LifeScape helps young man transition to adulthood with job, apartment

Transitioning from those teen years into adulthood is pretty exciting with that first job, a new apartment, home or car and seemingly all the freedom in the world.

But when you're living with a disability, it's not that easy.

Thanks to LifeScape, an organization serving South Dakotans with disabilities to lead fulfilling lives, people can get support before that transition, during and beyond.

Zach Kahler is from Brookings but now lives in Sioux Falls. He landed a job at Precious Pets Grooming Salon and Doggie Daycare.

"I sweep, mop, clean the bathrooms," Zach Kahler said.

He's a pro-cleaner now and even a pretty good dog-handler.

"That's one of my favorite parts. I get to play with the dogs," Kahler said.

He's supported by the LifeScape Pathways to Life Program helping him transition through his adolescent to adult stage of life.

"We have the ability to service kids as young as 8 months and through the end of their life. The important part of that is the continuity and continuum of service that can be provided to a person," LifeScape Vice President of Residential and Education Services Gerry Tracy said.

It's a program he joined two years ago as an 18 year-old.

"While Zach is here, we're working on teaching him independent living skills, employment and vocational skills, soft skills, social skills and safety, accessing the community, how to deal with different situations. He'll be here until he turns 21," Special Education Teacher Katie Pudwill said.

Everything he's mastered for his job at Precious Pets he learned through LifeScape.

"It's very exciting to see all the progress Zach has made since I started. When I first started, Zach was learning how to clean a toilet. Zach has gone from not knowing how to clean a toilet to cleaning a bathroom top to bottom. He's gained so many skills, he's ready for employment. Anything he learned at Precious Pets, he learned at Pathways," Pudwill said.

He not only learned how to be a good employee, but a good citizen with rights and responsibilities.

"We talk a lot about it is your right to make a decision on where you want to live or work but it's your responsibility to meet the requirements of that job position and to make sure you have what you need to be healthy and safe in the home you choose," Pudwill said.

In May, thanks to LifeScape, Zach moved into his very own apartment.

"I learned how to pay my bills," he said.

His apartment is one of 30 properties in town for thos supported by LifeScape.

"Our job is, through admissions process, is to have our admissions coordinator work with that family or person and show them things that meet the interest and desires they have in respect to the things in their life," Tracy said.

The organization makes it easy for people just like Zach.

"It's a life-defining moment. Doesn't matter if you have a disability or not, those are the moments that shine in life," Tracy said.