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.

Transition Specialist KakCircle of Friends is just one of several programs that Washburn Rural Transition Specialist Kathryn “Kak” Eli-Schneider has been instrumental in developing during her 13 years in the position. She came to the district 15 years ago and began the transition program at the school.

Mrs. Schneider also started the school’s on-campus cookie shack where students with disabilities learn job skills by baking, decorating, and selling cookies.

The community work program is a major part of transition work done at Washburn Rural under Mrs. Schneider‘s leadership. It involves students with disabilities, many ages 18-21 with developmental disabilities, working at competitive jobs in businesses across Topeka, sometimes with a fellow student serving as job coach as they learn the work.

Mrs. Schneider spends part of her time working to find jobs for students with disabilities in her program, especially the 18-21 year old age group. And although the recent sour economy has made this tougher, she has had plenty of success.

“I have kids working all over the city,” she said. “Most kids in job placement are kids with developmental disabilities, with various degrees of disabilities. Some need job coaches, some do not.”

Mrs. Schneider says the goal of transition is to prepare students for life outside school. This is not something emphasized in the past. .

“Special education kids used to be coddled through high school, and then they would graduate and it was ‘see you,’” she said. “Now we’re figuring out we need to find ways to help them with the rest of their lives.

“My goal is for kids to be working, not in something like a day service that is nothing but adult babysitting,” she said. “ I set up a meeting with businesses to talk about what the program is. But one thing we can’t do is displace another worker.”

Across Kansas, some school districts maintain a transition specialist, but many others rely solely on classroom teachers to run transition programs for children with disabilities. When this is the case, Mrs. Schneider said helping students with disabilities prepare for the world of employment may take a back seat.

“The teacher has to teach them math and English and make sure students get their medications,” she said. “They can’t specialize.”

Mrs. Schneider said some of the programs she oversees are not mandated by state or federal law.

“I don’t have to have the community-based work program,” she said. “I don’t have to have the in-school work program. A lot of things I do is because its best for kids.”

As a transition specialist, Mrs. Schneider said a main job is to make sure students and their families are connected to the linkages they need when they leave high school. Some of this work, for example, is making sure young men and women with disabilities who are going on to college get the accommodations set up that they need. But another important part of the job is making sure parents are aware of programs students will need when they leave the education system.

For example, students with severe disabilities are, in effect, receiving day program services from the school district during their school years, Mrs. Schneider said. But when they leave school, they will need similar services such as job coaching, day programs,  and transportation help. Many of these services have waiting lists because of state budget shortfalls.

“And lots and lots of parents have not even applied to receive services,” Mrs. Schneider said.

To match a student with disabilities with a job, Mrs. Schneider works to find out the interest of the student. She does what she calls an ‘interest inventory,’ which involves working with the student to find out what kind of work they want to do.

Another main ingredient of the transition program is teaching students with disabilities to advocate for themselves. “Take up for yourself,” is a common theme Mrs. Schneider often repeats.

“These kids have choices,” she said. “We try to teach them they need to advocate for themselves.

“People I feel most at risk are the kids right in the middle,” she added. “They don’t look disabled, they don’t sound disabled. But they don’t have the skills to live. They leave here, get into tragic situations because they can’t advocate for themselves.”