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Nicole Cantrell is an Assistant Aide at Carl Dwire Special Education School where she has been employed for over two years. Working alongside her team, Nicole supports preschoolers in their learning. Some children need a bit of prompting when responding to teacher, Josephine, while others need little reminders to stay on task. Caring and gentle, Nicole is a perfect fit for this position! “Nicole brings her warm personality into the classroom,” comments teacher Josephine Foronda-Catalini, “and, she takes her job very seriously”. Nicole was once a student at Dwire, which serves children with disabilities from preschool through eighth grade. Employment at this familiar location facilitated a smooth transition for Nicole from student into full time employment as an adult.

Routine is important to Nicole. Having well defined roles in the classroom, helps ensure her success. After seeing a child safely onto the bus at the end of a school day, Nicole continues home where a second set of responsibilities await her. She assists her mother, Lisa, with children who attend Cantrell Family Day Care in the afternoon. The primary recipient of Nicole’s attention is Danielle. The two have been friends for over ten years. Nicole helps Danielle with many daily activities, including an afternoon treat. After cataloging snacks for the day, she feeds Danielle a cup of pudding. At a half cup, Nicole expertly wipes excess pudding from Danielle’s face, explaining, “Too much pudding won’t be good for you”. She then assists her into her bedroom for one of her favorite films. Danielle eagerly anticipates Nicole’s daily homecoming and Nicole takes meticulous care of Danielle. The deep bond between the two is apparent.

At age 23, Nicole shoulders many responsibilities and enjoys an increasing level of independence. Lisa Cantrell comments on factors that have contributed to her daughter’s successful transition, emphasizing “finding the right niche.” According to Lisa, every person has talents, and with initiative and the right guidance, can find activities that make up a “good day”. A familiar environment with standard schedules provides the stability that Nicole needs. Careful planning also helps. Lisa updates a calendar in Nicole’s room with short days or days off and has pre-programmed Nicole’s cell phone with reminder alarms that notify her about changes throughout the day, such as when to take lunch and breaks and when to return to work.

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