An unexpected career for an employee with autism

April 01, 2019

John McCoy is thriving at U.S. Bank and takes pride in calling himself a banker.

John McCoy’s verbal communication abilities are limited by his autism diagnosis, but his enthusiasm for his job at U.S. Bank comes through loud and clear.  

“Everyone in town kind of knows John,” said his mom, Brenda McCoy. “They'll come by and ask him how he's doing. He’ll sit up a little taller in his seat and say ‘I work. I’m a banker.‘ We know he’s proud of himself.”

John, a deposit processing specialist, is one of four employees in U.S. Bank’s Job Opportunity and Employment Starter (JOES) program in Saint Paul, Minnesota, run in close partnership with nonprofit Phoenix Alternatives, Inc. (PAI). 

“John didn’t have a lot of work experience,” said Brenda. “He started the PAI program after aging out of his school’s transition program. His school didn’t think he’d be a candidate for working in the community, so we were actually kind of surprised when PAI said they’d like John to interview with U.S. Bank.” 

“Our program is all about personal choice and helping our clients live the lives they want,” said Amy Dauplaise, development manager at PAI. In PAI’s line of work, the definition of personal choice and self-direction becomes individualized. 

“Some people in our program don’t communicate verbally,” Amy explained. “For one client, ‘yes’ was communicated by moving her eyes up, and ‘no’ by moving her eyes down. Being able to determine choice for her was very different than determining choice for a client who can verbally articulate their preferences and provide more detail.”

Brenda and her husband, Jim, talk to John all the time, but John’s verbal communications skills are limited. By drawing pictures, she and Jim were able to reaffirm with John that he wanted to try for the job at U.S. Bank. “We didn’t expect it to happen,” Brenda shares, “but we said, ‘Well, John, if you want to try it, you can try it.’” 

Two and a half years later, John is still excited to come to work at U.S. Bank. “He knows U.S. Bank and that it’s where he works,” said Brenda. “When we go on vacation, he wants to take pictures with the U.S. Bank buildings we see.”  

“When we hire employees who bring diverse perspectives and abilities to the table, we become a better company,” said U.S. Bancorp Chairman, President and CEO Andy Cecere. “I was impressed meeting the team in St. Paul, and I commend everyone who has made this hiring program possible. John and his team are enthusiastic ambassadors of U.S. Bank and I’m proud of the work they are doing every day.”

“I’ve always liked to give John every opportunity to succeed – and we’ve tried a lot of things,” said Brenda. “It’s wonderful that people have stepped up along the way to help, and the JOES program has been a dream come true for us.” 

“A program like this really provides an opportunity to be a role model for employers and for other providers like PAI,” said Dauplaise. “It shouldn’t be unique; our industry is striving to incorporate more self-direction whenever possible.” 

U.S. Bank currently partners with nonprofit organizations across the country to provide meaningful employment to people with disabilities and power human potential across all skill levels: Cincinnati – The Children’s Home of Cincinnati; Denver – The Joshua School; St. Paul – Phoenix Alternatives, Inc.; and St. Louis – The Down Syndrome Association of Greater St. Louis.

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