When it came to their daughter Maegan, Jack and Teddie Barnhart always figured that, whatever the future held, it probably didn't include gainful employment.
Diagnosed with ataxic cerebral palsy and intellectual disability caused by birth trauma, Maegan, 19, has attended Kennedy Krieger School Programs since elementary school. And, while generally happy and easygoing, Maegan has limitations. She cannot hold a give-and-take conversation, for instance, because of speech and cognitive difficulties. She can also be easily distracted, making it difficult for her to complete tasks. Even so, Maegan's parents have always strived to provide their daughter with the education she deserves, in hopes of making the most of the potential she has, no matter what the future holds.
As the owner of her own company and the parent of a child with cerebral palsy, Teddie often invites students with disabilities -- Maegan included -- to take on small jobs at her business, in hopes of providing them with meaningful work and personal fulfillment. Teddie often saw firsthand how her daughter sometimes struggled to stay on task, just as in school. As a rule, she met expectations as best she could, but, otherwise, the expectations remained, not necessarily low, but reasonable. And so, when the time came for her to begin Kennedy Krieger High School, no one expected a monumental change. But then came the high school's industry program.
Part of every Kennedy Krieger student's high school education, work-based learning aims to teach job skills through the exploration of different industries, including information technology, hospitality and tourism, manufacturing and construction, horticulture, and retail and consumer services. Ideally, students will find an industry that not only piques their interest, but gives them a chance to succeed at something they also enjoy. For Maegan, it was retail.
Since she first began working there in 2008, Maegan has thrived in her job at the school's student-run retail store, says teacher Kathleen Bates, who oversees the store. And, over time, her teachers have found ways to work with Maegan that promote her continued success. "This year, more so than ever before, she's just come such a long way," Bates says. "Through trial and error, we've found solutions that work great for her."
The difference hasn't gone unnoticed, particularly by her mom who recently employed Maegan's help at her business again, and today says she can even imagine a possibility of her daughter finding work one day. Maegan even recently was able to participate in the school's Work-Based Learning Program, which helps students find internships both on and off campus. Maegan's internship was with the Baltimore County Department of Aging. "In the past, you'd have to stand there with her and keep her mind on track," says Teddie. "But now when she helps me I am able to step away, and when I come back, she is still there on task, working hard to get the job done. I'd definitely say that is tied to her work-based learning experience."