Gaining employment skills

School-to-work program helps teen with autism build skills and confidence

Miles Trier, 19, has been volunteering with the New Hampshire Council on Developmental Disabilities through a school-to-work program at John Stark Regional High School in Weare.

Courtesy photo

Miles Trier steps off the school bus on a Friday morning, lunch in hand, and walks through the door, only stopping to hang his coat on the coat rack near the doorway. He continues through the office, saying good morning to familiar faces, eager to get to his desk and start working on his project for the day.

Trier, a 19-year-old with autism, has been volunteering with the New Hampshire Council on Developmental Disabilities with his job coach Saralee Bougher since February through a school-to-work program at John Stark Regional High School in Weare. The program, run by teachers Dabney Kelsey and Susan Friedman, allows students to gain skill-related work experience and acquire vocational skills that can be used in the future.

Trier became interested in volunteering at the council because he wanted to gain more experience with clerical work. Almost every Friday he spends a few hours at the council updating contact information lists on spreadsheets through Microsoft Excel.

In addition to his work at the council, Trier also enjoys testing keyboards at Computer Technology Assistance Corps in Manchester. Although he is doing other jobs this semester such as stocking items and making labels for items at Edmund’s Hardware in Weare and bagging groceries at Sully’s Superette in Goffstown, Trier prefers jobs involving technology and likes office work.

Over the past few months, Trier has seen improvement in his computer skills through his weekly data entry.

“I’m faster with typing and it’s easier to organize things,” Trier said.

One of the biggest challenges for Trier has been deciphering the handwriting on some of the forms he has been entering. While he was hesitant at first to ask questions, he has been asking about things he is confused about more and more. If he encounters a name or address that is hard to read, Trier gets a second opinion on it before continuing on with his work.

 Trier has strengthened his problem-solving skills during his time at the council and no longer feels afraid asking for help when he needs it. Having a weekly work schedule has helped Trier gain noticeable confidence as he gets more comfortable in a work environment.

“He has become very independent at the council,” his job coach said.

At the council’s recent open house, Trier brought his mother to the office to show her his cubicle and meet the people he works with every Friday.

“When we went to the open house Miles was so proud to show us around,” his mother Terri Trier said. “He introduced us to all of the people he knows there, making sure not to leave anyone out. They were very welcoming to me which made it easy to understand why he enjoys working there so much.”

He considers his volunteer job at the council one of his favorites. He has developed good relationships with his work peers and makes a point of saying hello to everyone he encounters.

“I like the people,” Trier said.

Trier’s parents also feel that the council has been a great place for their son to develop and strengthen necessary skills.

“It is a job that allows him to use skills that he has learned in school and at home,” his mother said. “It forces him to think and make decisions. He has learned a great deal there and talks about it often.”

One of the most important outcomes of Trier’s volunteer experience has been realizing what he enjoys doing. Trier has discovered that he would like to pursue a job in clerical work after his post-grad program.

“I’ll look for other jobs like this one,” Trier said.

Sara Ward is the Catholic Charities NH AmeriCorps VISTA with the New Hampshire Council on Developmental Disabilities. She does a variety of things for the council, including media, communications, volunteer management and grant research.


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