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Success Story: AJ

June 30, 2015

AJ applied for vocational rehabilitation services when he was in high school.  He had no paid work experience at the time.  AJ was eligible for services because of the functional limitations posed by paralysis due to Transverse Myelitis.  Transverse Myelitis is a rare inflammatory disease causing injury to the spinal cord with varying degrees of weakness, sensory alterations and autonomic dysfunction.  For AJ, this impacts his ability to walk and stand. 

AJ was receiving Social Security Income (SSI) when he applied for services.  He continued to receive benefits through college and up until he was employed full time. 

He received guidance and counseling, tuition/fees/books for his undergraduate program and a chair topper.  AJ also worked with a rehabilitation engineer within the Division of Rehabilitation Services who assisted him with identifying and reviewing information about the chair topper. The chair topper is a device that fits a wide variety of automobiles. It automatically folds and stores a conventional wheelchair inside a weather-resistant, car-top compartment – eliminating the need to store the chair in the trunk or backseat of a car. 

AJ received his undergraduate degree from Augustana College in May 2008, with his Bachelor of Science in psychology. He then applied and was accepted into medical school and attended the University of South Dakota School of Medicine.  He currently is completing a five-year residency and fellowship in psychiatry.

AJ will earn $51,000 annually, working full time and earning benefits.  He will work two years with children/adolescents and three years with adults during his residency with Avera Behavioral Health. 

When he isn’t working, he hangs out with friends and family, rides his handbike, reads and loves going to the dog park with his dog Griffey!

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