Mark Kelly had a lot of working experience throughout his school years with the Sussex Consortium Program, which offers a variety of programs for students with special needs. So when he graduated from school, Mark’s parents Thomas and Susan Kelly advocated for Mark to get a job at 1776 Steakhouse in Rehoboth Beach, where he started washing dishes three years ago. He’s been able to create some meaningful relationships with his coworkers, who have gone out of their way to accommodate his needs and make him an important part of their team.
“They love him. They love his personality and his sense of humor,” Mrs. Kelly shared. “As soon as they opened up after their pandemic shutdown, they hired him back right away. They treat their employees like family and they have a very stable staff.”
Mark gets support on that job through another provider, and he receives tremendous support from the staff at 1776. They schedule him for the same days and hours each week and make sure he has plenty of work to keep him busy.
“He thrives on routine, consistency and structure. And that was good for him there,” Mrs. Kelly said.
As good as his job environment is, it was still beneficial for Mark to have additional guided experiences when he wasn’t working. That’s why his parents got him started in KSI’s Life Enrichment program in 2016. Being at KSI added a certain element that his work experience didn’t.
“The peer part of it is the most important thing. I think he does well being with friends who have common issues,” related Mrs. Kelly. “And there’s not a lot of pressure there. He’s just able to do his thing.”
Mrs. Kelly sees where Mark gets more adventurous being exposed to different experiences at KSI. He likes trying new foods in the cafeteria. He has exposure to different places and people as he participates in activities like volunteering at the Delaware Veterans Home or attending the annual KSI Christmas Party.
“He was excited being part of the holiday party and seeing different people in a different place,” Mrs. Kelly remembered.
When funding shortfalls starting becoming a major issue for disability providers a few years ago, KSI and Ability Network of Delaware (A.N.D.) held meetings to mobilize families to get involved. The A-Team Delaware was formed to provide grassroots advocacy for disability issues, and the Kelly family was there to add their support. They found the help they needed to effectively represent their son’s interest to legislators deciding provider funding.
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