Our Children’s Future Jobs: Some Promising News
My son, Max, is only 8 but already, I wonder about the type of work he might do when he grows up. My husband and I joke about getting him a gig at a pasta factory, given his obsession with spaghetti, or finding him a spot on Barney, because he loves purple. But what the future holds for him is a mystery. What the future holds for my 6-year-old daughter is equally unclear, yet my son’s challenges from the cerebral palsy put some limits on prospects.
I was fascinated and troubled this weekend by Amy Harmon’s New York Times of a young man with autism, Justin Canha, struggling to find his way in the world. Canha was in a new kind of “transition to adulthood” program for special ed students in his high school, and trying to find a job. The program sounded great, although Canha hit some bumps along the way. The article also mentioned a “sheltered workshop” in the high school. The description: “…in a windowless room, people with autism and other developmental disabilities sorted colored combs and placed them in plastic bags. They were paid by the piece at sub-minimum wage rates, based on how fast they performed compared with the prevailing rate for nondisabled workers.”
I found that utterly depressing. Then I Googled “sheltered workshops” and read that the majority of people with severe disabilities are in sheltered workshops and day activity programs. So I was heartened to to read on Disability Scoop that Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, made a pitch for “integrated employment” at a recent hearing. “In the past, the default position for people with intellectual disabilities has been sheltered employment,” he said during a hearing of the U.S. Senate, Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee last Thursday. “I want to change that default to integrated, supported employment.” He’s not looking to get rid of sheltered workshops; rather, he wants to change people’s mindsets so that young people are routinely considered for integrated, supported employment.
More integration of people with disabilities into the workforce sounds promising. I hope, however, that the future also brings more of a variety of jobs for those with disabilities—along with more openness to having them in the mainstream workforce.
Do you ever ponder what sort of work your child might someday do?
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