It all begins in the home or maybe we should say that it really begins at the time of the birth and diagnosis. What you ask? The process of raising your disabled child. Helping them to find his or her way in the world. Whether it be a savings plan that will protect your child when you are gone or the skills that they will need to gain some form of employment it begins the moment you know there is a disability.
You as a parent have double duty here. Whether this is your first child or an addition to a thriving family you now have new challenges that you didn’t know you would have.
With children who are “considered abled” your task is to raise a child to adulthood. Raising them so that they will be able to make their way in the world enables them to be self-sufficient. Raising your son or daughter well enough ensures that your child will become self-supporting and contribute to society in positive ways. With a child who has a disability the goals change.
With a disabled child everything starts early, is planned, takes time and is challenging. You have to think harder and longer about your child and the future. You must re-think expectations and dreams and hope that you can find a supportive network of professionals and friends. If it takes a village to raise a child it takes a thriving metropolis to raise a child with a disability.
Along the way and during this journey you are going to come across professionals who hold differing philosophies. Some will tell you that a child with “that disability” can never do “that,” others will try to tell you that the sky is the limit. The truth is most likely in the middle. The object of preparing your child for his or her future life is to: never say never but rather to find out if there is a “how can s/he do this?” Never say it can’t be done but ask yourself how it can be done. Exploring options might allow you to see that there are even more options available in life. The downside of this is finding out that employment options may be limited. In many cases it has to do with assistive technology.
Preparing your child who has a disability for employment begins by encouraging hobby building. As parents you want to encourage you children to explore their interests. As they do so they discover areas that might become sources of employment. Your disabled child needs the same stimuli!!! As much as possible NORMALIZE being an adult and working. Allow for your child to have dreams and guide them towards real possibilities. For example I dreamed of going to the moon but I found my real life calling as a therapist and healer.
Your child might be able to bag groceries, clean a hotel room, cook, answer phones, or go on to higher education. Whatever the end level of training and education is they need to know that they can and should contribute to society to the best of their abilities.
The above link has some facts that will open your eyes. Most disabled people CAN and DO want to work. This is even true for the developmentally disabled population. The employer is more of an issue. Finding companies and small businesses that will hire someone with a disability is a challenge.
While writing this post I’ve been torn about what to say and how to say it. Maybe my own struggle to place words on a page is a reflection of the truth of the matter. There is a part of me that sees what is going on and wants to scream “you idiots” as if that would really solve anything. So then I put my healthy mature head back on and decided to write something.
Sometimes those I work with professionally are dealing with the issue of working or deciding what to do with themselves professionally. This is a common issue with my specialty. It is a concern for the parents and the adult faced with what to do and where to work. For the disabled “just go out and get a job” takes on an entire set of requirements.
A person without a disability might ask themselves: Do I like the company, the people I’ll be working with? Is the job going to be stimulating? What will my commute be like? Those are just a few simple questions that are asked. Now factor into that the need of a disabled person to ask even more questions. “When do I tell the employer I’m disabled? How will the prospective boss deal with my needs? How will my colleagues deal with my disability?
If it were a perfect world the disabled wouldn’t need to jump through extra hoops. We’d walk into the HR department with a list of needed accommodations and the person who handled such things would smile and say “OK I’ll get right on this.” Unfortunately it doesn’t work like that. Unfortunately as a disabled person you have to understand that not everyone is going to be so accommodating towards you.
When I was still in elementary school my parents encouraged me to begin to volunteer in places. They located work environments where I could learn to do simple tasks and experience what it was like to be in an office or other work settings. My first volunteer assignment was doing simple filing work. I also volunteered at the hospital in town. These were simple things but it allowed me to learn and it also let the community see that a disabled person was able to do something that made a difference.
It does begin from a young age. It does begin by being taught in the home. It also begins by moving it out of the home, into the community and the workplace. It isn’t just about earning a pay slip it is about being able to make a contribution that you feel good about.