Personal Education Helps Professional Leadership
One employee sought developmental disabilities education for personal reasons and quickly found ways to apply it in the workplace, too.
After 11 years of hope and heartache and three miscarried babies, Stacie Wylie cried tears of joy when she saw her son’s heartbeat on the ultrasound monitor. But 14 weeks into her pregnancy, a nurse called her in tears. “I immediately thought the worst, ‘He’s stillborn,’” said Stacie.
Her fears of worse news turned to relief when she heard the nurse say, “I’m so sorry to tell you, but there is a strong likelihood your son has Down syndrome.” Stacie thought, “He’s breathing?! He’s alive! Down syndrome? Okay, we’ll figure that out.”
“From that call on, I immediately began researching Down syndrome and contacted local organizations that provided educational resources and support,” said Stacie, a Corporate Responsibility analyst. “I have met the most amazing tribe of parents and the most loving, non-judgmental children and adults you could ever imagine.”
Once a stranger to stimming, sensory meltdowns and hypertonia, Stacie quickly jumped into a world with speech therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, ENTs, cardiologists and orthotic specialists. Once someone who might roll her eyes if a child had a “temper tantrum” at the grocery store, she became someone to give a compassionate eye to a mom and wonder if the child was overwhelmed by the lights and sounds in the store.
New Perspectives at Work
These new perspectives and learnings found their way into Stacie’s role at State Farm®. In her six years in leadership, she has coached and mentored a variety of associates, working with individuals with dyslexia, Turrets syndrome, anxiety, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Autism.
“Each of these individuals struggled in their own way to acclimate to State Farm’s culture and/or work expectations. Outside of my parenting experience, I realized I had no formal training to help individuals with cognitive differences succeed in the workplace, so I started looking for resources,” she said.
She decided to do formal training by first completing her Chartered Special Needs Consultant (ChSNC) designation. She completed an introductory course about disabilities and learned techniques to help families prepare for financial security.
“This was by far my favorite designation and further piqued my interest in working with the special needs community.”
She also joined the Advocacy for Disabilities and Education (ADE) Employee Resource Group. ADE provides informational classes and organizes events to raise awareness about different disabilities.
But she still wanted to learn more. In 2017, State Farm started the Community College Tuition Program that offers an array of certificates and associate’s degrees with no out-of-pocket cost to State Farm employees. Stacie learned about a Developmental Disabilities Specialist Certificate program offered at Glendale Community College.
“This certificate wasn’t on the approved degrees list, but I knew it would help me grow in my career and personal life, so I submitted a business case, and it was approved. After completing the course, I brought my learnings to the workplace. For example, when working with individuals on the Autism spectrum, I am more mindful not to change our one-on-one schedules, and I use very literal language to avoid confusion.”
Pursuing education while working full time and raising her son was not easy, but it was worth it.
“The sacrifice of time and sleep has made me a better and more informed parent, community member and leader. I am so grateful to work for a company like State Farm that invests in its employees and helps people of all abilities find meaningful employment.”