Today's action post will be a bit different...instead of telling you about a charity that works with special needs children I want to tell you about a business that hires special needs adults. I guess every parent hangs onto the apron strings at some level. Though technically your job as parent ends when your child turns 18 years of age, or at the outside 21, everyone knows that once you're a mom or dad you are always a mom or dad. I'm just guessing (since we are nowhere near this transition yet) but I bet the apron strings are more firmly tied for parents of special needs teenagers and young adults.
Consider the current economic environment. With double digit unemployment nationwide, and much higher in some states and cities, how much harder is it for young adults with special needs to find jobs they can be independent and successful in? Even normative adults are challenged to find work these days. Meanwhile, the special needs population is going to continue to grow as the number of autism diagnoses alone continues to climb. Kind of a special needs worker boom looming on the horizon. Should we just send them all home to watch TV and twiddle their thumbs or should we start now to develop job training programs and employer accommodation programs that will make it possible for special needs workers to be successful and productive. Maybe we could get ahead of the curve on this one?
I read this article at The Autism News today about "Men with Mops." You can read another article that gives more information here. Men with Mops is evidently a private business affiliated with Rutgers University's Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center. The idea of building a business that is centered around adults with developmental disabilities may be daunting to some, but consider what steps you could take in this arena:
* Encourage business owners to learn about special needs accommodations.
* If you are a business owner, look for ways to include a special needs worker in your model.
* As a parent begin early to consider what job skills your child needs to develop in order to find a suitable workplace in the future.
* Consider finding a Men with Mops equivalent in your area and offer to be a job coach, or help them recruit work opportunities.
* Advocate for job training programs and employer training programs in your area.