Mels Path to Work – The Texas Department of Rehabilitation Services or DARS

I have looked into DARS services for
about a year now.  DARS is The Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services.  Their mission is to help Texans with disabilities and families with children who have developmental delays to improve the quality of their lives and enable their full participation in society.  What does not really mean?  Here is what I know so far:

DARS’s mission is to work in partnership with Texans with disabilities and families with children who have developmental delays to improve the quality of their lives and enable their full participation in society. The following services may be of benefit:

  1. Comprehensive Rehabilitation Services Program: Provides those with spinal cord injuries, brain injuries intensive therapies to increase independence.
  2. DRS Rehabilitation Technology Resource Center: equipment and engineering services designed to help people with disabilities be more independent.
  3. Vocational Rehabilitation Program: Helps people with disabilities prepare for, find and keep jobs.
  4. For more information, follow these link:  http://www.dars.state.tx.us/drs/index.shtml  and http://www.dars.state.tx.us/

I was told by a social worker that DARS can help people with disabilities starting at age 16.  I was originally under the impression there was a wait list and if I contact at age 16, Mel would be eligible for help at age 18.  This was not correct information.  When I called our local DARS office a few months after Mel turned 16, I was able to set up an appointment immediately.

I pondered if I should use DARS services as I am all about Mel doing things the way other kids do.  I have never wanted her to look for the easy path vs the best path. Robert Frost’s Poem “The Road Not Taken” says it well

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

 http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/173536<

After I thought about it for a moment, I decided this was a time to take the road set up to support those with disabilities.  My son found his first job by being connected.  This is Mel’s connection and I will not pretend that this will not give her a leg up.

Our story so far…..

In September, Mel and I kept our appointment with the local DARS office.  The office had bullet proof glass in the waiting room and is in an old building, in the older part of town.  People in this building definitely do not work for DARS for the office ambience.  The person who was assigned our case was very nice, her name is Michelle.  As Mel is living with us, our income is utilized with regards to services such as helping with adapting her vehicle.  As soon as Mel moves out, she will qualify for more help as her income level will change to reflect only her income.  Michelle indicated that currently the only support that Mel qualified for was help in finding a job.

The next set was to set an appointment with an individual to complete a job assessment questionnaire, Dave.  Dave was from Goodwill Industries and uses the local library to complete this assessment as it is near the high school.  It look several weeks to set the appointment.  We were in no hurry and I wanted Mel to be tested outside of school hours.  A parent did not have to attend this testing and thus my son dropped Mel off and picked her up.  The testing took several hours.  I was a little worried when I called my son and he indicated Dave met Mel on the second floor of the library, at the end of a long hall.  My son indicated he was rather large.  Yes, I dropped off my child to meet a strange, large man at the end of a long hall, on the second floor, of the library.  Maybe not my best plan for independence training.  All went well.

After a few weeks, the test results were in and our DARS representative met with Mel and I to discuss the results and develop a plan. Michelle had reviewed the testing information and she and Mel discussed several types of jobs.  Mel gave her input about what she might like to do. We reviewed any modifications Mel would need.  Mel uses a wheelchair and needs access to a restroom for cathing every 4-5 hours.   The final selections; work at a movie theater as a ticket taker, or in some kind of childcare.  The distance Mel could travel was discussed.  Mel does not yet drive so she needs a place close to home to allow parents to pick up and drop off.  The next step was for DARS to call the company that locates jobs and have Mel meet with that person.  Her name is Pam.

Originally we were told Mel and Pam could meet on their own.  I think we were so limited in the times we wanted to meet that Pam and Michelle decided we should meet at the DARS office.  My plan was to drop off Mel and have her again, complete this process on her own.  At least Pam was not a large man meeting my child at the end of a hall.  Lucky dad was available  to drop Mel off. When  they arrived, he was told he needed to take part as Mel is a minor.     This was in toward the end of November.     Mel, Pam, Michelle and Phillip met to discuss Mel’s work possibilities.  They reviewed the test results again and verified that Mel might enjoy some type of work in a movie theater or in some kind of childcare.    Pam was to send us a list of possible job placements.

The list came about a week later.  There were around 40 suggestions.  Many were really not possibilities.  Sonic, really she can not car hop and the counters are way to high inside the store.  Mel and I reviewed the list by true options, job and site. Some jobs were just to far ie 45-60 min away.  We only had the name of the job not any information about the expectations.  Ie Lowes in these locations.  Mel selected several that were child care related, several that were at Movie theaters, several that were in some type of medical facility (Mel wants to be a speech therapist) and one at  a local vet.  We sent the list of possibilities back to Pam.  Pam replied with a packet on interview techniques and a sample application for Mel to fill out.  I found the packet on-line by typing the name of the packet into google.    http://careercenter.unt.edu/pdf/students/job_interviews_booklets.pdf

Pam and Mel had also discusses interviewing and applications.  They decided that Mel needed to fill out a sample application and study the interview material. Then Mel and Pam and meet to review and Pam will help Mel get ready for the interview.

It is the holiday season so Mel and I are in no rush to complete this process. I am thinking  it will take some time for Mel to  find a job.  I’m targeting march or april in my mind.  I will let you know the outcome with a part II of this series.

Questions:

  1. Has anyone used DARS?
  2. How do I make sure they only use her income when she goes off to college?
  3. Michelle mentioned support to help Mel with college. How do I access that money?
  4. How does working now impact Mel’s SSI potential in the future?
  5. How will Mel juggle work and college with her non-verbal learning disability?
  6. How do I get my child into a real job with long-term growth potential and navigate SSI and DARS?
  7. Am I doing this right?
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