23 Jan REED Student Makes Strides at Valley Hospital
From left, Ben Donaghy, SLE Coordinator; Colin Badini, Life Skills Coach; Ben; Jill Nadison, Executive Director/CEO, REED Foundation for Autism; Kaitlyn Moceri, Director of Volunteer Services, The Valley Hospital
If you work at or happen to be visiting the Valley Hospital grab a cup of coffee, stop for a bite to eat or just walk through the hallways and you might see one of Valley’s happiest volunteers — Ben.
Ben, 19, is enrolled at REED Academy in Oakland NJ, a private school for individuals with autism. Like many people on the spectrum, Ben’s challenges liewith language, communication, and socialization. At REED, they focus on each child’s individual needs ensuring that every student reaches their full potential.
Ben’s volunteer job was created through the REED’s Structured Learning Experiences Program (SLE). Under the direction of Ben Donaghy, the SLE Program provides opportunities for older students to sample jobs on site with the assistance of their individual job coach.
He arrives at Valley ready to go. Ben starts by reviewing his schedule on his iPad, then travels independently to gather the appropriate supplies and begins cleaning the dining tables in the cafe — all with a big, bright smile.
“Ben loves doing work that has value,” said Donaghy. “We are so thankful to the Valley Hospital for partnering with us in this program.”
One of the primary goals of SLE is to identify and match a task with each student’s special skill set — and Ben’s happens to be his determination, diligence, consistency and organizational skills — not to mention his bright smile — which landed him right in the heart of the Valley Healthcare System.
Ben’s mother Mary Beth, described the program as pivotal for him, “I’m so proud of the work Ben’s teacher and SLE coach have done with him,” she said. “People at church – some of whom I don’t know – tell me all the time that Ben has a quasi-magical ability to brighten their day.”
His smile is contagious and his attitude, infectious — just ask the Valley staff who all know him by name. “Ben’s cheerful disposition impacts patients, visitors, doctors and nursing staff,” said Kaitlyn Moceri, Director of Volunteer Services at Valley. “His clean cafe creates an escape for all.”
According to a recent study by the Institute for Corporate Productivity, or i4cp, a company that analyzes the practices of high-performance organizations, hiring people with intellectual and developmental disabilities doesn’t just improve culture—it improves the bottom line.
So not only is Ben contributing to people’s good cheer — he is also increasing hospital productivity and further solidifying the Valley’s reputation for employing focused and driven workers.
Right now there is a nearly 69.3% unemployment rate for adults with autism, according to a Drexel University study. As the number of autism diagnoses continues to rise, one of the dominant issues facing this population is the lack of employment opportunities, and the clinical team at REED Academy wants to do something about it.
“We believe that every child deserves the opportunity to live a productive, independent life,” said Jill Nadison, Director/CEO of The REED Foundation for Autism. “REED Academy will continue to strive to make sure that every parent’s wish for their child can come true.”
And REED’s efforts to improve job prospects for people with autism doesn’t stop with Ben.
Now REED and the Valley Healthcare System are working together to build more opportunities like Ben’s so other students will have a chance to put their special skills to work.
Giving to REED Foundation for Autism supports programs at REED Academy, as well as helping to build our new REED Next adult program. Help us help give the gift of meaningful employment by donating to the REED Foundation for Autism today.