Corey passed her cognitive test with a score of 15! she qualified and Yesterday was her first day working in the GoBabyGo Cafe at the University of Delaware.
We arrived early. Corey insisted on walking in from the parking lot (approximately 350 feet). As we waited in the lounge chairs for Devina I could see Corey tense up. She was looking at the students congregating in the lounge. This is the first time she’s been in an environment with so many people her age. She was a little nervous but Devina was comforting explaining the expectations for her orientation week. “We are just learning where things are and how to work with each other. I want you to get comfortable moving and walking around the cafe and you can take as many breaks as you want. There’s no rules this week”. “Oh, there is one rule; if you get frustrated or angry, which could happen, you just can’t throw muffins at the customers. That’s bad for business”.
Once Corey’s nerves were settled, she walked to the kiosk. Devina helped Corey into the harness. The harness system resembles a parachute harness suspended from a rolling pole across a square grid. It enables Corey to move in all directions as well as spin/turn to change direction without fear of losing her balance and falling. (See photo gallery pictures)
Corey was in her element. She moved about the kiosk listening to directions, taking in the contents of each area. We all were nervous about her comfort level and whether or not she would take to the harness system. She surprised us again!
At first Corey held her forearm cane for balance as she moved. When asked to start restocking supplies, she removed her right arm from the cane to begin work. The cane fell to the floor. Her co-worker picked it up and placed it next to her. It fell three more times and she politely told him to put it aside because she didn’t need it…she spent the rest of her shift moving about without the cane because she felt secure in the harness.
Devina quickly saw the ease in which Corey manipulates her right arm, so she switched it up quickly. Corey was asked and agreed to unpacking the stock with her left hand, transferring the items to her right and placing those items with her right. Caitlin and I watched her concentration and immediately noticed she was initiating conversation with Devina and asking questions about her task. This was a first! She engaged with her co-workers, smiled frequently and never looked over at me nor asked for me once! Needless to say, Caitlin and I cried tears of joy and relief for the first 20 minutes.
Corey was working ‘at the back’ of the cafe when I approached to buy my lunch. Devina asked if she wanted to ring up my order. Devina thought she would be shy about learning the register and talking to clients her first day. Corey moved to the front of the counter and looked at me quite seriously as she asked, “How can I help you, mom”?
M – I’d like to buy this salad and bottle of water please.
Corey’s co-worker stood beside her to teach her the register. He pointed out where to find the proper category, select the item, enter and find the total of the purchase. He did not touch the register, Corey found each selection and managed the screen herself (thank goodness for the new glasses!)
C – 7.99 please.
I handed her a $5 and three $1’s
M – How much did I give you?
Corey has not been able to recognize the front of any currency. Typically, she turns them over to see the backside before she can add the total. She separated each dollar and looked at me
C – 8 dollars
(another first)Her co-worker showed her how to enter the amount received and added, “before you hit enter, move the money to the side of the register because the drawer opens really fast and hits your stomach. If the money is in front of you it gets stuck under the drawer…guess how I know that”? She smiled at his humor and advice. She entered the money and read the amount of the refund.
C – (in a very professional tone) 1 cent is your change
M – I have to give you a tip (as I put $2 in the tip jar)
C – thank you mom, can I get you anything else?
M – I feel like we’re playing restaurant just like we did when you were younger!
I was Corey’s first customer and to Devina’s surprise, she wanted to wait on the additional 3 behind me. She spent the next hour/half walking throughout the cafe’s 50 sqft’ space, restocking, interacting, preparing a parfait and never looked happier. She took 3 short breaks about 10 minutes each. She stood for a total of 1 hour…another first! I sat across from the kiosk, prepared with ‘busy work’ but couldn’t stop watching her.
At the end of her shift, she asked for her wheelchair. She was one tired woman! As we were leaving, the young woman working with her asked if she’d be back. Corey looked at me to answer for her. I told her we’d be back Thursday and Friday. The young woman was very excited, “oh great, those are the days I work. I get to work with you again!”. We said our good-byes and as I wheeled Corey out, I leaned over and whispered, “Did you hear that, Kayla is looking forward to working with you. I think you just made your first friend”. Too tired to speak, she just smiled and lifted her arm giving the universe a victory ‘fist pump’
She has worked 1,873 days for this day. 5years, 1 month and 16 days…
Never Give Up and Never Give In, xoxo