Navigating the Road Map of Life

Celebrating National Disability Employment Awareness Month


As parents of a child with high-functioning autism, Mark and Laurie Kyser realized early on that their son, Derek, had a keen sense of direction. If they drove somewhere once, Derek could remember in advance where each McDonald’s was along the route if they traveled the same way again. Originally diagnosed at age three, his prognosis, according to the doctor, was bleak and they worried about what the future held for him. It was a difficult time for the family. They enrolled him in every program they could find and Laurie says, “he progressed way better than we ever expected.” With the help of Summit County DD Board, as Derek got older, he participated in programming to help him gain independence. One of those programs was UDS Community Employment Services. Employment Specialist Cheryl Scribben worked closely with Derek and his family to discover his strengths, weaknesses and vocational interests so that she could help him find a fulfilling job.

Derek is now employed as a marketing and logistics professional at Aeration Septic, Inc. In this position he is able to use his keen sense of direction and interest in maps as he plans service routes for team members in the field. Derek is happy to be working in an office where he can use his talents and skills. His penchant for maps is helping him in his job and helping him navigate his way in life as well.

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) and the theme this year is “Inclusion Drives Innovation.” Krista Gesaman, CEO of ASI, says, “It’s really important for our organization to have a variety of team members with different skill sets on board here. It allows us to be a more dynamic work place with people who are qualified and have the ability to take our business to the next level. Derek has skill sets and abilities that some of the other team members don’t have so we’re lucky to have him on board.”

In celebration of NDEAM, we’ve created a video sharing Derek’s success story.