Monday, September 17, 2018

Executive Assistant Feature: Meaghan Strauss



Meaghan has been an executive assistant with The Choice Group for 4 years and serves the areas of Richmond, Hampton Roads, Central Virginia, Northern Virginia and the Southwest. "Meaghan is the Administrative- Receptionist- LTESS extraordinaire. She wears many hats and is always available to help troubleshoot an issue with her expertise”. 

In working the front desk she is the first face clients see when they enter The Choice Group Office. "I am personally incredible appreciative of not only her hard work but dedication to assisting all TCG staff any way she can.” Says her coworker Danielle.

Danielle recalls her most memorable times with Meaghan have been her continual ability to solve problems in the Admin world. She says that Meaghan is great with giving directions and is always available to lend a hand. Danielle’s favorite aspect of working with Meaghan is her ability to maintain a positive attitude even amongst all of the chaos. 

We are so pleased to have such a positive employee who is always more than happy to lend a helping hand like Meaghan. Keep up the positive energy, we appreciate you!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Success Through Hardship- Valerie's Story


Heidi Chaney began working with Valerie in October of 2017. Valerie was referred to The Choice Group by The Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) to help her get back to work. Along with the help of her DARS counselor Kara Leavell and with the support of her family and friends she was ready to move forward.

Valerie had gone to school 30 years ago to learn office skills and had worked at the local shipyard ordering parts for ship repair but was laid off and had not worked in 15 years. Valerie had overcome many challenges in her life and career such as being paralyzed from the waist down since the age of 18 and was not going to let being laid off deter her from finding work again.

With the help of her job coach, Valerie decided that working as a front desk receptionist or as a greeter of some type would best fit her needs and desires. After taking a situational assessment at a local YMCA it was confirmed that Valerie’s desire to move forward in the job search with similar jobs in mind would be a great fit.

After submitting several applications with the help of her job coach Heidi, both Valerie and Heidi went to a job fair at the local community college and met with a representative of PCSI, a federal contractor. After reviewing her resume, the representative from PCSI said that Valerie should apply for an ID Checker position. With the help of Heidi, they filled out the online application. An interview was then scheduled and Valerie landed the job and began work at a military dental clinic as an ID Checker.

We are so glad that Valerie found the position with PCSI and wish her continued success!

Monday, September 10, 2018

Counselor Feature: Danielle Counts



Danielle has been with The Choice Group for 2 years and serves the Richmond area. She specializes in Community Support Services (CSS), Wounded Warrior and The Department of Juvenile Justice.

Her most memorable experience has been helping one of her clients participate in the Women in Action Veteran Beauty Pageant hosted at the Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center.

She loves working at The Choice Group because it helps her instill hope in individuals whom often don’t think they’re capable of reaching their goals.

Keep up the great work Danielle, we are lucky to have you!

Friday, September 7, 2018

Reblog: Doctor Training Program Speeds Autism Diagnosis from Disability Scoop


Doctor Training Program Speeds Autism Diagnosis

Pediatrician Brenda Holson visits with a 2-year-old patient. A program designed to train primary care providers to diagnose autism is helping reduce wait times for children with the developmental disorder, researchers say. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/TNS)

Training primary care providers to accurately diagnose autism is yielding big dividends, researchers say, allowing children on the spectrum to be identified and start treatment far sooner.

Through a combination of in-person sessions and remote, video-based coaching over the course of a year, 18 primary care providers working across the state of Missouri learned to diagnose and treat autism.
The training was provided through a program known as ECHO Autism that connected pediatricians, family physicians and other primary care providers with a variety of autism experts including a clinical psychologist, a social worker, a dietician, a psychiatrist, a parent and a pediatrician specializing in the developmental disorder.
For families treated by health care providers who participated in the program, researchers found that children were able to receive an autism diagnoses two to six months faster than if they had waited for a referral to the nearest autism center, according to findings published recently in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
What’s more, they found that families avoided traveling an average of 173 miles by being able to see a local doctor instead.
“All participants reported that they had changed their practice as a result of participation in the program and they felt confident in their abilities to screen and diagnose autism early on, which is incredibly beneficial to families,” said Kristin Sohl of the University of Missouri-Columbia who directs the ECHO Autism program and is an author of the study.
Most health care providers who participated in the program said they saw an uptick in patients with autism in their practices and indicated that by the end of the program they were accepting referrals for autism evaluations from other providers, the study found.
The researchers said their findings support additional study of the training model on a larger scale.
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by Shaun Heasley from disabilityscoop.com posted on September 4th, 2018
https://www.disabilityscoop.com/2018/09/04/doctor-training-speeds-autism/25449/

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Austin Taylor


Vocational Counselor Rachel McGregor has been working with her client, Austin since June of 2016. Already a hard worker, Austin gained work experience as a high school student at Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital where he impressed the managers and staff with his initiative and endurance. So when Rachel started working with him as a postgraduate, Austin had already gained an affinity for food service from his experience at Sentara.  

The biggest obstacle Austin faced when landing a job, was finding the right match. They decided to apply to many different types of jobs since his work experience was somewhat limited up to this point. Austin “is capable of so much and knew exactly what he wanted to do,” said Rachel about her experience working with him. “I think it can be hard for younger individuals to find employment in their area of interest because often times they don’t have the experience needed for those positions.” However, Austin was more prepared than most with experience from his high school employment program and extracurricular volunteer experience under his belt. He was able to show managers that he was capable of working a full-time job.  

After looking at several job opportunities, there didn’t seem to be one that just clicked, so Rachel connected with his high school teachers and job coaches in order to reach the managers whom Austin enjoyed working with at Sentara Hospital during his time there.  They immediately knew that they wanted to bring Austin in to interview for a full-time paid position. It was a team effort between Austin, the schools, DARS and The Choice Group to get Austin into the position that he wanted the whole time! 

Now, after being employed by Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital for over a year (he began in May 2017) his coworkers comment on how Austin is one of the hardest workers they know. He is so loved by all of his coworkers and every time Rachel talks to a manager or coworker, they rave about how awesome Austin is. 

He has learned a great deal of independence by scheduling his week around work and organizing his own transportation by following the bus schedule each week. Though he began quiet and shy, since starting his position, Austin has become more comfortable with his coworkers. He jokes and laughs with them, and asks if he can help them when he finishes his own work. He has really become a huge part of the team! 


In his personal time, Austin enjoys video games, movies and hanging out with his friends. He lives near the beach and enjoys hanging out there during the summer. Austin is also a huge Virginia Tech Hokies fan and loves attending the football games with his dad.  

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Devante Walker




Devante Walker has been working with Rachel from The Choice Group since August of 2014. He participated in the Project SEARCH program, completing 3, 10-week internships at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, where he gained essential work experience and skills to obtain future employment. During his time with Project SEARCH, it was clear that Devante excelled in customer service. In learning this, Rachel and Devante began looking for jobs where he could use his customer services skills and interact with people, which he loves to do. 

People are drawn to Devante’s outgoing personality. He has a great memory and can recognize people after meeting them just once!  So when Devante got the job as a part of the security crew at The Funny Bone, it was a perfect fit! He works up front as the customers line up to come in for a show. He checks bags, IDs and stamps hands. Devante also monitors the showroom as comedians are on stage. He is so loved by all his coworkers and guests that come in, and he is able to remember those who have come to the comedy club before. He is one of the first faces you see when entering The Funny Bone.

Devante uses a wheelchair to get around, so when he started training, it was difficult for him to navigate the showroom at first.  Once he got familiar with his work environment, he was able to navigate around - no problem! When first on the job, Rachel helped Devante learn his tasks, get familiar with the environment, and assisted in getting the accommodations needed to make the job accessible for him. She even helped him learn table numbers by creating a seating chart study guide! Devante is determined to continue to learn new skills and has very high expectations for himself. Rachel continues to support Devante through Follow Along services. She is available if any new training comes up, or he has any new tasks assigned he needs assistance with learning. 


One of his favorite parts of the job is meeting many of the comedians who have performed at The Funny Bone. He is such a well-loved employee and has been working there for over 3 years now - a great accomplishment! Devante has an awesome sense of humor and fits in perfectly at The Funny Bone. He loves hanging out with friends and also loves playing video games and watching sports.  

Monday, August 27, 2018

Counselor Feature: Caitlin Igoe



Caitlin has been a counselor with us at The Choice Group for four years this September serving New River Valley and Roanoke in the Southwest Region of Virginia.

Caitlin’s most memorable experience working for TCG was watching her first client transition from Community Support Services volunteering with a company to a paid employee who has been in the job for almost 4 years now.

She loves the diversity The Choice Group brings, the new people she meets and working with different employers in the area.

We are honored to have Caitlin as one of our counselors and look forward to many more years with her!