By David Dunkin, parent of Kaylea 

Having a job is an important part of Kaylea’s quality of life. It is part of her vision of being an adult and living the independent lifestyle that she wants to achieve. We have seen how it really builds her self-esteem because she feels needed and successful after a good day at work. She always looks forward to going to work and spending time with her work friends and interacting with the customers. 

Taziki’s has been a great employer for Kaylea because her manager and co-workers are very supportive. They want her to be successful at her job. Friends Life Community has supported Kaylea’s work life by offering job skills classes where Kaylea can continue to improve her job skills along with the other friends who also work in the community. They discuss their own workplace experiences and have a chance to work on things like resumes and interviews. Many other Friends Life courses help Kaylea with her basic social skills like conversation and teamwork. 

Kaylea’s goal of having a job began when she was still a high school student. She arranged to work several volunteer jobs through her school’s transition program to see what kind of work she might enjoy. Her favorite position was in the snack bar of Williamson Medical Center. After graduation, she enrolled in the TennCare-sponsored Employment and Community First CHOICES (ECF) program, which provided her with job support services. They helped with the initial job search and training and they also continue to provide ongoing support. For instance, when Kaylea began her job at Taziki’s in Brentwood her ECF job coach would stay with her through the entire shift to observe and help with training. As she became proficient at her job, the job coach spent less and less time with her allowing her to be more independent. Now the job coach drops in on her only about once a month just to be sure everything is OK. 

As parents, we are proud of Kaylea and how successful she has been in holding a job. She had the vision and drive to make her job goal a reality. Thanks to the Friends Life Community staff for providing the support she needs to continue achieving her dreams. 


Kaylea has a shiny and loving personality. She is also hardworking and an artistic young woman who loves to be part of a team and loves to encourage others. After graduating from her high school’s transition program, Kaylea joined Friends Life Community (FLC) where she participates in pre-employment training, service-learning classes in the community, and the performing and visual arts programs. These personalized classes and programs at FLC have given Kaylea self-advocacy skills to build her confidence and opportunities to showcase her unique personality. Partnering with the ECF program, her family was also able to access resources to supplement the cost of on-site job training, expanding her opportunities. 

Finding ways to combine disability benefits with private-pay programs can sometimes seem daunting to families. These financial barriers are often the reason that individuals with disabilities are unemployed or underemployed in the workforce. But there are many resources available to families, and threading these together in order to maximize the benefits is worth the struggle. 

FLC is committed to creating opportunities for adults with disabilities to develop socially, grow personally, and enjoy community as they experience life together. Our Inclusive Employment Training helps local businesses discover ways that they can become inclusive employers and broaden the diversity of their teams, giving adults with IDD meaningful opportunities to contribute to the community. To learn more or schedule a training for your team, email