Thursday, March 13

Looking ahead

Since Tommy is asleep, mommy is going to grab the microphone and post something about a training she went to last week.

The training was by a national speaker who talks to different groups about inclusion and employment. His background and years of training was in sheltered workshops, supported employment, and the transition from the closing of institutions to residential/home settings.

I should have known when he said he had worked during the years of instution closings it was going to be hard to listen to. He showed articles from newpapers calling people with a disability "it" rather than "he or she". He showed an article about a group home not being allowed in a neighborhood because the adults in that home could have "he man strength" and hurt kids.

First of all, I personally believe in humanity. I believe that every person is a possibility. And most, if not all, are able to work for pay in some sort of employment setting that is appropriate for them. We may not have figured out the right job settings for everyone to be able to work (and that is our problem in communities), but for the most part if you want to work, you should be able to (wether you have a developmental disability or not).

Adults with DD have a 70% unemployment rate. We cringe when the unemployment rate hits 6 over 7% and yet for a HUGE population of us it's 70%!

I understand that the current 'system' finds patterns (intellectual disability, hypotonia, autism, spinal disorders, etc) in people and then apply labels to those patterns (Down syndrome, Autism, CP, etc) and then the label receives certain funding and the funding determines the services that you receive. Heavy sigh. That system doesn't work. The services are antiquated and not applicable to the real world.

I have worked for almost 20 years in the public sector. Alongside many people that have developmental delays or physical disabilities; and I have learned more life lessons from them, than my 'typical' coworkers. I learned to strengthen my communication skills from working alongside a blind woman and I learned to be an advocate for the ADA while working alongside a young man with DD. I wish more people could have the opportunity to learn how rich these experiences are for all.

Back to talking about services, currently, Tommy receives "birth thru 3 years old" services. And for the most part they are effectual. But that's only approximately 5% of his life span.

The next period of time he will be in the public school system from 3 thru let's say 21. That's only 25% of his life. Which is huge, but I know there are some pieces to that education and social skills that will be wonderful contributes to his skill set. I worry though that middle and high school won't be as vocation oriented as they will need to be for him.

The next phase of his life, let's say age 22 thru his 60's (or beginning of 70) is the majority of his life. He will be of working age and there are "minimal to no" services for him to help with employment. And the bigger issue for me is our communities don't want to offer employment opportunities.

There are minimal employment services because we live in communities that don't value humanity. They cannot see the rich experiences that come from working alongside someone (anyone) who happens to have DD. Disability is natural. It is part of life. It should be part of everyone's everyday life, wether you see someone at the grocery store with with DD, or in the bank, etc.

I would love to hear from those in other parts of the nation or other countries on what employment opportunities exist for adults with developmental or other disabilities.

Tommy Adventures