“Never heard of the place.” That’s what Kalin said when he was told he was moving to Dallas, Texas. “I kinda expected all these horses and cactus everywhere.” But quiz him about Rome, Japan or Costa Rica and he’ll give you a lengthy professorial-like dissertation. Especially about shinkansen—the Japanese bullet train.
Kalin has worked incredibly hard to overcome severe learning disabilities. Reading and comprehension were seemingly unattainable. School was not a fun experience for him. Classrooms have “always been distracting…they throw me off,” he confessed. Not surprisingly, he didn’t quite grasp cursive writing in school so now he’s determined to perfect it. As well as typing on a keyboard. He’s never driven a car but now that he’s nearing 30, he’s proud of the potential freedom his new learner’s permit represents.
Truth be told, it’s not easy for Kalin to organize himself. He can now follow a book, a story or a play. Those all seem much easier for him than logical next steps inside his own mind. He unabashedly prefers order and structure but left to his own devices, that outcome often remains aloof.
Now Kalin works 6 days a week at a gourmet ice cream shop—a job LaunchAbility helped him secure. He loves talking to and greeting customers. Ask him how the ice cream flavor Hot Tamale got its name, and you’ll hear about the barbershop next door. He’ll tell you how their love of the candy by the same name helped spawn a new ice cream flavor.
All of the employees in the ice cream shop have cognitive disabilities. Kalin is the oldest. He also is a mentor to the younger part-time high school students working at the shop. As Amy Castaneda, his LaunchAbility job coach says: “It’s amazing to see our client with his own significant disabilities teaching others with disabilities. It’s incredible.”
Kalin takes work very seriously especially when there is something to finish. But without a next thing to do spelled out, Kalin becomes somewhat adrift.
On a visit to his work, Amy overheard the shop owner remind him that he shouldn’t stand idle during working hours. Realizing it wasn’t him slacking off but more of a function of his lack of ability to process next steps, Amy came up with a task list of all his duties. She then had it laminated. Kalin uses a dry erase marker to check off his work tasks. It reminds him of what needs to be done. At the end of the day he wipes the board clean. Usually with a huge smile on his face.
Kalin works hard and it pays off. “I make so much money now,” he said enthusiastically. “I’m loaded with money.” Although he’s not really sure what he wants to do with it, but one thing is for sure, he is happy to have it.
Recently, he played the Ghost of Christmas Future in a performance of A Christmas Carol—a show put on by the community theatre group he belongs to. We like to think of Kalin and the other LaunchAbility clients as the Inspirational Spirits of Disability Hiring Future. That’s a story we can all feel good about.
BTW - since this story was written, Kalin now opens the shop and trains other team members. One chart and a thoughtful job coach is the difference between unemployment and a team leader!