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Meet Jeff

A few years ago, Jeff was working at a local grocery store, and while it was a good environment, Jeff was not thriving. In fact, the job seemed to be perpetuating some of the behaviors associated with his autism.

When the 29-year-old was referred to SOAR365’s Employment Services to help acquire career skills and find the right job in the community, he met Leonardo Castro, one of SOAR365’s employment specialists, or “job coaches.”

As an employment specialist, Leo’s first step is typically to conduct initial assessments to gauge interests. Since Jeff already had some work experience and knew the direction he wanted to take, Leo helped him identify available jobs in the community, navigate the application process, and prepare for the interview (otherwise known as the “job development” phase).

Leo suggested they look at an e-commerce warehouse associate position at Brandito, a local supplier of corporate apparel and promotional marketing materials. Leo had been working with the team at Brandito to explore setting up positions for individuals with disabilities.

After a trial run in which Jeff was able to demonstrate his ability, he landed the job!

At this point, Leo stepped in to help Brandito establish support systems. At the same time, he entered the “placement and training” phase with Jeff, to help him master his daily tasks and work through challenges.

“These challenges are everything from ways for Jeff to stay on track at work to what he needs to do at home so he won’t be late for work,” says Leo. To tackle that tardiness prevention challenge, Leo bought a white board for Jeff’s room at home and together, they listed out every step Jeff needs to take to get ready for work.

Jeff’s been at Brandito for four months now and has been enjoying it. Jeff is social and friendly, so being able to get to know his fellow staff in the warehouse has been a highlight.

“It’s a process to figure out the barriers to success and how to overcome them,” explains Leo. “But it’s the most worthwhile process!”

The staff at Brandito echo Leo’s sentiment, as they understood that it would be work on their part to set up support systems for Jeff, but it’s all worth it in the end. “Brandito has been the most amazing partner,” says Chris Martin, Director of Employment Services at SOAR365. “They have set up natural supports that are so positive, which allows our employment specialists to transition away.”

Learn more about Leo and his role as a job coach.

To find out more about the work SOAR365 Employment Specialists do or see how participants in our Supported Employment program partner with business around Richmond, visit the Supported Employment section of our website.

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