Best Practices for Supporting Invisible Disabilities in the Workplace

Best Practices for Supporting Invisible Disabilities in the Workplace

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Program Date: April 18, 2019, 8:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.
(Registration and Networking Breakfast from 8:00-8:30 a.m.)   

Location: Performance Food Group, 12500 West Creek Parkway, Richmond, VA 23238

Join us to learn how organizations can help their employees with mental health issues, including anxiety and depression.  The practitioners on our panel will share best techniques and tips for overcoming executive function challenges, providing supported employment, using job coaches, and maintaining continuous engagement.  The employers on our panel will share best practices for enhancing coping skills, building confidence, and encouraging self-advocacy. Our panelists will discuss available resources, benefits to businesses, building partnerships, and answer questions from the audience.   

Program has been approved by SHRM for 2.0 PDC towards SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP recertification and has been submitted to HRCI for 2 (General) credits towards PHR, SPHR and GPHR recertification.


  • Vicki Brook, M.Ed., Director of Training for the Autism Center of Excellence and Project Director for the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (RRTC) on Employer Practices at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU)
  • Heather Brushwood, District Manager of Noodles & Company
  • April Lynch, MS, Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor and Employment Specialist at the Virginia Commonwealth University Rehabilitation Research and Training Center
  • Joy Lee, Corporate HR Manager at Performance Food Group
  • Holly Peele, Director of Northstar Career Academy
  • Rachael Rounds, MS, Program Manager for Business Connection programs at Virginia Commonwealth University

Speaker Bios:

April Lynch, MS serves as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor and Employment Specialist at the VCU RRTC. She utilizes a strength-based approach to support clients in obtaining long-term employment by fostering independence and promoting autonomy within a collaborative network. April earned her Master of Science in Clinical Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling at VCU.  April is passionate in promoting retention in employment for individuals with disabilities also experiencing mental health concerns such as anxiety and depression through identifying resilience and overcoming barriers with implementation of coping skills.

  • How anxiety and depression affect the brain (shut down problem-solving, etc.). Transitioning out of episodes can take longer with a cognitive disability …
  • What resources can employers offer to assist with these mental health issues?

Valerie (Vicki) Brooke, M.Ed serves as the Project Director for a national research and training center on employer practices that advance employment of people with disabilities. Vicki has been a faculty member at VCU and working in the field of employment for people with significant disabilities for over thirty-five years.  She began her career serving as one of the first job coaches in the country.

  • Explaining “supported employment,” including the role of job coaches

Holly Peele serves as the Director of Northstar Career Academy, a school promoting the self-determination of young people with disabilities through career training. The program targets and nurtures the growth of strong self-management skills that lead to long-term success. Holly has spent twenty-four years working in a variety of nonprofit organizations serving people who face barriers to realizing their basic rights to safety and self-determination.

  • How technology and coaching help overcome executive function challenges for individuals with disabilities
  • How to help manage time, transition between tasks, and build stamina
  • Why frequent check-ins defuse minor issues that can escalate

Rachael Rounds, MS is the Program Manager for VCU’s Business Connection programs that provide job coach services to businesses across the greater Richmond area. She has direct service and administrative experience providing supported employment and customized employment services.  Rachael manages 17 employment specialists providing employment services to individuals with psychiatric, intellectual, autism and other developmental disabilities.  

  • How creating a career path can mitigate potential negative impacts on mental health
  • Developing new skills for continuous engagement

Joy Lee is the Corporate HR Manager at Performance Food Group. Joy has spent that past 34 years of her career in various roles in the food distribution industry. In her current role, she supports the workforce training of Northstar Career Academy students. After hiring a former student as a part-time Facilities Clerk to work on her team, Joy developed practical strategies to ensure continued success in the workplace.

  • Managing expectations (such as the transition from home to work) of the individual
  • Resetting the day when anxiety overwhelms
  • Encouraging self-advocacy to enhance problem solving skills

Heather Brushwood is the District Manager of Noodles & Company. She has worked for retail brands for 15 years. Heather has supported NorthStar Career Academy at both Einstein Bagels and Noodles & Company. She believes that through patience, determination, open-mindedness and providing clear direction, anyone can utilize their own special skills and talents within the restaurant industry to bring a new life to guest service, meal preparation, safety and cleanliness. She holds a degree in Communications from East Carolina University.

  • How visual cues establish routines and reduce stress (Tell/Show/Do/Review/Repeat)
  • How strategies used as accommodations have benefited the whole business (universal design)