There is no way to miss Ted Robinson when walking into Mishawaka’s Best Western.
He looks every bit of the “seven feet tall and not an inch shorter” he claims to be. His unusual height is an advantage as an assistant maintenance technician, a spot he’s had for roughly a month and a half.
Through ADEC’s community employment program, Ted has found a job he loves, and Best Western General Manager Connie Harmon couldn’t be happier to have him.
When you have an intellectual or developmental disability, getting a job isn’t always easy, and that’s where ADEC’s community employment program comes in. Employment consultants work with individuals from start to finish, helping them figure out their strengths, making sure they’re comfortable at their new job and sticking with them until they reach independence.
After working on assessments to see what kind of job suits Ted best and testing out Best Western for a few days, Ted made an easy decision that the hotel was where we wanted to work.
“I was actually hoping Ted would want to join us, because Ted had come a few times to try us out and I had my fingers crossed,” Connie says. “I really was hoping he’d want to join our team.”
He works five days a week and splits his time between Best Western and the neighboring hotel. He’s been an asset to Maintenance Engineer Barry LaDow, who’s able to knock out big maintenance jobs while Ted takes care of the smaller jobs that help keep the hotels in tip-top shape.
“There was a little learning curve on my part, but he recalls really well,” Barry says. “When I teach him something, he remembers. It’s all about building his confidence.”
Ted does everything from changing lightbulbs and painting touchups to installing thermostats, cleaning showerheads, walking the halls for safety checks and taking out trash.
With his height, of course, he gravitates to certain jobs.
“Cleaning things up high, reaching places that other people can’t get is good,” Ted says, grinning. “I like doing those things.”
Brandi Brockwell, Ted’s employment consultant at ADEC, has known him for years and has helped him grow through ADEC’s community employment program.
When they first met, Ted’s speech delay was more profound. Through the years, she’s watched him grow in confidence and speak easier. He attends Toastmasters, which helps individuals improve communication skills.
“He tells us his emotions, how he’s feeling, if he likes something or not,” Brandi says. “Sometimes it’s easier to give him a pen and paper, walk away for a few minutes and let him write down his thoughts. He’s really come a long way.”
Earning a paycheck excites Ted, who likes going to the movies and buying books with his money. A J.R.R. Tolkien fan, he’s particularly fond of the Lord of the Rings books and movies.
He’s made friends at work with another maintenance technician, Bruce Valence. Bruce and Barry have given Ted additional responsibilities since he’s proven he’s a hard worker who gets the job the right.
On Ted’s second day of work, Connie pulled Brandi aside and gave her a glowing review of Ted’s first couple days.
“He’s always got a smile on his face, he’s funny, he’s just fun to be around,” Brandi says.
When an individual ADEC serves starts a new job, their ADEC employment consultant visits them on the job multiple times a week to make sure the new employee is happy and fulfilling their job duties.
As time progresses, those visits lessen in frequency. In mid-March, Brandi and Ted spoke about stabilization, meaning Best Western felt he was performing so well that he doesn’t need the support of Brandi anymore. His coworkers were so excited that they bought Ted four dozen mini-cupcakes in celebration.
Brandi will check in with Ted occasionally for 90 days, then — if Ted and the employer are still happy — Ted’s case will be closed as a successful transition.
There’s no sign of slowing down for Ted. He and Bruce push each other to be better and Connie is impressed with how independent Ted has become.
“He’s amazing, we need him,” Connie says. “We really depend on him.”