General Manager of Mrs E's

“They take the job seriously and do a good job,” Mr. Maranell said of his employees with developmental disabilities.


General Manager of Mrs E's

When he started the job tryout in school, a paraprofessional helped Tyler learn the grocery store job. Now 23, he’s become a trusted full-time employee.



General Manager of Mrs E'sNow Mr. Riddle, who has Autism, mild Intellectual Disability and Schizophrenia, is working a 40-hour week, has health insurance through the company, a 401(k) savings plan, and profit sharing.


General Manager of Mrs E's


“I’m right in there with everybody else” could be said to be Colin Olenick’s life theme. “With a little bit of what I’d call ‘unorthodox help,’ I’ve been able to achieve much.”


General Manager of Mrs E's


Now 21, David works full-time as a medication aide in a senior center, has his own apartment, car, and computer, and plans to gain additional education to continue a career in health care.


LaDena Hempken


LaDena Hempken works daily with severely disabled adults, many of whom have multiple disabilities and for the most part are non-verbal.. She said the job -- the first paying job she has held in 12 years -- gives a purpose to her life.


Tammy Carrell


“I always want to learn more,“ said Employment Specialist Tammy Carrell, who works for KETCH in Wichita.. “But a lot of stuff you learn along the way. Each client is a different person.”


Katherine Carpenter


It wasn’t until she went to Valeo Behavioral Health Care in Topeka that Katherine Carpenter’s life made a major change for the better. The culmination of the improvement: a job at Brighton Place, brought on by help provided by Ms. Carpenter’s Employment Support Specialists at Valeo.


Patty Waters


As a Job Coach, or Employment Consultant, she finds employment for persons with developmental disabilities -- some with severe physical and mental limitations -- and then trains the newly-hired employees until they master the job.


Maureen Harvey


The first step in the process of finding employment for people with disabilities assigned to the agency is getting to know the client and the client’s preferences for employment, said Tish Gutierrez, and Employment Specialist for Johnson County Developmental Supports.


Kristen Farley


Kristen Farley, Employment Specialist Supervisor at Valeo in Topeka, said one of the joys of the job is to watch clients who find work change for the better. "They become more outgoing," she said.

General Manager of Mrs E's

It was during many discussions about Angela’s future employment possibilities that they came up with the idea of raising calves.

 is funded by the Kansas Council on Developmental Disabilities (KCDD). Design by Lawson Phillips Associates. Stories by Tim Hoyt. Photography by Lawson Phillips. Publication design by Arthur McCash and Lawson Phillips.

Photo of Justin“Circle of Friends” has been key to Justin White’s tremendous growth over the last couple of years.

At Washburn Rural High School southwest of Topeka, Circle of Friends involves students who have found a way to blur traditional lines between students with disabilities and other students. It pairs mentors, including top student athletes, with students with disabilities and has grown from an original 40 students two years ago to 175 student this year.

Friendships bloom in the group as they get together for games or do things as simple as getting together for lunch. At Washburn Rural, it’s no longer students with disabilities at an isolated lunch table in a corner of the cafeteria.

Justin, 21, is finishing up his last semester at Washburn Rural. Because of his developmental disabilities, including Intellectual Disability and Epilepsy, he has remained in school in the work study program past his normal graduating class. Under federal law, students with disabilities with unmet goals on their Individual Education Plan can continue education until age 21.

The progress Justin has made during these final school years has amazed his mother, Tonia Martin, and she points to the social connections he has made through Circle of Friends as a main reason. Justin is an original member of Circle of Friends and serves as co-president. .

“A few years ago, if Justin had a problem, he had no one to go to but his teacher,” Ms. Martin said. “Now he has a million people he can go to.”

Washburn Rural Transition Specialist Kathryn “Kak” Eli-Schneider has also seen Justin’s progress since Circle of Friends began.

“It’s been awesome for him, he’s really grown,” she said.

Mrs. Martin said a few years ago, before natural supports grew for Justin through things like the Circle of Friends, he was not able to identify when people were making fun of him.

“We had a couple of times when kids talked him into doing stupid things,” she said.

Justin will compete this summer in the Special Olympics as a power weight lifter, which will take place in Nebraska. He said he can lift 265 pounds in a dead lift, 175 pounds in the squat, and bench-press 115 pounds. He said he’s been lifting weights “lots of years.”

But as his school year ends, Justin faces new challenges, new changes besides the weightlifting competition. With his school year finished, he’ll be in a new world, the world of employment and independence.

Through the community work program at Washburn Rural, Justin has been preparing for the transition. Presently, he works one day per week at Big Lots in Topeka unloading pallets, and also volunteers for several shifts at a Topeka Walgreens, gaining job experience.

Mrs. Martin said among her son’s strengths are his ability to remember how to do a job once he learns the routine. And, she said, he’s very willing to help others. Among weaknesses are an inability to understand the value of money. Plus, he just loves to talk and visit with others, so a job must be set up to discourage him from stopping work to spend time visiting.

Once he finishes high school, Justin will be beating the bushes for additional competitive employment. Because of recent budget cuts on the state level, Justin is on a waiting list for residential and day services, things that will be needed to meet his goal of living in his own apartment and working. If he finds work, Kansas Rehabilitation Services is expected to temporarily help with such things as transportation and job coach costs, but long-term assistance would be needed through other state programs.

Mrs. Schneider and Mrs. Martin said Justin will need 24-hour a day assistance once he leaves school.

“Right now, his day service is school,” Mrs. Schneider said. “When he leaves school, something has to take the place of school.”

Justin’s mom said her goal is that Justin has a good quality life. She is working to get him into a self-determination program, which will allow him to make his own choices about who provides his attendant care and where he lives.

“There is no reason Justin can’t be a productive citizen,” she said. “I don’t want him sitting around playing computer games all day or going to the zoo for the thousandth time.”