In the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing the stories of the six achievers we will be honoring at our Expect Success: Celebrating Achievers gala on April 25. Our achievers are people with disabilities who have excelled in the arts, classroom, business world, and beyond. You can follow along with these stories right here.
Reliable. Dependable. Team worker. These are just some of the characteristics used to describe Bruce Butler by his supervisor at Bruce’s person-centered planning meeting this year. These are the kinds of high praise that anyone would be thrilled to hear from their supervisor, but for the Butler family, they mean so much more. Bruce, a 67-year-old legally blind man with autism and an intellectual disability, has been working consistently and independently for the past 50 years.
From an early age, Bruce struggled with serious communication issues: when he speaks, he is often quite echolalic. As a result of these struggles, he worked for many years with Dr. William S. Condon, a PhD in linguistics at the Boston University School of Medicine. Part of what led to the difficulties in communication for Bruce was his use of his own language—one which his parents, John and Ellie, referred to as “gobbledygook.” Over time, Dr. Condon used his linguistic knowledge to learn Bruce’s language, creating a real breakthrough in enhancing Bruce’s ability to communicate. Dr. Condon held appointments with Bruce every other week and displayed patience beyond understanding in helping Bruce to express himself.
As Bruce learned to express himself, his family began to wonder about his potential for sustaining a career in the future. Through the Massachusetts Rehab Commission, Bruce took part in job training at the John T. Berry Rehab Center. However, on his first day, he merely stood around all day with a broom, having been given no clear instructions. The Butler family began to fear that there would be low expectations for Bruce’s eventual success. But once a chef in the kitchen took a particular interest in Bruce, he began to act as a mentor toward him, and Bruce soon showed his capability of achieving.
From 1968-1977, Bruce worked in the kitchens at Canteen. After leaving Canteen, he moved on to work in one of Raytheon’s Eurest cafés, spending nearly thirty years in their kitchen between 1977 and 2005. Since 2005, Bruce has worked in the kitchen at Lexington High School. In his many years of kitchen experience, Bruce has had duties that have included cleaning dishes and pots, washing out trash bins, rounding up towels, and cleaning floors.
Thanks to his impressive 50 years of work, Bruce was also able to save up and purchase his own condominium in Lexington, where he has lived for the last 18 years. He is able to take public transportation to and from his job on his own every day, and even walks for a mile and a half to visit his parents. Through The Arc’s program SUPPORTbrokers, Bruce has taken part in person-centered planning meetings as he and his family look ahead to his future.
Bruce has faced his fair share of challenges in his life, but his story clearly shows us that with just enough persistence and structure, anyone can truly achieve.
Written by Katerina Daley, Development and Digital Media Associate
The Arc of Massachusetts 2018 gala, Expect Success: Celebrating Achievers, will be held on April 25. To learn more, purchase tickets, or become a sponsor, please visit the official gala webpage.