Birds Eye View of the Issues Forum –
Three Counselors attended the Issues Forum in Kansas City this year, which was sponsored by the CRP –RCEP. Marsha Steinhart from the Ottumwa Area Office, Norma Skogen from the Mason City Area Office and Roger Carter from the Council Bluffs Area Office. Roger is on the CRP Advisory Board for IVRS. Both Marsha and Norma were first time attendees at the conference and felt the experience was very beneficial and would enhance their work.
Moving Beyond the Crossroads - By Marsha Steinhart
I would to express my appreciation for being able to attend the Issue’s Forum in Kansas City. The theme of the conference was Rehabilitation at a Crossroads. Attendees had the opportunity gain insight about moving beyond the crossroads to focus on the employment process in order to improve employment outcomes. Two of the session leaders that I especially enjoyed were Teresa Grossi and Dave Hammis. Dr. Grossi addressed Transition Planning. Mr. Hammis offered innovative ideas for self-employment. If anyone would like information about their presentations, I will gladly share it with you.
I believe the session that motivated me most was the Closing Keynote address by our Administrator, Steve Wooderson. Mr. Wooderson asked the audience to consider “coloring outside of the lines”. All levels of rehabilitation services need leaders who will take initiative. As rehabilitation professionals we need to have self-awareness of how we are perceived by others around us. We must understand that our profession is more than jobs; it is about careers – better careers, different careers for the individuals with whom we work. We also should not lose sight of the public trust that is placed upon us and acknowledge that we answer to those who provide funding for our programs. Most of all we should not lose sight of changed lives – the people we assist in achieving employment goals are our most important consideration.
In creating employment opportunities, we need to forge new relationships while maintaining old relationships. We need to take a fresh look at the communities where we work. Examine the businesses and industries that are there and consider how we can build stronger relationships with employers. Employers do not need all of us knocking on their doors. All the agencies helping individuals with disabilities to find employment need to get ourselves organized, and to come together to deliver one message.
Lastly we need to look at the history of Rehabilitation and wrap it around what we do today. Accept that change is going to happen. We need to have the ability to lead that change and not to react to it.
The Keynote speaker - Geri Jewell, comedian & actress
Geri is the first person with a disability to become a regular performer on a national television show. (Facts of Life) She also plays Jewel on the HBO series Deadwood. She was a part of Special Education for 15 years, and deliberately got out of work by making her handwriting bad, and admitted she learned to be lazy. No one allowed her to fail – at home or in school - until one teacher didn’t send her back to Special Ed, but worked with her.
Her encounter with Voc-Rehab 20 years ago was far from positive. She had a poor attitude and continued to use her disability to get out of being responsible – she told the counselor she wanted to be a nun or a comedian. She didn’t take anything too serious. (I could only imagine the frustration the counselor felt!) Per Geri, the counselor decided she should be a psychologist, and she ended up in sheltered work, until she rebelled. She eventually ended up in college, but did poorly, and dropped out to work in comedy clubs. She talked about being singled out by strangers, who rudely would approach her to talk about her disability. Her message was interesting and thought-provoking.
Self-Mploymet – Dave Hammis
Dave believes the PASS plan is a good way to use the SSDI to build a self employment business. He’s a strong advocate for self-employment, and feels no-one should stand in their way. He had a few examples on video, such as the KettleCorn Business, Karate business, lawn mowing, & copying business. One good tip – look/listen if someone says “He loves to….” Grab hold of that passion. Since I’ve gotten back, I’ve tried to challenge clients and their parents to consider a different approach and to listen for the passion.
Soft Skills and Successful Employment – by Susan Rocker
Soft Skills is a frequently heard term in our profession. But what exactly does that term mean? The speaker did a superb job of defining all that is included in the term. Susan’s definition was more in-depth than I expected – included words such as Work Ethic, critical thinking, creativity, etc.
We introduced ourselves to another workshop participant by “selling/bragging about something the person doesn’t know about our job.” (This was not as easy as it sounded). Mine turned out simple…I chose to highlight the fact that IVRS has counselors at every community college.
Suggestions by Susan:
Leading Change that Sticks - Doug Whittle
Networking, Connections and Delegation: Redefining the Role of Job Development – Rob Hoffman
Making a Difference
Dr. Bethany Sather graduated from University of Iowa in 2004. She started her employment at Medicap Pharmacy as a Pharmacist-in-charge in July of 2004 at the 1301 Grand Avenue, Des Moines, Iowa. She first applied for services through Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services in 1993. She was interested in a career in science so she enrolled at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC. The university is designed for hearing impaired students. She received counseling during her first few years before she made a decision on her career. In her sophomore year (1996), she transferred to the University of Iowa to pursue a career in pharmacy since Gallaudet University did not have a pharmacy program. She was an exceptionally bright and talented young woman and demonstrated academic skills with a GPA of 3.60. Her Rehabilitation Counselor, Gus Cordero, arranged for her to receive tuition and fees assistance.
At Gallaudet University, all of the professors are able to use sign language in the classroom but when she transferred to the University of Iowa, IVRS had to assist her with the interpreting service in every classroom from 1996 to 2004. IVRS also purchased a computer system caption service to provide interpreting to her. (This system is a type board with computer monitor that allows her to read the lecture as it is given.) During her internship and residency training in South Dakota and Iowa, IVRS provided interpreting services to assist her in communication at the pharmacy. In 2004, she passed the pharmacy board and started her employment at Medicap as a full time pharmacist. In the review of her case file, IVRS has spent $208,403.00 for her training which includes purchase of deaf devices, interpreting service and as well partial tuition and fees. Her present salary as a full time pharmacist is $75,000 annually. Her salary will increase every year due to cost of living and her skills. She will be one of the tax payers to assist our community and state needs. Recently IVRS was informed that Social Security will reimburse IVRS over $182,000 for Dr. Sather’s rehabilitation costs!