Changing Mindsets Around Work

Model Program Promotes Work as the Expectation, Not Just a Possibility

A new UArizona Sonoran Center for Excellence in Disabilities model program is showing high school students that work is not only a possibility after school, but an expectation.
The model program is a Work-Based Learning experience developed in collaboration with schools around the state, and the initial pilot efforts with the Abbie School and Intermountain Academy in Tucson. Both schools predominantly serve youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
The goal is to show students that obtaining and maintain employment is possible and help them gain real-life work experiences.
Photo of Dylan Gallaway - a young white man wearing a red shirt and a medical mask standing in front of the door to Treasures 4 Teachers of Tucson
Intermountain Academy student Dylan Gallaway is one of the student interns and has already gained a level of confidence that he didn’t have at the start.
“I’m learning that I can work, and I am good at it,” he says. 
Gallaway is an intern at Treasures 4 Teachers. The other two employers are Reid Park Zoo and Plato’s Closet. 
The Work-Based Learning experience is funded as part of a grant from the Arizona Department of Economic Security – Rehabilitation Services Administration Vocational Rehabilitation program and is one of others in a project called Career Pathways to Arizona’s Future.

“Everyone of all abilities can work in their community alongside the rest of the workforce,” says Lorie Sandaine, Sonoran UCEDD Transition Specialist. “It is just about recognizing each person’s strengths and abilities and then creating the supports for them to be successful.

“The big hope for me is that the students come away with knowing that they can work,” Sandaine added. “For them, it would be a change from an ‘if I work’ to a ‘when I work’ belief within the context of the work-based learning experiences.”
The approach to employment aligns with the values of the Employment First initiative, which presumes that a person with a disability can work side-by-side with people without disabilities and earn regular wages and benefits.
Sandaine says many challenges at work can be removed once supports or accommodations have been identified. Two of her students tend to feel overwhelmed in settings with a lot of noise. But by giving them headphones to help mute the sound, her students were able to overcome the over stimulation. 
“With the right supports, they can be successful. We just need to find what it is they need and how we can be creative in supporting them,” Sandaine says.