Each individual task Megan performs at work may seem small and well-defined, whether labeling boxes at Peg Perego, loading celery and carrots into produce bins at Community Harvest Food Bank or cleaning windows at a Holiday Inn. But taken together, those jobs illustrate a revolutionary change in her life.
For Megan to be going to school and gaining work experience at the same time would have been unthinkable only a few years ago. Her mother, Noelle Brennan, said Megan, who is now 20, has had a seizure disorder since she was 8 months old. A seizure always puts her at risk of getting hurt.
“She went to school because she had a full-time aide. That was it,” Brennan remembers. “Somebody was always tracking on her: Where is she? What’s she doing? Is she in a safe spot? She was pretty much at home. We took her to church, but she was not involved in other things except school.”
The transformational improvement in Megan’s life began more than four years ago in 2018, when she began taking different medicine to control her seizures.
In the last couple of years, her improvement has been swift and unmistakable. Brennan says it’s been eight months since Megan’s last seizure. As Megan grew stronger and steadier, one of the new activities she took on last school year was Easterseals Arc’s Pre-Employment Transitions Services at Fort Wayne Community Schools’ Anthis Career Center. Pre-ETS offers work-skills development and job placement for students with disabilities. Any student ages 14 to 22 with an IEP or 504 plan is eligible to enroll in Pre-ETS.
“Since this has happened, she’s able to think and grow and experience all these new things. That’s why I signed her up for this program – she’s finally healthy enough to go,” Brennan said. “Her independence is better now because of her health. All these other things she’s involved in now help support that.”
Her improvement struck Easterseals Arc staff members, too. The supervisor of the Pre-ETS program at Anthis, Phisamay Khaysavang (“Mrs. PK” to students and families), remarked on Megan’s progress earlier this year.
“Megan is such a hard worker and has come a long way since last year,” she wrote. “She has become more independent and is able to perform various jobs on her own. She only needs staff to show her once a certain task, and she is able to do it by herself. She loves going to work, especially at Peg, and will try to work the whole time without even getting a break.”
Megan doesn’t speak much at work, but she’s quite social. She pays close attention to what staff from Anthis and Easterseals Arc tell her, and she laughs and smiles with other Pre-ETS students.
“She likes to help,” Brennan says. “At church, she’ll hold the door open for people. That’s her natural gift. Her skill set has always been to help people. This job is giving her an opportunity to excel with her gifts.”
Getting a taste of work through Pre-ETS is only one of the new experiences Megan explores and enjoys now.
“The first time she went to Easterseals was Christmas (for Dream Teens). We tried it for those two weeks,” her mother said. “That was a big step for me; I was trusting other people to care for her. We knew Mrs. PK, because she was at North Side with Megan, so I was confident she’d be well cared-for and watched over. “
And there’s more, from performing with Jesters to attending Camp Red Cedar. All these new activities give her new venues for showing off costumes, such as Wonder Woman, too.
“Meg loves costumes,” her mother said. “We see it as another sign of her brain developing by being creative, using her imagination, choosing what to wear.”
The 2023-24 school year will be her last at Fort Wayne Community Schools. Beyond that, Brennan said, they’re exploring options. Brennan has talked with Easterseals Arc staff about other services the agency might provide, such as its Transitions program for young adults.
“Now she has a life, I guess you could say,” Brennan said. “We’ve had lots of people praying, so we give God the credit, too. We believe God is healing her brain.”