Middleton Man Presenter at State Self-Determination Conference

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MTT News's picture
Katherine Perreth
Wisconsin Self-Determination Conference panel presenters, Josh Massey, left, founder and CEO of Carepool, Ele Johnson, from LaCrosse, and Middleton resident Gavin Katovich, right.

WISCONSIN DELLS–When Middleton resident Gavin Katovich recently attended the 2019 Wisconsin Self-Determination Conference (WSDC) he said, “I would prefer people to understand my ability more, it drives me crazy when they don’t get it.” 

Katovich, 20, has lived his life experiencing Tourette Syndrome, a nervous system disorder characterized by involuntary and repetitive tics and sounds.

His father, Kevin Katovich explained, “Basically, Gavin has no control over what he’s saying, but you may think he does because he’s got really good verbal skills.” 

Katovich also suffers from dyspraxia, a developmental coordination disorder, which impacts his physical abilities. 

The dual diagnoses haven’t prevented Katovich from graduating from Clark Street Community School, participating in the Middleton High School Transition Program or holding a job. In fact, Katovich has held several jobs, from short stints at Middleton’s Goodwill store and Willy Street Co-op, to nearly two years at Point Cinema-Marcus Theatres. 

As an usher, Katovich said his responsibilities include cleaning the theatres between shows, stocking concessions and “rules” explanations and enforcement. Usually people comply, but occasionally he’s had trouble.

People aren’t allowed on phones after movies begin, Katovich explained. “When the Avengers (Endgame) played, we caught two people on their phones,” Katovich said, possibly recording the movies. During Insidious 4, Katovich said he had such an unpleasant interaction that he sought his manager for back-up. 

“I said, ‘Excuse me sir, please put your phone away.’ The man said, ‘No, it’s none of your business, Gavin.’ We wear nametags,” Katovich explained. “That was rude, and I didn’t like it.”

Conversation is another patron problem, Katovich said. “People are there to enjoy the movie and it’s rude to talk during it.”

Katovich, however, understands that often people don’t understand when his Tourette symptoms interfere with his own communication. “With my Tourette’s, I’m getting more tics and I cannot control that,” Katovich said. “Or my swearing. I can’t control it.”

As a first-time attender of WSDC, Katovich offered his thoughts on Carepool, the Madison company providing Katovich’s transportation to and from work, to over 60 people attending a panel presentation. The company had created a video featuring Katovich and Ele Johnson, another Carepool customer, and Josh Massey, Carepool founder and CEO. 

“I like the drivers,” Katovich said. “They get ahold of you by calling or texting, to let you know they’re there.”

Katovich finds the app easy to use and especially appreciates the relationships he has with his regular drivers, who allow him to sit in the front seat and have “real conversations.”

This has been especially important, Katovich said, and a vast improvement from previously using taxis. Carepool’s book-ahead service allows exact location pick-up, another bonus. In the past, Katovich said he would routinely watch taxi drivers pass him, even at the high school, or forget to pick him up entirely.

“I would freak out,” he said, concerned he’d be late for his job. “And then call my parents to pick me up.” 

He’s less stressed now, because of Carepool’s reliable, pinpoint pick-ups and customer service, he explained. If trouble arises, perhaps a medical appointment taking longer than expected, the app also allows for up to three numbers to be alerted.

Kevin Katovich noted he trusts Carepool to collect and deliver his son on time, and also appreciates real-time tracking and notifications and the “rapport” between Gavin and his drivers. “They’re not just employees,” he said. “Carepool drivers are ahead of the game, they know a lot of the quirky things (Gavin experiences) because they talk to Gavin.”

Not receiving emergency pick-up calls has been especially important for the family, as both parents work, Kevin Katovich said. 

Massey, an expert in web-based transportation solutions, aided Wisconsin government programs for those with disabilities by creating Carepool. “I didn’t realize how big the problem (of transportation for those with disabilities) was,” said Massey. Carepool launched its first ride in November 2018. Rides are paid for through tax-payer funding, and the company services rural areas of Wisconsin, as well as several major cities.

After the presentation, Gavin Katovich said he’s explored better ways to advocate for himself when explaining Tourette Syndrome, choosing to focus on what he can do, and changing his terminology accordingly. 

“Some people understand (me) then,” Katovich said. “Not all, but some.” 






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