JFS Perspectives

Friday, February 17, 2017

Charlie Comstock: Succeeding at Work and in Life

Charlie Comstock: Succeeding at Work and in Life

Charlie Comstock’s smile is infectious. It’s big, warm, and genuine. He’s a people person and it shows. He loves to be around others, and according to his mom, Diane, he doesn’t know an enemy.

Charlie, 37, has a developmental disability, but is highly functional. He has difficulty with numbers and sequencing, and his cognitive ability is compromised. He also needs to work on his social skills. Because he is so friendly and trusting of others, he doesn’t always recognize dangerous situations. He doesn’t understand joking or sarcasm and his feelings can be easily hurt.

Holding a job has been hard for Charlie, mostly because he’s so friendly and can sometimes cross the line of appropriate workplace interactions. “He socializes a little too much and gets overly friendly, making some coworkers uncomfortable,” says Diane.

Charlie came to SHALOM Denver in 2013 to improve his work skills. He was placed in the prevocational program, working on packaging, assembly, and mailing projects in a structured environment, which taught him how to interact with others and follow directions.

SHALOM Denver worked with him on his social skills and on handling frustration and accepting constructive criticism. Staff also worked with Charlie on developing good work habits like being on time and coming back from lunch and breaks in a timely manner. With a little one-on-one coaching, Charlie dramatically improved and was soon ready for more challenging work in a community work setting.

Charlie at Cardinal Health

In 2015, SHALOM Denver contracted with Cardinal Health to help them clean the hundreds of plastic totes used to distribute medical supplies to area hospitals. Because the company distributes sanitary medical supplies, the totes must be carefully cleaned with an antimicrobial solution before they can be repackaged for shipment. SHALOM Denver provides a team of eight workers with intellectual or developmental disabilities to clean the totes at the company’s distribution facility in Centennial. The “enclave” team is supervised by a SHALOM Denver manager who ensures production goals are met. Charlie was a great candidate for the enclave team and has been a star employee ever since.

“Charlie has loved his experiences at SHALOM Denver and at Cardinal Health,” says Diane. “He loves going to work and interacting with his peers and the staff. He’s earning an income, but for Charlie it’s not about the money. Going to work gives him purpose, a social outlet, and a real sense of normalcy.”

SHALOM Denver has helped Charlie learn new skills so eventually he will be able to work in the community. He has learned how to dress, how to act, and how to take responsibility for his actions. He is more attentive and focused and has more appropriate social interactions.

“SHALOM Denver is an awesome program and it’s made such an impact on Charlie,” says Diane. “He really struggled with work situations and he’s really improved.”

According to Jessica Shouse, program manager at SHALOM Denver, Charlie has made great strides since enrolling in the program. “Our goal with Charlie is to train and support him so he can gain the skills he needs to get a competitive job in the community,” says Jessica. “Charlie has improved since he first joined us. He’s mastered interactions with others and has taken a leadership role at Cardinal Health by showing new employees how to do the job.”

Cardinal Health has been extremely happy with Charlie’s job performance—so much so that he’s currently being considered for a competitive job at the company. For Charlie, that will be the ultimate achievement and will give him something to really smile about.