DON: Nate’s been in our family from birth. We adopted Nate when he was two weeks old. When Nate turned 22 he came out of the school system and we used supported employment as a way to get him a job.
At the same time, Nate had an opportunity to move into housing. We weren’t ready ‘cause you’re never ready for your children to move away. NATE: See that stuff. That. My laptop right here.
DON: But we had a great opportunity to move into something called “co-housing” here in Seattle which is 26 families got together and thoughtfully wanted to do some shared meals and some shared maintenance. One of the things that we had noticed was Nate’s social skills keep growing. In fact, every time I see Nate in a social setting, I’m just amazed at how well he handles himself and how conversant he is. It wasn’t always true with Nate. The housing placement has been a great thing for him, as has his job placement. And he keeps building those skills. I can’t tell you the number of times we’re out in the community and somebody from the hospital shows up and says, “Nate, how you doing?” and is so warm to Nate about how much he means to them.
NATE: How’s it going”
WOMAN: Good. NATE: What’s up Bobby? How are you?
MAN: How are you?
NATE: Good. You have a good day. Alright, I saw that. Watching you buddy.
CHUCK: When I was growing up, people with developmental disabilities were not a part of the community. It was pretty well understood that the community was not the place for them. That they were sent away or shut away, with the belief that they didn’t have a whole lot to offer. And I think people like Nate have really changed that. Nate isn’t looked at as a person with a disability. He’s looked at as Nate. He has more social skills than I’ll ever have. And just being able to go and connect with that many people is remarkable.
NATE: What’s up Bill? How are you?
BILL: I’m fine. NATE: Have a good day.
WOMAN: Happy Tuesday!
NATE: Oh yeah. It’s cold out here, huh? Boy. NATE: What’s up Elina?
ELINA: Hi Nate.
NATE: It’s kind cold today isn’t it? WOMAN: How are ya?
WOMAN: Haven’t seen you in a while. NATE: Hello? NATE: Have a good day.
WOMAN: Have a good one.
WOMAN: Are you a movie star now? NATE: Yup.
WOMAN: I lost my badge but you brought it to me. Thank you! NATE: Let me see.
WOMAN: That’s how happy you make everybody when we see you. WOMAN: Thank you thank you!
CHUCK: The idea of supported employment is to provide an entre into the workplace and then to turn that over to the real experts and that’s the people who work there, the managers like Kevin. That’s where the magic happens and that’s where the magic has happened here.
KEVIN: Nate has one sick day in 17 years of employment here at Swedish. You know. One. That’s 16 years of perfect attendance. He doesn’t read but he’s very good at seeing symbols and signs. So we had him on a dot system, a colored dot system, and so a green dot would mean the engineering facility, red might mean radiology. But he’s long graduated from that. And we used a number system for a while too. Now he writes his own numbers. So he’s in a way helped develop his delivery system over the years, personalized it.
NATE: All I have to do is this one.
DON: I think Nate is a good example of how it can work. Taking his good social skills and good mental maps. Those two skills combine to make him an excellent mailroom employee. He’s a very important cog in that mailroom. And I think he’s fairly important to the Swedish community. My advice to parents is, you’ve got to get into that mode of thinking about what my child can do, even if they’re disabled, because supported employment it got him working and got him doing the job from day one. And he never looked disabled. He looked like a guy who was doing the job and just needed a little more support to do it well. There are jobs and there are places in the community that will let them be part of the community and they have to be there, and to show up, to have a full life.