Job Coaching During the Pandemic

Darlynn To, South Bay Work, Integrate, Learn, Live (W.I.L.L.) Training Program Teacher

Job coaching is a uniquely rewarding discipline within the special needs community but is also one that carries its own challenges on any given day. As a job coach, I provide a sense of protection and flexibility for my clients to perform their jobs appropriately and safely.  I also must work to prioritize things that my clients require even more than their education and training: their physical and emotional safety. 

When the global pandemic struck, retail stores remained open. My clients working at TJ Maxx were well aware of our global pandemic.  Through weekly Covid-19 classes, and education from both instructors and family, they understood the virus’s severity; however, applying their knowledge to real-life situations in the workplace proved challenging.  Fortunately, I have the support of my clients’ coworkers and supervisors at TJ Maxx who make their working experience as safe, and normal, as possible.  

I would never argue that the novel coronavirus is a good thing, but one may admit that there are a few silver-linings that came out of this pandemic year.  Communication, for example, was a big skill that my clients worked on improving.  Being able to communicate effectively is perhaps the most important of all life skills.  Being social was easy, but to be mindful of others during these trying times was an obstacle.  To be able to pass information to other people, and to understand what is said to us was a task of its own.  A simple “Excuse me,” to let others know that they are going to be within 6 feet or to raise their voice at an appropriate tone and pitch to grab someone’s attention has earned my clients so much praise and positive remarks.  

Aside from communication, being more independent was another skill my clients worked on.  As a job coach, I was challenged with how to guide my clients while observing social distancing.  My clients, seeing the difficulty of needing guidance while being safe, pushed against the grain, and diligently tried their best to work on their own and problem-solved before asking me for help from a distance.  

I am so proud to see how much they have flourished in such a short amount of time.  

They were absent from work for a few months due to Shelter-In-Place; however, I have witnessed a spike in improvement in less than half a year.  As scary as a global pandemic may seem, being their job coach has brought a sort of normalcy back into my life.  Because of my clients, I can confidently say that I enjoy being able to work with them out in the community.

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