Contributed by Butler County Board of Developmental Disabilities
Chase Montgomery uses inflection and facial expressions to help get his points across. His favorite word is “Yeah” and he can say it dozens of different ways. Once anyone has been around him awhile, they know what he means. Montgomery, 22, has apraxia, which is a muscle disorder.
“As a mother, I feared letting my son loose in the community,” Cathy Sears said. “A lot of people with kids with disabilities have the same fears, and that stops their children from having lives. Chase enjoys being out there and being with people. It was hard for me to let him, but I knew it was the best thing for him.”
Montgomery’s mother enrolled him in Project Life and Project Search after he graduated from Hamilton High School, and these programs helped him develop job skills as well as basic life skills.
Last year, one of his job coaches took him to a job fair at Miami University. Montgomery knows American Sign Language and is getting better at putting two or three words together. He also uses a communication device, which his mother programmed to include common job interview phrases, such as “I would be a great addition to your company.”
After the job fair, Montgomery was hired at the Martin Dining Hall on the Oxford campus, where he cleans floors and restrooms in the morning, then runs a dishwasher after lunch. When Montgomery first started, a job coach followed him around all the time. Now he works more and more independently, with job coach visits every few shifts.
“He’s a very bright man and he responds very well to systematic training, following directions and things like that,” said John Barnett, a job coach through the Board’s partner agency, Ohio Valley Goodwill. “He picks up things quickly and is savvy in some ways. He has a great sense of humor and the staff here is very supportive.”
Montgomery has also made friends at the dining hall, including an 11-year veteran of the workplace, Dennis Reuss, who said Montgomery has shown him a trick or two about doing the job. “He’s easy to work with and once you get to know him, it’s easy to communicate with him,” Reuss said.
Montgomery is working harder at home to communicate with his family because he wants to tell them about his job. His family has learned, for instance, that he has tenacity and pride in his ability to improve his performance. At first, his work was slow, which caused some concern, but he learned the rhythms of the labor expected of him and got faster.
For example, the job description says it should take 15 minutes to clean a certain bathroom, and Montgomery worked hard to improve his time until he met that goal. Now he does so consistently.
Montgomery’s job success has made a huge difference to him and his family. “The people he works with are so wonderful that they helped me overcome those fears,” Sears said. “They have wrapped their arms around him and he loves it. He hasn’t taken a day off.”