Meet Jami Cowling: A Story of Determination and Gratitude

“It’s kind of amazing. One year you’re going this way, then the next you’re in a completely different place.”

Twenty year old Jamison Cowling knows well of what he speaks. 2017 was a deeply challenging year for the Estacada resident. Jami, who experiences autism, has spent the last year and a half adjusting to life after a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI.)

In March of 2017, he was involved in a snow-tubing accident that left him with a broken neck, broken back, fractured skull, and brain hemorrhage.  The months that followed were painful and difficult, requiring around the clock care as he slowly learned to walk and communicate again. He found comfort in family support, friends, and his faith.

Says mother Beki, “When I first received the call letting us know he had been injured and was being loaded into an ambulance, my world sort of tilted for a minute… I struggled to breathe. And then our whole family sort of went on pause for months and months while we helped Jami deal with his TBI and we advocated for all the supports he needed.”

In the early days following his discharge from the hospital, he slept twenty-two hours a day at times, requiring around the clock supports. His parents balanced helping Jami recover with raising his four younger siblings. “It was so hard for Jami, but he was strong,” says Beki. “A brain injury changes everything.”

He underwent extensive occupational, speech, and neurofeedback therapy and credits the exceptional supports he received from Dr. Swingen, a chiropractic functional neurologist in SW Portland, with crafting an individualized physical therapy plan that eventually got him back on his feet.

Building a Circle of Support

The life he leads today is light years away from where things were for him and his family just eighteen months ago. Soon after the accident, he enrolled as a customer of Independence Northwest support services brokerage. “Options matter,” says Beki. “The whole last year has been about creating the right Team Jami.”

Team Jami is made up of friends, family members, and paid home and community-based supports. By combining brokerage staff, medical professionals, a behavior specialist, and Personal Support Workers to help him increase his independent living skills, Jami has been able to build a firm foundation for his new life.

Success rarely comes in a straight line. As soon as he was feeling well and stable enough, Jami set his sights on employment. His initial attempt moving into the workforce wasn’t without its challenges. “I had a job and it wasn’t good for me,” he says, referring to a position he held about a year after the accident. His brain was still healing and he needed a low stress, adaptive environment.  People in his circle noticed he was starting to struggle and became concerned things might be moving too swiftly. “We needed something different, something that would give me the space to think and do a good job.”

Jami’s Brokerage Personal Agent Andrea Ochsner brainstormed with the family on possible options to better support him in future job environments. She connected them with a Behavior Specialist by the name of Gabrielle Taylor, who soon joined the circle of support. Gabrielle worked with Jami to perform a functional behavior assessment, laying the groundwork for communication strategies at home and in future employment settings. “She really helped me,” he says.

Concurrently, Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor Mark Foster assisted Jami with developing an employment plan that focused on his strengths and capacities, bringing provider organization Adult Learning Systems of Oregon (ALSO) on board. ALSO helped Jami land a volunteer position with Store to Door, a nonprofit program where Jami would grocery shop on behalf of seniors and people with physical disabilities.

“Communication is everything and it furthers what Jami is able to do… (Personal Agent) Andrea has facilitated communication amazingly! She is very skilled at gathering the different members of Team Jami together, either by email or in-person meetings, and then diplomatically addresses sensitive issues in ways that puts everyone at ease. When all of (us) are on the same page, then Jami wins. He gets clear, consistent, and congruent supports.”

Preparation, Connectivity, and Opportunity

In the fall of 2018, everything converged. Before he knew it, Jami was preparing for an interview with Fred Meyer.

“It shocked them I got this job so quick,” says Jami. “It was really fast.” He says the experience he gained as a volunteer at Store to Door helped pave the way for the position.

Today, Jami is working five days a week at a Fred Meyer in Clackamas County, a member of their Click List team. He reviews online grocery orders, shops the store for the items, and assists customers when they come to pick up their purchases.

“There’s a lot of variety in the job,” he says. “I have a lot less social anxiety. This weekend was Veterans Day and I thanked two veterans for their service. One served in the Vietnam War and really appreciated being thanked.” 

Watching her son talk about his success, Beki beams with pride.

“When I think of all that Jami and our family has gone through in the last eighteen months, I am just so profoundly filled with gratitude that Jami is alive and breathing and walking and talking… Now we are seeing the fruits of all the efforts that everyone has made supporting our son and it is truly beautiful. We are getting our sweet Jami back and he is even better than before.”

 

Jami getting ready on his first day of work

Oct 15th: Join Oregon DHS for Program/Legislative Updates, Q&A Session

Join the Oregon Department of Human Services on Monday October 15th from 1:30pm – 3:00pm either online or in person! DHS Director Fariborz Pakseresht and the DHS Executive Team will present brief program and legislative updates followed by a question-and-answer period.

Join in person, by phone, through live streaming or follow along on Facebook or Twitter.

  • When: Monday, October 15, 2018, 1:30 – 3:00 p.m.
  • Where: Barbara Roberts Human Services Building, Room 137 500 Summer Street NE in Salem
  • How: Conference call 1-866-233-3842; Access Code: 455584#Participate in the conversation by using #ORDHSforum on Twitter

Questions or accommodation requests related to a disability, please contact Communications.DHS@state.or.us. A good faith effort will be made to fulfill requests.

Please forward this message to interested stakeholders and partners.

Note: Deadline for in-person RSVP is Thursday, October 11th.

Read the full announcement here.

PSU’s Inclusive College and Employment Program Announces New Job Opportunity

Portland State University’s Career & Community Studies: Inclusive College and Employment

Ann Fullerton is a Professor of Special Education at Portland State University and the Co-Director of the Think College Inclusion Oregon Project. Photo Credit: PSU

By Ann Fullerton

High school students with intellectual disability typically attend public school with their same age peers. But what happens at graduation? Historically, those peers go on to college or vocational training or work but the student with ID may go home with few options to continue their growth toward the adult life they want. Until recently, individuals with ID were excluded from attending college and sometimes from work in gainful integrated employment.

Recent national and Oregon legislation has removed barriers and established funding to develop inclusive college and employment experiences for students with ID. The U.S. Department of Education awarded funds to 44 universities nationwide, including Portland State University to lead the way in the creation of inclusive college and career experiences for students with ID. Research indicates that graduates of these inclusive college/employment certificate programs are achieving gainful integrated employment and higher wages (www.thinkcollege.net).

One of the best ways to envision these is to view this 4 minute movie trailer or 25 minute film: http://www.thinkcollege.net/rethinking-college And to read about college students with ID here: http://www.thinkcollege.net/publications/think-college-stories

Portland State University (PSU) has created the first four year inclusive college and employment program for individuals with intellectual disabilities in Oregon. The mission of Career & Community Studies (CCS) is to “…. establish a fully inclusive college experience for students with intellectual disabilities (ID) with the expectation that matriculated students will have access and opportunity to the same services, programs and courses as other PSU students. Each student’s college experience will be individually designed to support inclusive academic and career experiences leading to meaningful, integrated employment and self determination….”

You may know this project as  “Think College Inclusion Oregon,”  the grant that supports this work. PSU’s project is part of a larger national effort described here: https://thinkcollege.net/

 

How It Works

CCS students establish their career goals through a person centered planning process and then work in competitive wage integrated employment on or off campus. Advisors help student find college courses that add to their preparation for their career area. In years 3 and 4 students move into off campus employment that aligns with their career interests.

Students attend college classes on their own. They receive academic support through an Individualized Learning Plan and academic coaching frorn other PSU students. They explore and engage in campus life with a peer navigator if they wish. A goal of PSU is for all graduates  to become engaged citizens in the community and this goal is enacted through community based learning in courses and through 150+ student – run organizations.

PSU students in CCS are thriving and PSU staff, faculty, students and employers on and off campus are committed partners in this exciting endeavor.

New Job Opportunity within the Program

PSU – CCS is currently seeking applicants for the CCS Employment and Campus Inclusion Coordinator. This position supports student employment throughout the 4-year college and employment experience. We are looking for applicants who value employment for all and have extensive experience and demonstrated skills in the areas of job development, job coaching,  other job supports. An excerpt of description is below…

The purpose of this Advisor/Counselor position is to support the inclusion of college students with intellectual disabilities in employment experiences and campus involvement throughout their 4-year Career and Community Studies Certificate (CCS) experience at Portland State University. This position will focus on developing integrated, paid employment for all students starting in year one within typical jobs opportunities on campus and in the community. CCS students will need to transition to career-focused off-campus jobs prior to completing their 4th year of college.

Specific job responsibilities will include providing individualized supports with CCS students (e.g., weekly advising, job development, providing job supports, implementing person-centered planning processes with students and their teams, planning and supporting the transition to campus housing), coordinating supports for employment and campus inclusion (e.g., support campus employers, coordinate job coaching supports, facilitate inclusion into campus housing), maintaining internal and external partnerships (e.g., facilitating the monthly CCS Employment team meetings with employment partners, collaborate with campus partners), and supporting the CCS team to implement the program (e.g., program admissions, on-boarding new students, assisting with planned events with students and families, program evaluation tasks). This position is currently grant funded through 2020. We are optimistic that there will be continued funding for this position after the grant ends.

Here is a link to the position announcement and application:

https://jobs.hrc.pdx.edu/postings/27765

Other colleges in Oregon are also moving toward creating more inclusive college and employment programs across the state. For the right individual, this is a unique opportunity to  be a part of ground breaking work.

After reading the position announcement, contact Susan Bert, Co-Director of Career & Community if you have with questions about the position berts@pdx.edu.

Photo Credit: PSU

 

All About Transition Services in Oregon

Download a copy of the Transition Resource Handbook

ODDS Statewide Employment First Coordinator Acacia McGuire Anderson writes:

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) states that transition planning must begin at age 16. However, transition planning may begin as early as 14 years of age. The sooner we start transition planning, the better for the young person so they can connect to ODDS (Office of Developmental Disabilities Services) and VR (Vocational Rehabilitation) services and begin the process of exploring career options and skills needed to be successful in the workforce.

In Oregon, we have Transition Network Facilitators (TNFs) who provide outreach, technical assistance, and training opportunities for educators, individuals and families, and collaborate with VR counselors, providers and DD case management entities (such as Brokerages and CDDPs/counties). The TNFs are also launching a podcast series in January aimed at providing information and resources to educators, individuals and families throughout Oregon.

There is a website with a wide variety of resources: http://triwou.org/projects/tcn. This includes the Transition Resource Handbook, a map of TNFs by region, and much more.

A list of the ODDS regional specialists, VR I/DD counselors, TNFs and Pre-ETS Specialists is on the Employment First Training web page: https://www.oregon.gov/DHS/EMPLOYMENT/EMPLOYMENT-FIRST/Documents/VR-ODE-ODDS-Regional-Employment-Specialists.pdf

There are upcoming trainings where educators, as well as VR staff and DD providers and case managers, can learn more about transition planning. These include the Oregon Statewide Transition Conference, happening March 7-8, 2019, in Eugene. In addition, ODE, ODDS and VR collaborate to put on regional trainings throughout the state.

If you have any questions regarding transition planning beginning as early as age 14, or any questions regarding transition services in general, email: employment.first@state.or.us. Thank you for all your efforts as we strive to support people with I/DD to live and work in their communities.

 

 

 

Mother Bears: To Market We Go

This article originally appeared in the Oregon Clarion in October of 2001, written by then-editor Diann Drummond. Her daughter, Molly Drummond, is one of the five plaintiffs of Staley v. Kitzhaber, the class action lawsuit responsible for creating Oregon’s progressive self-directed brokerage system, which currently serves nearly 8,000 adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

This is a tale of one of those dreaded supermarket encounters talked about among parents of children with disabilities. The sidelong looks, the stares, and the whispers feel like a stab in the heart.

My daughter Molly is very small for a 23 year-old and her spine is sharply curved over to one side. When we are grocery shopping, being pushed around the store in the basket is her favorite way to go. She giggles and talks her mysterious language while the food is piled all around her. Admittedly, we make an interesting sight.

Sometimes we pass someone who smiles warmly or says hello, and I think, “There is a fine person.”

Most of the time we go about our business, get our food, and head for home, eager to break into the tortilla chips or gummy bears. But on one particular day, that isn’t the way things went.

We had stopped by our local market for a quick shopping trip. This is the place where the clerks chat with us, and we often run into neighborhood friends.

I made my way down the aisles with Molly trailing behind. For some reason that day, Molly wasn’t into basket-riding. Just as I was squeezing the cantaloupes in the produce section, a herd of boys, maybe around kindergarten or early school-age, thundered up. The leader of the little ruffians exclaimed loudly, “Hey, look at her – she’s weird!”

I could see their mother close by, not phased in the least by what I considered to be a serious affront.

That’s when the mother bear came out in me. I scooped Molly protectively toward me. I felt like growling but hurried down the aisle instead. I headed to the other side of the store, thinking we could quickly grab our groceries and head for the safety of home.

However, no sooner had we rounded another corner when we ran into them again. There was a repeat of the earlier scene and that word “weird” again. Mother bear was ready to charge.

I don’t usually admonish other people’s children, but I turned a stern eye on them and said, “Boys, don’t be cruel.”

They stopped and huddled together, wide-eyed and slack-jawed. That’s when I saw mother bear number two streak forward and gather her offspring close. She said in a steely voice, “I will speak to them.” I spoke back with an equally steely voice, “I wish you would.” The face-off!

After a few moments, we turned in separate directions, herding our cubs along, when mother bear number two offered, “They’ve never seen a handicapped person before.”

I looked at the boys, then at their mother, and then back at the boys. I paused. “Would you like to meet Molly?” I asked. They cautiously sidled forward. “This is Molly. She has a disability and she was born with a crooked back. She doesn’t talk, but she can understand what you say. She goes to school.”

One of the four said “hi” to Molly and asked, “Does she go to school every day?”

I replied, “Yes, she rides the bus every day.”

Another offered, “I’m five.”

A few social pleasantries and we were on our way. I felt a bit sheepish, wondering if I’d been too hard on the boys who were pretty young. But the olive branch had been extended, and at least I didn’t swat it away with my paws.

We finished gathering our groceries, went through the checkout stand, and were going out the door when I heard someone call, “Bye.” I turned to see mom and her four boys smiling and waving. I smiled and waived back. Molly and I headed for the car.  She was her usual happy self, apparently unconcerned with the incident. I was relieved that the confrontation ended the way it did.

I let out a tired sigh.

Time for mother bear and her cub to head back to their den and hibernate for a while.

 

The Oregon Clarion Volume 7, Number 3
October 2001