Agata lost her vision a few years ago which prevented her from working. She worked hard to become allocated to this change and once she was ready, I worked with her to conduct assessments to see what types of work she would enjoy. We conducted three assessments in food production and the last one went so well, Melinda at Sugar Fix in Ashland allowed Agata to come in and work as an intern! This experience is invaluable in assisting Agata with becoming acclimated to working again. Agata’s tasks include cutting cookies, greeting customers and assisting with folding boxes. Agata has a passion for baking and cooking. She comes from a Polish family and loves making Polish food at home. Due to Agata’s loss of vision, people may think that cooking may not be possible, but with the appropriate accommodations and modifications she can! I have truly enjoyed working with Agata and Sugar Fix Bakery. It is wonderful that Ms. Melinda has given us this opportunity. With the skills that Agata is learning she will surely be prepared to begin looking for work in a permanent position very soon!
Zachary Sisisky, who works in Behavioral Management at The Choice Group, just finished up another 16-week PEERS course. The PEERS curriculum was developed by UCLA and is designed for young adults with Autism who are motivated to make friends but have difficulty with social skills. Sisisky led a class of six participants through skills training and social courses that included behavioral rehearsal activities, homework, and role-play demonstrations. As a PEERS counselor, it is Sisisky’s job to help motivate his students to make friends and to apply the skills they learn in this course to their everyday lives. A new PEERS session will be starting another virtual class this fall with 6-8 people. An unexpected benefit of running the course virtually is being able to have people join from across the state. From Winchester, to Charlottesville, to Richmond, the broader reach is something that our counselors have enjoyed. For more information on The Choice Group or The PEERS curriculum visit
It’s graduation season here at The Choice Group! Students are completing the Project SEARCH and PEERS programs and preparing to enter the world armed with new life skills. A Choice Group counselor recently ran into a PEERS graduate and his mother, who spoke highly of employment opportunities and her son’s newfound friend group. She credited his successful employment and social life to the PEERS classes he took in high school. It is a beautiful feeling to see the skills learned in these programs being used as a tool for success in the everyday lives of our graduates. In the PEERS program, young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder, who have difficulty with social skills, are offered a class that provides instruction and support which teach social skills and help promote a sense of unity in the skills learned in the young adult’s home, community, and on their job site. The Project SEARCH program created a model for students with significant disabilities to learn how to make a success
Meet our Virginia Beach Staff! With such a large area to serve, including an abundant military presence, our counselors are dedicated to their clients. It is a source of deep personal satisfaction when we help our clients achieve a new level of independence through gainful employment. Some of our clients are looking to supplement their disability benefits while others are working to achieve full financial independence through various programs such as Ticket to Work. Whatever your financial goals, finding meaningful employment can be a part of a well-rounded, enriching lifestyle. Our knowledgeable and resourceful staff can help you lay the groundwork for whatever your employment goals may be. Tracie Showalter Renee Arnold Kim Heisser Lisa Handke Rebecca Allen Sarah Morgan Kim Yoakum Rachel McGregor Liz Collison Katherine Edwards Roxanne Monroe Amorita Clark Nancy McNamara - Lead Counselor
At The Choice Group, the goal of counseling is to provide a safe, accepting, and non-judgmental place where individuals can explore issues in confidence. Our goal is for the therapist and client to become a team that explores the client’s strengths, values, fears, and difficulties together. Many of our clients are on the autism spectrum. One such client had been told by a previous employer that he was never going to be able to hold a professional position. Before working with The Choice Group, this individual didn’t have a job coach and was terminated from many previous positions due to challenges with interacting with female coworkers. When The Choice Group manager Shadi Zadeh first met this client about six years ago, he was in his forties, held a Ph.D., and had been working off-and-on for years. By working with our counseling program, he has held down a position as an engineer making $42 an hour with the opportunity for consistent raises and the trust to work from home. Our client