It’s more than a paycheque: Brendan’s Story
For Brendan, having a job is about more than just a paycheque; it’s about being part of the community. The feeling of inclusion and purpose provides him with emotional and mental benefits that seep into every interaction he has with others.
Brendan has Fragile X Syndrome (FXS), a genetic condition that causes intellectual disability, behaviour and learning challenges, and various physical characteristics. FXS displays differently from person to person. For Brendan, he’s quite independent and has overcome many of the challenges he experiences from FXS. He enjoys bike rides and shopping on his own. However, sometimes he still struggles with his hyperactivity, attention span, and shyness – all common traits of people with FXS.
As a result of his FSX, Brendan was enrolled in a high school program geared towards everyday living and helping him prepare for work. Over the six-year program, he held multiple co-op positions that gave him a significant number of skills and work experience.
At the age of 21, Brendan graduated from his program and was eager to start working. Unfortunately, for three long years, employers wouldn’t take a chance on him because of his FXS.
Caroline, Brendan’s mom, could see his potential and knew he would be a hard worker if he was given a chance. After some research, Caroline found Causeway and encouraged Brendan to give it a try.
From the get-go, Brendan was paired with Employment Specialist Diane. At first, Brendan was a bit shy around Diane. But, Diane very quickly learned that Brendan is a sports enthusiast and engaged with him over his favourite sports team – the Vancouver Canucks.
“Brendan has a big smile and big laugh,” Diane says, “He’s a joy the work with.”
Brendan and Diane worked together for two years trying to find him a job. Before the pandemic, the two would commute to retail outlets together to apply for open positions. Still, unfortunately, they weren’t finding much success.
Although disheartened, Brendan didn’t let this get him down. While he waited for an employer to hire him, he kept working on himself with the help of Causeway’s Wellness Program. Working out in the Wellness Gym allowed him to interact with more people and work on his social skills. His exercises also brought up his overall mood substantially.
The stars aligned last November when Brendan secured his first-ever job at Dollarama. Diane had a previous working relationship with a local Dollarama, who had hired a few of her past clients, and Brendan lived close by and already enjoyed shopping there on his own. Diane and Brendan went to talk with the manager, who hired Brendan on the spot.
Other than COVID-19 closures, which have limited his opportunities to work, the experience has been nothing but positive.
“Brendan has shown that he loves to keep things organized and notices patterns, so we incorporated that into his work plan,” Diane explains. Mainly, his job consists of cleaning and stocking items on shelves, with his favourite thing to stock being sodas.
He has also noticed that he likes to have order to his day, so Diane and the manager helped create a checklist of his duties. He reviews the checklist each shift and marks off the task when completed. He has even helped his teammates get their workdays organized.
His mom has noticed that working has helped Brendan come out of his shell. “It’s so nice for him to have that sense of acceptance and to be part of a team,” Caroline says. “He’s happy to be working.”
Looking ahead, Brendan sees a bright future for himself. He plans to keep working, pick up more hours, and create a routine. Brendan and his mom are also happy to know that Causeway is always there if they need it.
That said, Caroline hopes more employers will open their minds when it comes to hiring individuals with special needs. “There’s still a lot lacking,” she explains, “If you just give someone a chance, they’ll give you the moon.”