The team at CentralReach is united by a common interest to improve processes in the special education and therapy worlds. With a team that has over 100 combined years of expertise in clinical services and leading technology, we thrive in helping organizations grow. But that’s only one part of who we are. CR staff also like to give back, both as an organization and as individuals. We’ve previously written about CR’s dedication to employing persons with Autism Spectrum Disorders through the ReachOut program. We are also ready to reach out when the larger community is in need. Here is a look at some of our efforts over the last few months in response to hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.

Hurricane Harvey Relief Efforts

Following hurricane Harvey, the CR team arranged to bring needed supplies to hard hit areas of Texas. Thousands of diapers and Clorox wipes were flown in for the relief and cleanup efforts in the state.

Supplies CR Team Sent to Houston

Hurricane relief

Relocation of CR Headquarters for Hurricane Irma

As CR headquarters are located in Florida, critical staff members relocated in anticipation of hurricane Irma to ensure customer support would not be disrupted. Once the storm was over, the team convened in a hotel to work until it was possible to go back to CR headquarters. Additionally, this was a time when individual CR employees went the extra mile to help the community. For example, team members Deniz, Katie, and Rob pulled together to help a population that is often overlooked during times of crisis — the animals left behind!

The CR Team Working From a Hotel Following Hurricane Irma

Hotel Office

Relief Efforts for Puerto Rico After Hurricane Maria

The team at CR, lead by Deniz & Katy pictured below, raised funds to purchase much needed supplies after Hurricane Maria. Necessary supplies, such as batteries, baby wipes and diapers,  were flown to Puerto Rico in the days after the hurricane hit.

Deniz & Katy Procuring Supplies for Puerto Rico

Shopping for Hurricane relief

Our thoughts continue to go out to all those affected by the recent hurricanes. A big thank you to all who contributed to relief efforts!  Follow along with #TeamCR on Social Media for more updates on your favorite software team.

Backgrounds and past experiences differ for each employee at CentralReach, and the members of the ReachOut team are no different. We asked the young man who currently graces the front page of the CentralReach login screen to give us some insight into his experience at CR so far.

James joined CentralReach in February of 2017 as the newest member of the ReachOut team. James was diagnosed as a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder. He enjoys life as a family man with loving support from his parents, sister, brother, and dog Chokito. He works as a Data Entry Specialist while also helping with lead generation in Business Development. He is a highly valuable member of CentralReach, and much of what happens with onboarding new organizations could not get done without James’ help.

I recently sat down with James to get his candid views on what it’s been like to join the CentralReach team.  Below is my Q&A with him.

Q: Now let’s go back to before you joined CentralReach. What was it like to be interviewed for this position during the recruiting process?

I felt confident talking about what I like to do and how I can work. This job is a good fit for me because I enjoy working with computers. CentralReach was the first and only place I interviewed, and I was really hoping I would get the job.  I was excited to receive the call that I got the job.

Q: What work experience did you have before joining CentralReach?

I graduated high school in 2016 so working at CentralReach is my first job. I liked school, and my favorite subjects were math and electives that had a variety of activities.  I love my job at CentralReach very much because it gives me financial independence, and I get to learn new skills I never had.

Q: What new skills or knowledge have you acquired while working here?

I am a quiet person, but I like that working at CentralReach allows me to talk with people more often.  Working here has helped with my social skills.  When I gain more skills for work, I get more experience to do my job better. I get to succeed.

Q: How did you adapt to working at CentralReach?

I enjoy computers, and I like how I get to work with computers and do my job as a Data Entry Specialist. I worked with Rob first in Business Development and then with Katy in Data Entry.  I like working here more than being a student in school because I feel more productive. This is where I want to work, and it’s perfect for me.

Q: How would you describe your supervisor, Katy?

Katy is awesome, and she’s a great supervisor!  We talk throughout the day, and she gives me guidance and answers any questions that I have.  It’s also great that I am part of a team that works together and can learn from each other.

Q: What have you enjoyed most about working at CentralReach?

I really enjoy adding and doing the updates on every new contact that comes into CentralReach. I learned how to use excel and powerpoint previously, and now I get to use those skills at work. I also like doing research on new companies and practices that might be interested in CentralReach.

Q: One last question…in this picture, it looks like you are listening to music. What type of music do you like?

I like to listen to music while I work. I like to listen to pop rock and classic songs. Bon Jovi and Journey are two of my favorite bands.

James’ answers speak to how naturally he has fit in at CentralReach.  We are thankful to have him on board and excited to expand the ReachOut team as we continue to grow.  For anyone looking to start their own ReachOut Initiative, read Katy’s tips for getting started.

If you are interested in supporting an underserved population of individuals on the autism spectrum, you are in the right spot. You may already know about our ReachOut initiative here at CentralReach, but if not, you can check out our previous blog post here. We’re excited to join the list of companies that are creating and employing adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Now, we are working to make it easier for other companies to do the same!

Our next goal as we continue the growth of the ReachOut Initiative is to inspire and help you to start your own similar initiative at your company. Companies that provide service to children and teenagers with ASD play a big role in your local autism community. What better way to give back even more than to hire adults on the spectrum to work at your company? Believe us when we say this: employing adults on the spectrum is a win-win for your company and community!

So, how do you get started? Check out some tips below for how we got the ReachOut Initiative started at CentralReach:

Tip #1: Utilize a Job Board or Coach
Reach out to a job board or job coach that works with individuals with developmental disabilities. Here in South Florida, we worked with a local vocational rehabilitation center. If you do a quick web search, you can find one near you. Autism Speaks has some great tools to get started as well: https://www.autismspeaks.org/family-services/adult-services/autism-and-employment

Tip # 2: Interview Questions/Activities that Will Help You Hire
Develop your list of interview questions that are straightforward and can help you determine the right fit. See below for some examples.
Sample Interview questions & tips:

  1. What do you know about our company?
  2. What type of environments have you worked in before?
  3. What environment do you see yourself excelling in? (Work better isolated, with other employees around, open environment, etc.)
  4. What do you like to do on your free time?
  5. Do you have reliable transportation to come to work?
  6. Come up with a sample test. For example, if they are going to be doing data entry, set up an excel sheet they can work on.

Tip #3: Slow and Steady for Success
Start your employee(s) with a shorter schedule, to get a sense of how they do and then move up to a full-time schedule. For example, do two or three days a week for half-a-day. Increase their hours once they become more familiar with their new job. This also helps if you decide to hire multiple individuals, as you can have them all start together on shorter schedules.

Tip #4: Utilize Your Staff Clinicians
Connect with your company’s BCBAs to provide support with your program. Have them advise on tips to working with your new employees and help develop a training plan.

Tip #5: Just a New Colleague
Treat your new team members just like one of your own. The biggest struggle will be their adaptation to a new working environment. For a lot, this may be their first job. The more they interact with the team, and are encouraged to do so in productive ways, the more comfortable they will be. The best part is seeing your team learn how to work with someone on the spectrum.

Tip #6: Direct is Best
Let’s face it, there are going to be situations with their work or work environment that will be new and different for you. Our best advice is to be direct. Subtle hints will get you nowhere; being direct is going to save both of you time and frustration.

Tip #7: Good Luck Choosing Just One Candidate
We were so blown away with the candidates and their desire to work, it made it very difficult to not hire each individual we interviewed. Be prepared for that but don’t be afraid to hire more than you originally planned. You’ll want to hire them all 🙂

Adding the ReachOut Initiative and executing it have come with loads of delight for the entire team here at CentralReach. With clinicians on staff, a dedicated process for support in place, and an inclusive work environment, CentralReach employees from all walks of life have thrived with the ReachOut Initiative in place. We only wish we did this sooner! If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me at Katy.Han@centralreach.com.

Written by Katy Han

Every once in a while, you are presented with an opportunity to make a difference. CentralReach’s CEO, Charlotte Fudge, had a vision of somehow getting individuals on the autism spectrum onto CentralReach’s payroll. Together, we began building what is now the ReachOut initiative. Not only was I inspired and excited to start but honestly a little nervous too. The plan was to hire three individuals on the spectrum and give them a great place to work. The idea of hiring not one, not two, but three individuals on the spectrum felt daunting to me, especially since I have never worked directly with someone on the spectrum. The decision to make the ReachOut initiative a reality was not only a changing point for me but also for CentralReach.

My Job

Before you can understand the impact of the ReachOut initiative, I want to give you some insight about my role at CentralReach. Aside from being the Director of Human Resources, I manage all data migration operations in the software. Making sure that new clients’ data is set up properly is not an easy task, and it usually happens in one of two ways. Manually keying the information via data entry is the most time consuming, or I can create an import file and have our developers upload it right into our database. Although tedious and time consuming, data migration is at the heart of getting new CentralReach clients started. Having someone to help with manual data entry would be a huge help. That’s where the ReachOut initiative comes in. To be clear that “someone” I just referenced, later turned into three employees, two who work with me in data migration and a third member who works in CentralReach’s client acquisition department.

Now What?

We have a great idea and job positions figured out. Great! Now what? It’s now time to turn that idea into reality. Where do you start? How do you find candidates? I began working closely with an organization called Vocation Depot, which provides job coaches to individuals with disabilities who struggle to find their place in the job force. It was official; I found a great partner to help us, and the ReachOut initiative was for real.

Not All Glitz and Glamour

Working with Vocation Depot opened my eyes to a much bigger picture. A job coach I worked with shared a story about how he had been working with one candidate for months. Taking them from location to location to try to get an interview, mostly at retail chains for janitorial positions. Once they finally got an interview, they never heard back from any of the employers. I was saddened to hear this story, but I understood this was something a disabled person faces daily and was hopeful that the ReachOut initiative could be the first step in effecting change.

The Interviews Begin

Excitement was trumped by nerves as interview day finally approached. Working with multiple job coaches from Vocation Depot, I interviewed a total of four candidates. I expected the interview process to be long and strenuous, but to my surprise, I wanted to hire everyone I met. In the end, we hired three of the first four candidates. We were all so excited to begin, and I was happy that we could give them this opportunity.

The ReachOut Team

Our three new employees are collectively referred to as the ReachOut Team, but I affectionately see them as my Team. The best part about working with the Team is their willingness and desire to work. You never hear a groan or complaint about their workday or even about it being “Monday” again. They are so excited to come into work and do their best every day, and that excitement radiates throughout the Pompano Beach office. Every day is a Friday for the ReachOut team. Their attitudes on life, despite their struggles, are inspiring and always optimistic.

If the ReachOut Team’s only contribution were their impact on the office environment, the initiative would be a success, but it only gets better. When training the ReachOut Team, I learned that they pay incredible attention to detail, and training the team is a breeze. If any issue or mistake in a data entry project arises, they let me know. I would be lying if I said that the ReachOut Team doesn’t have weaknesses, but their strengths are unheralded. When I’m able to focus their strengths on specific tasks, the results are exactly what CentralReach needs.

Getting Your Company Involved

While the ReachOut Initiative is something we proudly call our own here at CentralReach, we’d also like to get other organizations involved. I strongly encourage you to get your company involved and start your own initiative. While I was unsure how this would start, I am telling you now my only regret is that we didn’t start sooner. The fears and doubts you have about hiring someone with disabilities are normal, but they will do their best to prove you wrong. What you’ll end up with are employees who want to be there, want to contribute, appreciate their opportunity, take their job seriously, and do whatever they can to be the best.

Getting Your Child Involved

The greatest reward from the ReachOut initiative is hearing from the families and guardians on how this has impacted them. They always held hope that their children, now young adults, would be able to get an intellectually stimulating position within a company and be immersed with daily interaction from their peers. Thanks to the ReachOut Initiative, these hopes were finally met. I urge you to continue the fight and to help your child find a position that is right for them and to never give up hope. I strongly recommend working with job placement agencies and job coaches. The individuals working at these organizations truly do care and continue to work with candidates well after placement.

Don’t Wait. Get Involved.

Rarely does change come without challenge. Challenge to change your ways, challenge for the people involved, and challenge to get started. Like many challenges, facing them head on is what has worked for CentralReach.

In October of 2016, Hurricane Matthew hit the poverty-stricken country of Haiti harder than any other piece of land on its path of destruction. Help was needed and CentralReach and it’s users were a part of the thousands of people who donated their time, money or both to the people in need. CentralReach worked with the Global Orphan Project to provide supplies to their orphanages hit hardest by this unfortunate natural disaster.

It was during this time of reaching out to help others in need, came inspiration for another type of reaching out. Seeing how the Global Orphan Project provided hope for the kids they serve, CentralReach CEO Charlotte Fudge knew that CR could make a difference for some of the most forgotten people in the community we live in everyday. To help the same people that have thrived thanks to the incredible work of organizations that utilize CentralReach to help give the best care possible. We could provide a place of employment for adults with disabilities. The ReachOut Initiative of CentralReach was born on that trip.

Just one month later, CentralReach quickly expanded its workforce. As of the first quarter of 2017, CentralReach employs five young adults with disabilities as data entry specialists. Under the leadership of Katy Han, who leads the CentralReach Data Entry team, these five work incredibly hard everyday to quickly and accurately input a seemingly endless amount of data into organization’s accounts who use CentralReach. They are great at what they do, and they bring a lot of energy and laughter to the CentralReach offices. They all live on the autism spectrum. They all are rockstars.

Working with local organizations to locate individuals who are seeking, and can thrive in, the type of opportunity CentralReach can provide, the Reachout Initiative is off and running thanks to the hard work of many. Going forward, the Reachout Initiative looks to identify and hire at least one more adult with a disability in the first quarter of 2017. The end goal is to bring attention to this forgotten subset of the workforce who has proven to thrive when given the right opportunity in the right environment. Additionally, CentralReach aims to create change and encourage other organizations to consider creating positions for those with behavioral disabilities.

According to the Autism in Big Business report, the unemployment rate for individuals with autism is estimated to be up to 85-percent. There are approximately 54 million Americans living with disabilities, and only 20-percent of them are employed or seeking employment. However, many large corporations, such as Cisco, Ernst & Young, Microsoft, Target and Home Depot have created initiatives that focus on creating positions and opportunity for people with disabilities, and in some cases, specifically adults on the autism spectrum.

CentralReach is excited to join the list of organizations who have made it a point to expand its workforce to always employ adults with disabilities. Furthermore, we encourage other organizations we work with to consider employing adults who live with autism as well. We ask ourselves, “Who better to provide a place of employment for adults with autism than the organizations who so amazingly provide life-changing care for this disorder?”

We understand getting started is sometime the biggest hurdle to get over with implementing something this impactful. Our friends at Autism Speaks have some useful resources to help your organization get started and answers to questions you surely have. Additionally, the majority of local areas likely has some sort of vocational assistance program that can help place the right employee. For example, here is South Florida, we are happy to work with Vocation Depot on this initiative.