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Positive Attitude and Songs Help TMI Client With Autism to Succeed at Vons

Updated: May 15, 2019

Charles, who has autism, is a Vons employee with a scheduled job, a set of responsibilities, and a routine he sticks to. As a Courtesy Clerk, he begins his work day at 11:00 am by gathering up stray shopping carts in the parking lot followed by attentively helping the Cashiers bag groceries. His Toward Maximum Independence (TMI) Job Coach, Liza Ferrier, is always attentively close by to provide helpful guidance and support as needed. Charles has been a trusted steward of Vons for more than 11 years and the Vons management has grown in admiration of Charles over the years.

Charles’ motto, “be positive, stay positive,” has served him well through the growing pains of holding a steady job.

When Charles was first referred to TMI’s Supported Employment program, they were able to secure employment for Charles with Vons. Vons has been longtime associates and advocates for TMI clients.

Charles’ life hasn’t always been easily manageable nor has employment always been a consistent routine. He struggled with staying on task and would, at times, speak too loudly while in the store. TMI Associate Division Manager, Esther Morales, made a list of gentle reminders Charles could practice while at home. Esther used to be his Job Coach and noticed that songs would help Charles remember things and keep him focused while completing his work tasks. Esther created two songs that included his work responsibilities. Charles could then sing and remember things easier. With the help of Liza and Esther, the three have developed a system that helps Charles to stay focused and on task.

(Charles With TMI Associate Division Manager Esther Morales)

The rapport that Charles and his TMI staff have developed has been invaluable while the level of dedication and effort from all parties has helped Charles improve his work performance. He is not the same man he was before. He has cultivated a level of peace, self-awareness, and pride that is hard-won and priceless. We all need a little help getting to where we need to go time and again. TMI is happy to have shown up for Charles in that capacity. In his free time, Charles enjoys writing, playing the piano and drawing. He grew up in San Diego and also enjoys spending time with his parents, two sisters and brother. We look forward to continuing to watch his journey!

(Charles and his Siblings)


An estimated 1 in 6 people are born with a developmental disability. Just like you they are born with hopes, dreams and the drive to contribute to society. Since 1981 Toward Maximum Independence (TMI) has transformed thousands of lives by providing assistance to children and adults with developmental disabilities, giving them the ability to realize their hopes and dreams.

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