CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Virginia – Many parents wonder how their children will adapt to the world of work after high school. For parents of children with disabilities, surprise often turns to worry at the lack of job preparation programs.
The parents of recent high school graduate Ben Kaman said they were relieved to learn about a Down Syndrome Association of Greater Richmond (DSAG) program.
In his final week of the four-week program, Kaman spends his time at the Capital Ale House bottling drinks, taking orders and providing top-notch customer service.
“When you get to know him, he’s funny, he’s friendly and he cares about his friends,” said Ben’s father, Brian Kaman.
Ben’s father and his teacher Cassie Difrango said they saw so much growth in Ben over the four weeks.
“His skillset has expanded, his problem-solving abilities,” said Digfrango. “You see them on their first job site and … with Ben, you start to see that in these pictures in these 4 weeks and they grow and grow.”
The program is one of many offerings from DSAG.
“They see that smile and that confidence and thumbs up or high fives with their job coaches,” Difrango explained.
Ben’s father said the program was a great relief that really prepared Ben for his next steps.
“He has to prepare for life after school,” he said. “As a parent, it’s daunting to think about what your son or daughter with a disability is going to do and how they can do it. It’s just special to have a place like this that embraces and supports him.”
But Difrango said programs like this are sadly in short supply.
“There’s a lack of programs for students with disabilities to get that work experience and improve those skills and a lot of their fine motor skills,” she said. “And they lack soft skills and they need to work on those and these programs are super important for that.”
Ben’s father and teacher said they saw firsthand the positive impact of opening a business to people with disabilities.
“People like Ben need a chance. He’s a lot of things and he can exceed your expectations,” said Brian Kaman.
Kaman and Difrango hope more business owners will welcome and hire people like Ben.
“I think we never expected when we had him and he was born 20 years ago that he would teach us so much, but I would say he taught me a lot,” said Brian Kaman.
Click here for more information on programs and events celebrating Down Syndrome Awareness Month.
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