Wilson Family: Holding High Expectations

Key Factors to the Wilson Family’s Success

Family Factors

  • Actively communicating with job transition program
  • Understanding Eric’s strengths and values
  • Helping Eric during training by discussing situations that might arise on the job
  • Encouraging persistence
  • Providing transportation as needed
  • Holding high expectations for employment
  • Providing ongoing support
  • Keeping open communication with employer
  • Being willing to work with Eric when he had problems

Youth Factors

  • Demonstrating persistence in sticking with the job
  • Understanding strengths
  • Working through problems
  • Developing flexibility
  • Reliable and responsible

School Factors

  • Offering a wide range of job opportunities
  • Having a job transition program

Community Factors

  • Regular customers who understand Eric’s value and make him feel appreciated
  • Interacting with Eric outside of the workplace

Eric Wilson is something of a celebrity in his hometown of Franklin, Tennessee. He has worked for over four years at the local Publix, bagging groceries and helping deliver them to people’s cars. Residents of Franklin will regularly stop to say hello to Eric when he is out with his family, who refer to him as the “Mayor of Publix.”

The road to employment started early for Eric. He participated in the job transition program at Franklin High and worked a variety of jobs including in landscaping, retail, and at Chick-fil-A. Though he did not get a Publix placement through the job transition program, his family took the initiative and requested Publix as a work site to Vocational Rehabilitation, a state disability and employment program Eric was working with after he left school (download Getting a Head Start With Vocational Rehabilitation to learn more about the program). His mother wanted him to have a real job that even his siblings would want. They also thought he should be in a setting where he interacted with the public.

Since Eric has started working at Publix, his family sees a dramatic change in his personality; they noted he is not the same young man he was before. However, Eric’s first year on the job proved challenging. He was introverted and resistant to schedule changes. Eric’s mother says that she wasn’t sure at first if the job would work out.

Now, Eric has not only blossomed on the job, he is much more outgoing in all aspects of his life. His family has noticed a change in his demeanor, how he greets and talks to people. Eric is involved in more activities than he was previously. He now gets excited when his schedule changes, and he is one of the first to volunteer for an extra shift. In addition to being more outgoing, Eric is also more responsible and reliable, even reminding his siblings of rules. Eric is more independent than ever. Like all of us, getting a regular paycheck is a huge benefit of working. He has his own debit card, and loves purchasing CDs and DVDs. If you go out to lunch with Eric, he likes picking up the tab.

The Wilsons have lots of advice for other families of young people with disabilities as they enter the working world. Be prepared to work with your son or daughter. For example, Eric’s mother was an active participant in his training. Though Eric understood his training, it took him a while to become fully independent on the job. When his mother would drive him to and from work, they would talk about situations that might arise on the job and prepare for all possible outcomes. The Wilson family also urges other families to be very open with the employer and stay in constant communication. Like many of us in a new job, settling in can be a constant process of tuning. Finally, the Wilson family encourages persistence. Even though the first year was difficult, they continually worked with Eric and encouraged him to stick with the job until employment at Publix became a great experience for him.