In the past year, with the support of BACI, familyWORKs has continued to engage and inform families about the possibilities for paid employment for people with intellectual disabilities. Our story is one that has evolved from the start of the project in 2009 and since that time we have learned together about the different approaches for inclusive employment. In essence, BACI, along with families, are becoming even more disability confident.
In the past, the best thinking was to help people with disabilities get employment by using a model that can be described as “train and place” which is a model that is used in many sheltered workshops, enclaves and work crews. The problem is that many people stayed in “training” and never graduated to paid employment. Further, it is not an inclusive environment and people were often not aligned with their work preferences and instead just accepted what was available. At the time, totally segregated sheltered workshops were right thing to do, but we have evolved to better approaches that are more inclusive.
What we have learned now through the familyWORKs project is that there are more effective ways to create employment such as “supported” and “customized” employment that is based on a person’s strengths and preferences. Supported employment involves seeking competitive employment opportunities with modifications and supports built in to support the employee with a disability. Customized employment builds on supported employment by looking for jobs that don’t yet exist by using a process called “job carving”.
The customized employment approach is focused on what a person can do rather than what they can’t do. Customized employment is based on a model of “place and train” where a person is first placed in the position based on their strengths and preferences and then trained systematically to carry out the duties of the position. Thereafter, the job coach monitors the employment situation and then incrementally fades out of the daily employment situation and monitors the employment placement from a distance, troubleshooting when required.
We have also learned that families are an important part of the equation when it comes to employment for people with intellectual disabilities. The first reason is that families can set the stage for successful employment outcomes by starting early in their children’s life in thinking about the strengths, preferences and the possibilities of paid work. Moreover, creating parental expectations with respect to work is important along with creating opportunities for social interaction so that children have the opportunity to learn from social situations. If children are sheltered from social interactions then they don’t have the opportunities for learning. Also it is suggested that dealing with problem behaviours is easier with younger folks because as time goes on behaviours become more entrenched and more difficult to resolve. Further, families are also important because of their connections to “who they know” that helps to find employment.
familyWORKs also has been picking away at the Economic Inclusion projects that were brainstormed in early in our process. We have worked with the school system in a pilot project to achieve paid employment before students leave school, created a website that contains plenty of information about employment for people with disabilities, we have started to think about how to carry out asset-mapping, and started work on creating disability confidence and educating employers.
Since our inception we have met with families several times and next on our collective to-do list is to carry out asset-mapping with families so that we can surface our connections to improve our ability to find employment opportunities for the people we serve. In the coming year we will continue to come together on a regular basis to advance the inclusion of people into the economic community. Moreover, we are looking have started to think about how to carry out asset-mapping, and started work on creating disability confidence and educating employers.