Success Story: Austin
Austin sought vocational rehabilitation (VR) services after graduating from West Central High School in 2012. He lives in rural Hartford, S.D., with his parents and his younger brother. Austin suffered an arteriovenous malformation (AVM) when he was 11. An AVM is an abnormal connection between the arteries and veins and is typically congenital (present at birth). Austin’s AVM affects his gait and use of his right side. Fortunately for Austin, his speech was not impaired following his AVM, but he did have mobility issues on his right side and required physical therapy to increase his overall mobility until he reached maximum medical improvement.
Austin had very limited work experience prior to coming to the Division of Rehabilitation Services. He had assisted his dad in doing some care of livestock, mostly working with sheep, for about four years as a pre-teen and teen. When Austin first applied for VR services, he was not really certain about his vocational goals. Austin was interested in sports and perhaps work in Game, Fish and Parks. He explored colleges that offered degrees in wildlife management and started some of the admission processes to attend college. However, with the help of some counseling and guidance from his VR counselor, Austin disclosed he really didn’t enjoy the homework of high school and wasn’t sure if he was ready to tackle college. The focus of Austin’s vocational goals changed, and to see what kind of tasks he would be able to do, his VR counselor recommended he go through the six-week Work Adjustment Training (WAT) program at Goodwill Industries. The hope was the WAT program might help boost his self-confidence and determine his strengths and capabilities.
Austin’s training program at Goodwill began in the E-Store. He would scan donated books and CDs to determine their value. He also assisted in shipping the items purchased off of the E-Store website. Austin was a model employee, and the E-Store supervisor, Josh, liked Austin’s willingness and demeanor on the jobsite. When the time came for Austin’s training program to end, the Goodwill staff had a potential part-time opening in the E-Store, and they strongly encouraged Austin to apply. Austin’s training ended December 4, and after applying and interviewing for the position at Goodwill in the E-Store, he was hired and began work on January 20.
Austin works 28 hours a week and still maintains Social Security Income (SSI) benefits. In addition to the scanning and shipping duties Austin did during training, he also writes the descriptions for the online items for the E-Store website. Austin received follow-along services, benefit-specialist services, and counseling and guidance services from VR and benefit-specialist staff to help him find employment.
Eventually, Austin would like to live the American Dream: house, marriage, children and a stable job. He hopes to find a full-time career with medical benefits and eventually work himself off of SSI. Austin is very independent and drives with the assistance of a left-foot accelerator to make driving easier. Austin enjoys spending time with his family. In addition to his younger brother, Austin has two older brothers, an older sister, three nephews and a niece. Prior to sustaining the AVM, Austin was active in baseball and football, and he continues to enjoy playing quarterback in the yard with his brothers, as well as attending his brothers’ baseball and softball games.
Someday Austin hopes to be certified as a softball umpire. Austin attends church with his family and likes going to newly released movies, especially comedies. His favorite sports teams are the Minnesota Vikings and the Twins. He also enjoys camping with his family, and his favorite camping spot is West Bend near Pierre.
Six months ago, Austin’s father was diagnosed with lung cancer, and he and his family have held a number of fundraisers to help offset the chemotherapy costs. Despite all of these life challenges, Austin maintains a positive approach to life and easy-going attitude.