Posted in Autism, Down syndrome, Education and Special Needs

Blog #57~ Community Jobs and Nick

Blog #57~ Community Jobs and Nick

How does someone who has special needs of both Down syndrome and autism find work in the community?  This week I am excited to have a guest blogger.  I asked Sara Stoodley, the Vocational Coordinator at Nick’s high school to write a few thoughts on Nick’s jobs.   In Blog #46~ A Day in the Life of Nick (located in the March 2013 archives) I wrote about a typical day at school along with his community jobs. He has some in school jobs such as working in the cafeteria, washing PE clothes and shredding.  Out in the community he worked at three different sites.  He worked at Tabor Hills (elderly residence home) doing maintenance, Re-Store- Habitat for Humanity (packaging and maintenance) and Adopt Pet Shelter (sorting newspapers for the animal cages.)  I think it is interesting to get different perspectives on Nick. 🙂 Here’s what Sara had to share:

Community Jobs and Nick

By Sara Stoodley, Vocational Coordinator MVHS

Nick working cookies

It’s hard to believe it’s been two year since I began working with Nick-what a wild ride! In my 10 years of working in this field, Nick is one of the most unique individuals I have ever worked with!  When I began at Metea last year, I began developing work training sites for ALL of our students, and I never imagined Nick not being a part of that. Through his time in community work block, he has increased his endurance, time on task, initiative, and his willingness to try new experiences. Given who Nick is, you must always be on your toes! Overall, Nick has had more good days than bad, and when they’re good they’re GOOD, but when they’re bad, they’re BAD.

Two stories come to mind:

THE GOOD: In his last week at Tabor Hills, he had an amazing day!!!! Each week, his job is to vacuum an area within the facility. All year, at both sites in which he vacuums we have been working with him to independently get the vacuum, unravel the cord, plug it in, turn on the vacuum, and start working. Most times, Nick needs a prompt to complete each of the steps as he will lollygag, get distracted, sit on the floor, etc. However, on this day, he completed the whole process by himself!!! What a huge accomplishment for Nick! It was also very rewarding for the team of people that he works with to see that he does have it in him 🙂

Nick tabor hills

THE BAD: Two words-FIRE ALARM! Nick always has staff with him 1:1 while he works and everyone that works with him is aware of the thrill the sounds of a fire alarm have on him.  However, one day last year, he was a sneaky little fox at Tabor Hills, a supported living facility, and identified an alarm that he had not previously recognized and he got it!!! Can you imagine the panic that went through the staff that was with him, the residents, the facility staff, and the community? Staff immediately responded to alert the administrators that it was indeed Nick who pulled the fire alarm and that there was no immediate danger but in the moment, YOWZA! Great response by all and well Nick, he was pretty proud of himself  🙂


The team is only as strong as its members. In my time working with Nick, it has always been a team. Given my role in the building, the opportunity for 1:1 time with students is limited so I rely on Nick’s team (Teachers, Support staff, Speech Pathologist, Social Worker, Occupational Therapist, etc) to assist me in finding the balance, learning his needs, and working to support the development of work skills while always striving for more for both him and our employers!

Nick has strengthened my belief that all students deserve and should be out working. He has increased my marketing repertoire as I have, at times, had to work to keep him at the job sites given who he is as an individual.  He has reminded me that there is never a dull moment and to always be on my toes as you never know what he is going to throw at you! What a pleasure and experience it has been, thank you Nick!

Nick doing packaging at Re-Store- Habitat for Humanity with Miss R…….

Nick packaging door knobs_Habitat_4 (2)

A special thank you to Sara Stoodley for sharing her perspective of how Nick operates in his community jobs.  That’s what is in my noggin this week. 🙂



Teresa is the Author of "A New Course: A Mother's Journey Navigating Down Syndrome and Autism" and the mother of two boys. Her youngest son, Nick is 29 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). Teresa's passion is helping others understand and navigate co-occurring Down syndrome and autism. She is a DS-ASD consultant, advocate, speaker, and author. Follow Nick's world on Facebook, Instagram & Pinterest @Down Syndrome With A Slice of Autism and on Twitter @tjunnerstall. For more information and media links, visit

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