building skills and success
“With the assistance of Tyler’s support worker, Andi, Tyler started building small computer parts. A simple task for many, but for us it was so much more. This was another huge milestone in increasing Tyler’s quality of life, his self-worth, his confidence, his community involvement, and his life skills.”
Everyone wanted to make sure Tyler was successful. In the beginning Tyler and Daynna would go to Spider to pick up the parts for the pieces of equipment Tyler would be building and bring them to Pathways. Andi would get a work station set up and this allowed Tyler to build the necessary skills needed to do the job while learning in a small, quiet, comfortable space. Tyler quickly became a pro and now works on the factory floor with his own desk and work station and is beginning to work on more complex pieces.
“It has been very exciting and emotional to see Tyler go to work and successfully complete his tasks, feel proud of his job and start to grasp the concept of earning money,” says Daynna. “Spider has been such a blessing and an amazing employer for Tyler. The staff are welcoming and friendly. He even got a raise!”
Tyler is enjoying the financial rewards that come with hard work. “Tyler has a passion for art and building these colourful and complex Japanese models that are characters from the fictional universe called Gundam,” said Daynna. “Now that Tyler is earning his own money he can buy more Gundam kits.”
“We are so unbelievably thankful to Spider, Pathways and CLBC for facilitating and creating this position, this space, and this inclusiveness for Tyler,” says Daynna. “His life has completely changed. I am so proud of his accomplishments.”
Increasing employment opportunities
Employment is a priority for people of all abilities. A job promotes friendships, financial security, belonging and confidence. CLBC recognizes that collaboration and partnerships help people find and keep employment.
Between March 2013 and March 2017, the number of people CLBC serves reporting income grew from 2,200 to more than 4,000. CLBC and its partners have set a goal to assist a total of 5,000 people to access employment by 2019.