Local resident gains independence through state agency
CHICKASHA — Shawn Pasley keeps busy, always striving to be better at his job at Braum’s on the corner of Fourth Street and Grand Ave.
“I work tables, sweep floors, take the trash out… I do a lot of things,” Pasley said. “I’m always moving all the time.”
The local resident has several disabilities, which includes severe speech impediment and a learning disorder. He has osteoarthritis in his legs and feet and has anxiety.
He was born in Texas but moved to Oklahoma at a young age. Pasley had a difficult childhood, however, he overcame all the odds stacked against him. He is happily married and has been working part-time for Braum’s since 2015.
Pasley has received services from the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services for several years. His most recent case closed in 2022 when he needed oral surgery and dentures.
He was in pain from his mouth and constantly biting his tongue. The health concerns as well as his speech impediment made it difficult for him to communicate.
Pasley was unable to pay for the surgery with insurance and needed the procedure to keep his job. He turned to the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services’ Vocational Rehabilitation office in Chickasha for assistance.
Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist Keith Tampkins worked with Pasley on his case. The agency was able to assist the former client with job accommodations, dental health, mental health and orthopedic issues.
Pasley’s arthritis, forces him to sit down and rest while he is working. Tampkins helped him explain his job accommodations to the manager, which included taking 10-minute breaks.
Tampkins said his former client is a hard worker, and the management is pleased with his dedication to the job.
“They say I’m one of the best,” Pasley said. “I feel I need to do better, but they say I’m doing good because I work so hard.”
Tampkins said that Pasley has come a long way since they first met. The man would cover his mouth because of his teeth, did not wish to talk and was apprehensive about asking for help. He is now smiling, confident and not afraid to speak up.
Vocational rehabilitation staff worked to build an atmosphere where Pasley could feel comfortable. That work empowered him to reach out and ask questions during his time with DRS. Now, he said he is enjoying his independence.
“To me, that’s the most empowering thing,” Tampkins said. “If he has the self-confidence, the self-assuredness to make those statements on his own, that’s fantastic because that’s certainly not who he was before.”
Pasley said that Tampkins helped him during his time with DRS by reassuring him that it is alright to slow down.
“He helped me pull through it,” Pasley said. “He said, ‘Just relax, you’re doing a good job, just don’t worry about it,’ and I did better than I thought, so he helped me through. We had a routine going.”
The Chickasha resident said since turning to DRS he feels better mentally because his pain has eased, and he is in a good place where he works.
Pasley and his wife, Mary Jo, have been married for 12 years. The two live in a senior living home in Chickasha.
DRS Vocational Rehabilitation served 12,030 jobseekers with disabilities through employment and independent living programs in 2022. Services include in-person counseling, testing, job placement and online tools to help clients start or return to work. Last year, 1,027 become employed, paying $3,960 in average annual taxes and reducing or eliminating dependence on government services. For more information, visit https://oklahoma.gov/okdrs.html or phone 405-800-845-8476.
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Rachel McLemore, Communications Officer