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Damaris Garcia, journalism student at Southern Connecticut State University, reported this story in September 18, 2019 as part of Journalism Capstone coursework for Catherine Sullivan-DeCarlo.

When Kyle Derman applied for a job at Garden Catering in New Haven, learning the work tasks was not as hard as learning all of the social rules or hidden curriculum.

Chapel Haven has helped Kyle identify an employment opportunity and gain job training within the Center for Employment Services and Opportunities program (CESO), which serves adults with developmental and social disabilities to assist in reaching their specific career goals.

Kyle spent 10 hours training with a Special Education instructor and career transition specialists, who asked him multiple interview questions in order to make sure he was prepared for his one day work trial, which he ultimately passed and was hired on the spot.

Chapel Haven CESO Career Transition Specialist, Adam Ursone (left) works closely with Employee Kyle (right) inside Garden Catering at New Haven, Conn. (Damaris Garcia, Thursday, October 17, 2019)

When Kyle began working, he found himself becoming anxious at times, as he was overwhelmed by sensory input and did not understand many of the social cues on the job.

Having the job has helped Kyle live life as an independent individual.

“It’s an exciting time,” he said.

At the job, Kyle pre-portions and prepares the nuggets and fries. He puts the sauces in containers, weighs the food and then puts it in bags.

“When tasks take a long time, drinking water and taking deep breaths helps me,” he said. Kyle said he may sometimes feel stressed while he’s working,

“Garden Catering has been really understanding and knows that Kyle’s going to make mistakes and they give him room for that to happen,” said his mother, Marina Derman. “Each error is a learning experience and he is picking up new lessons every day he works there.”

Manager Jena Fracassini (left) and Employee Kyle Derman (right) work together at Garden Catering, New Haven, Conn. (Damaris Garcia, Wednesday, September 18, 2019)

Garden Catering Manager Jena Francassini said Kyle has been steadily improving. “I like to see when Kyle can do things independently, and do them well. When he works, once he understands what he’s doing he can go a lot faster and that’s nice to see,” she said.

Assisting clients with decreasing the need for  one to one support is also the goal of the career transition specialists.

“Kyle’s worked hard to learn every skill along the way,” his mother Marina said,  “[it is] amazing that he can do these things.”

Now Kyle has advanced to the point of training others. When he trains someone to do food prep, he first shows them the foods and suggests the following advice to the new employees he trains on the job: “Ask for help.”

For more information about CESO, please contact Danielle Chiaraluce, Executive Director.