“When Andrew first started at KANDU, it allowed us to go to work every day because we knew he had a safe place to go,” said Linda, mother to KANDU client, Andrew. Andrew, a client for the past seven years, started in KANDU’s community employment program and has experimented with a few different job placements. Now, he works in KANDU’s prevocational employment program.
“Honestly, our experience with finding the right placement in community employment has been a struggle. Andrew works slowly and needs frequent prompting from a job coach, and we’ve had a hard time finding a placement where those needs can be fully accommodated,” explained Linda. “But he loves working in production at KANDU, and he is thriving there. We still have an active case with the DVR to continue exploring community employment opportunities, but prevocational employment is a beneficial experience for Andrew.”
KANDU offers both prevocational employment and community employment opportunities for clients seeking a job. The KANDU production team takes pride in creative unique adaptive solutions for clients to excel at their production jobs. A scale that beeps when the correct item amount is reached, a roller to close zipper bags, and a folder for one-handed packaging of zip ties are just a few examples of adaptive solutions created at KANDU for clients with disabilities.
“In production, Andrew can work at his own pace and feel successful at what he is doing. The adaptive techniques and visual reminders help Andrew, and there is enough repetition that he feels successful in pushing himself to reach new goals,” said Linda. “Andrew feels like a productive adult because he goes to work every day. It’s huge for him; it’s important for his happiness and gives him a feeling of accomplishment that has changed his lifestyle.”
Andrew is a member of A-Team Wisconsin, a nationwide grassroots organization that promotes a full array of options and opportunities for individuals with disabilities in their work, home, and social lives. A-Team’s slogan is “My work. My home. My life. My choice.,” and all efforts focus on increasing personal agency for people with disabilities. And at work, Andrew is often sporting a green A-Team tee-shirt that advertises the A-Team values. “My shirt says, ‘My job, my choice.’ My job is great. And my choice is great. Choose the job. That’s good things!” said Andrew.
“KANDU is here to assist our population of developmentally disabled adults to receive support and guidance and job opportunities,” said Dana Seeman, KANDU program manager. “Many of our clients don’t have choices, or have fewer available choices, in their everyday lives. So, if they get to choose where to work, good for them. The goal is to build skills to get a job out in the community, but for many clients, they aren’t ready for that.”
“KANDU provides Andrew so much more than just a paycheck. It provides him with hope and a future that he’s happy with. He feels valued and there is encouragement, which Andrew really needs. I can see he’s more confident,” said Linda.
“I really like to work here [at KANDU] and I really like my job. I have worked in four different buildings. I have learned a lot of different jobs, too. I just want to be able to help people,” said Andrew.
Outside of work, Andrew lives in a supervised apartment with two other people. Andrew and his roommates have support about six hours a day to help with preparing dinner and getting ready for work, as well as transportation to work. “Andrew moved into the apartment about six months ago, and it has been a wonderful experience for all of us. My husband and I have peace of mind that if anything ever happens to us, Andrew still has a safe home,” said Linda.
“Andrew living on his own is very new, but already we can see a difference. He’s building independence. Now, when we go out to lunch, Andrew wants to order for himself, which is a big step in his self-confidence,” said Linda. Between working with peers at KANDU and participating in the social activities, and living with friends in an apartment, Andrew’s social life has blossomed. “When we’re out places, we may run into another KANDU family or see one of Andrew’s coworkers in the community, and Andrew will point out ‘That’s my friend!’”
Andrew also participates in Special Olympics, where he competes in bowling. He took home the silver medal after placing second at the most recent tournament. The relationships Andrew has formed at KANDU through participating in social events like the annual Snowball, and initiatives like A-Team and Special Olympics, have expanded the options and opportunities in Andrew’s life, at work and beyond.
Andrew’s journey at KANDU illustrates our commitment to tailoring our programs to the unique needs and aspirations of each client. With offerings ranging from prevocational employment to community employment, ISP, Livin’ & Learnin’, and adult day care, we understand that every individual is different and requires a personalized approach to thrive. When Andrew didn’t find a good fit in community employment, his plan pivoted to prevocational employment where he has come into his own. KANDU staff are flexible and creative at finding the right combination of programs and services for each client’s needs. This person-centered planning empowers every KANDU client to define their own goals and achieve their utmost potential. Andrew’s story epitomizes the transformative impact of our individualized support, fostering not just workplace success but also personal growth, independence, and a sense of belonging within the KANDU community.