Author Archives: Nicole

About Nicole

I am an Employment Specialist at Goodwill in Rockford. It's my job to help people with barriers to employment find work and opportunities to enhance their skills and market themselves to employers. I also work as a Freelance Reporter for the Beloit Daily News.

Sam’s Success Story

For this weeks blog I want to share another success story of my co-worker’s participant, Samantha.

Samantha came to Goodwill seeking help finding a job. Through Goodwill’s Placement Program, Samantha learned resume building, interview skills and job searching skills that enabled her to find employment and succeed in her goals. She learned tips on following up with applications and contacted potential employers in the community.

Samantha is a food service worker at CoCo Key’s Water Resort at the Clocktower Hotel. Samantha is doing well and also secured a second part time job at Culver’s. Samantha learned the jobs very quickly and has inquired about a promotion at the Clocktower. She is able to run the concession stand independently and be accurate with the cash handling and all of the duties.
Samantha is happy and excited to be working at CoCo Keys and Culver’s. She feels good about making extra money and having her own money to do things that she wants to do. She is feeling more independent from her parents.

Before coming to Goodwill, Samantha had been out of work for a year. Now that she is working, Samantha feels more independent and likes having extra money. Having overcome anxiety, depression and other physical limitations that Samantha has been diagnosed with, and thriving in the workforce, Samantha has proven to herself that she is a success!

Success Story

This week I want to highlight another participant success story. Ashley recently reached her 90-day probation period at her job which means that she successfully completed Goodwill’s Placement Program! It is always exciting, as an Employment Specialist, to see a participant reach their employment goals and to come so far from their first meeting, which is why I like to share their success.

When Ashley was diagnosed with Epilepsy she was told that finding and maintaining competitive employment would be difficult if not impossible. Ashley has seizures and difficulty with following instruction which is why she was told she would need on-the-job coaching in order to be a success at any job she did get. During high school Ashley let this obstacle hold her back after graduating, but with the help of her DRS (Department of Rehabilitation) Counselor and the Epilepsy Foundation, Ashley joined the Goodwill Placement Program with the goal to find employment and contribute to the workforce.

“My Placement Specialist taught me hard work, goal setting and achievement, as well as resume and skill building which helped me find my job,” said Ashley. With the skills that she received and her determination Ashley was able to find a job working as a Crew Member at McDonalds. Ashley was able to learn her job and work with her co-workers without a job coach on site, though she did use her support group as needed.

With her job she said she is able to earn money for herself for the first time, go out more with friends and feel less guilty by taking the burden away from her mom by having to pay for everything. Congratulations Ashley!

Journey to the Deaflympics

I am sure I am not alone when I say that I have heard of the Special Olympics and certainly the Olympics as a whole; but until today when I was looking for this week’s topic, I had never heard of the Deaflypmics. As a person who works with people with disabilities and volunteers with the Special Olympics each year by plunging herself into cold water in winter, I was surprised but also intrigued.

I have always thought it was important for people to have the opportunity to get involved., but it is easy to take things for granted. While everyone should have the opportunity to participate equally, that is not always the case. To find that the Deaflympics has been around for so long was inspiring to me.

The Deaflympics began as a gathering of 148 athletes from nine European nations competing in the Silent Games in Paris, France, in 1924. Held every 4 years, the Deaflympics are the longest running multi-sport event excluding the Olympics themselves. In order to qualify athletes must have a hearing loss of 55 db in their “better ear.” Hearing devices such as aids or implants are not allowed in competition so that all athletes are competing equally. To address Deaflympians inability to hear, officials guide them by alternative methods such as waving a flag to start a game instead of using a whistle or a light on the track instead of a starter pistol. It is also common practice for spectators to wave instead of clap or to cheer.

This year, on July 26 in Sofia, Bulgaria, the Deaflypmics will be held once again giving athletes around the world a chance to compete. Joining them this year for the second time is Palatine, Illinois resident Jenny Woyahn, ranked number 10 in the world among tennis players and a junior tennis instructor at an athletic club.

Jenny has been hearing impaired since shortly after her birth; she is able to communicate verbally and uses hearing aids to better understand those around her. When she went to the Deaflympics for the first time in 2009 that was her first time meeting people with hearing impairments from other countries. Along with many other talented athletes, Jenny will compete again this year in hopes of bringing home a medal and proving that anything is possible with skill and determination.

My lesson for today; though we may not always be aware of it, everyday people are doing things to make a difference (whether big or small) to bridge the gap of inequality. What will you do today?


Adults Protective Services Act

In 2004, a proclamation was signed designating July as Elder Abuse Awareness Month, in Illinois, in an effort to “Break the Silence.” On Monday, Governor Quinn went one step further to increase awareness against abuse. He signed a new law to better protect adults with disabilities and elderly residents living in Illinois.

The Adult Protective Services Act will create an adult unit within the state Department on Aging that will be responsible for investigating cases of abuse, financial exploitation and neglect of adults with disabilities and elderly individuals. In addition, the law will require caretakers to have special training and establish a team to investigate any suspicious deaths that may occur.

These reforms were proposed following the failure of the state to investigate 53 deaths of adults with disabilities who lived at home, despite receiving calls from a state hotline regarding alleged abuse or neglect.

What is Adult Protective Services?

Adult Protective Services (APS) investigates reports alleging abuse, neglect and exploitation of frail elderly and disabled adults and intervenes to protect vulnerable adults who are at risk.
Services to vulnerable adults include:
• assessment,
• counseling,
• case management,
• emergency assistance with basic needs;
• short-term homemaker services;
o coordination of legal services to obtain emergency orders or guardians/conservators;
o placement into long-term care facilities or assisted living homes; and
o coordination of social, assessment and medical services with other agencies and providers.

More information will be forthcoming regarding the new legislation, but at this time it is good to know that more people are being made aware of the abuse that can be present and what to do about it. Only with knowledge can people “break the silence” and stop it from happening.

Lending a Helping Hand

For this weeks blog post I wanted to share a news article that one of my coworkers sent to me. It features a local foundation called Fish-Abled. It is a not-for-profit organization in Rockford that helps individuals with disabilities participate and attend social activities such as baseball games, fishing outings, concerts, bowling outings, etc … free of charge.

After reading this article I was encouraged by what I read, because I felt that there are a lot of people not only the U.S. that want to make a difference, but locally that want to help. Having a disability shouldn’t cause a person to stop living and having fun, but for some individuals it can complete matters or limit their activity. To have an organization or group of people willing to ensure that individuals with disabilities can still interact socially and participate is really important.
To read the article visit:

Changing Career Goals

Each week my co-workers and I here at Goodwill facilitate group discussions for Job Seekers with disabilities, highlighting a variety of work-related topics and job seeking skills in order to help individuals obtain employment. One topic that comes up a lot is changing career paths or job interests and having little to no experience in that field, or having the experience but being afraid to make the switch.

This is a problem that anybody can face, with or without a disability, and it can be very intimidating, especially during a hard economy or uncertain job market. My advice to people is always keep your options open and that it never hurts to try. Also be sure to use transferable skills, because the responsibilities you had in your last job can usually be related in some way to the job you want to go for. You just have to find the right way to put it on your resume.

This week, I wanted to share another success story of one of Goodwill’s Placement Program participants as given by her Employment Specialist, Anne Gulotta. Mary came to Goodwill looking for a change and with the right tools and motivation she was able to find it.

Mary had to change her career path from cake decorating to clerical due to physical limitation. She came to Goodwill seeking help finding a job and assistance with updating her computer and clerical skills. Through Goodwill’s Placement Program and Clerical Training Program, Mary learned the skills that she needed to be successful in her job search and to be a success in the clerical field. Mary said that she learned office skills, computer training, job seeking skills, resume writing skills and interviewing skills and that all of these helped her to secure a job through the U.S. Census Bureau.

Mary is working as a Field Representative for the U.S. Census Bureau. Mary enjoys doing this type of work and the flexibility that her work schedule allows.

Mary is happy to be doing survey work. She feels good about making extra money which in turn helps her pay her bills. Before coming to Goodwill, Mary had been out of work for several years and was at a crossroad in her career. Mary needed to seek out a different career path because she was unable to do the type of work that she had done in the past due to physical limitations. Mary said that the “training that I received in the clerical training and the skills in the Seeker Sessions and Placement Program has been extremely helpful.”

Disability Definitions Revised

Ever wonder what all the terms used to define different disabilities really mean? In my job as a placement specialist, working with people with disabilities, I come across a lot of different definitions for the various disabilities that people have. Some of them are obvious and self-explanatory; depression, for instance. Then there are ones like DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder). For many years this disability was known as multiple personality disorder. Even for someone working in the field it is sometimes a challenge to understand what all of the different definitions mean.

A revised edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, otherwise known as the DSM-5, was released last month by the American Psychiatric Association last month after extensive study and public comment. This revision changes the definition for many disabilities seen in schools and in the work environment. Although changes might not be seen right away, the new definitions which were 14 years in the making, require awareness for people living with disabilities for this may result in label changes, especially in school-aged individuals.

People may wonder why labels and definitions are necessary at all when it comes to describing different disabilities. The simplified answer: it offers a common language and a method to ensure that diagnoses of mental disorders are consistent for everyone. The revised manual offers new research in the mental health field and describes over 300 officially recognized disorders.

One of the significant changes to come about is the change to Autism. Previously Asperger’s was another type of disability, although it was associated with Autism. Now Asperger’s has been eliminated and Autism is only defined as one disability under “Autism Spectrum Disorder”.

In the revised manual there is now a new category called “social communication disorder”. This is used for people who may have difficulty with conversational skills but do not have restricted or repetitive behaviors associated with autism.

Though the new changes will not effect everyone with a disability, I think it is important for people to be aware of them. For more information on definitions and revisions of the mental health manual read the full article on this topic by Christina Samuels at