If you have a child with special needs, you know what an uphill battle it can be getting people see the ability in disability. Now imagine that your child is an adult—and the challenges both of you will face convincing people to hire him. I don’t dwell on this too much, since Max is still a kid, but it’s there in the back of my mind. The stats aren’t very reassuring: About 85 percent of adults with developmental disabilities did not have a paid job in the community between 2012 to 2013, per the most recent figures from National Core Indicators.
Aiming to change all that: the I’m In To Hire campaign that seeks to raise awareness about the lack of employment for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities—and get companies to take a pledge to support them. The campaign is spearheaded by Best Buddies International Founder Anthony K. Shriver and billionaire business magnate Carlos Slim. “People with IDD are incredibly talented, loyal, hard-working and driven individuals who have the ability to contribute to the workplace but unfortunately they are disproportionately unemployed in our nation and beyond,” said Shriver. “The impact individuals with IDD have made on our society is beyond exceptional and the workplace should be no different.”
Employers may be further convinced by the findings of a 2014 report, Employing People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, done by the Institute for Corporate Productivity. Researchers surveyed major organizations who currently employ people with IDD. Their findings:
• 57% reported the addition of highly motivated employees who are good talent matches
• 43% said it produces measureable and observable business benefits
• 47% reported an inclusive culture attractive to talent pool
• 60% said it supports their diversity and inclusion strategy
Employers can pledge their support here, and Best Buddies will follow up to facilitate the hiring. You can show your support by tweeting or Facebook-posting one of these messages:
It’s more than the right thing to do. See the business benefits of employing people with intellectual and developmental disabilities: bit.ly/ImInToHire
I see people with special needs as skilled and employable and #ImInToHire for an inclusive workplace. RT to join me! bit.ly/ImInToHire
People with w/ intellectual and developmental disabilities build fantastic friendships and productive businesses. #ImInToHire, are you?
Our kids may be years away from job interviews and collecting paychecks, but we need to support initiatives like this for the sake of adults with disabilities and the adults our children will someday be. But it’s also an initiative that can benefit our children now. Anything that helps people better understand that people with special needs are capable brings us that much closer to a world that accepts and respects our kids.
By now, you’ve probably heard about the recent Kanye West incident. On tour in Australia, he asked his audience to stand up—unless, he said, “You got a handicap pass and you get special parking and s**t.” When a couple of people in the audience didn’t get up, he singled them out until it was confirmed that they did, indeed, have disabilities and could not stand up and dance. Then the concert went on.
Much social media outrage ensued. Disability rights groups in Australia demanded an apology. Kanye’s response: He played the victim. “I’m a married Christian man with a family,” he proclaimed to an audience. “At my concerts, I make sure everybody has good of a time as possible, so all this demonizing me it ain’t going to work after a while.”
Not surprisingly, wife Kim Kardashian had an equally weak defense. She posted a video of his performance on Instagram and wrote, “What an amazing Australian tour! Its frustrating that something so awesome could be clouded by lies in the media. Kanye never asked anyone in a wheel chair to stand up & the audience videos show that. He asked for everyone to stand up & dance UNLESS they were in a wheel chair. #JustWantedEveryoneToHaveAFunNight #TheMediaTwistsThings”
This is hardly about Kanye mistakingly calling out people with disabilities in the audience. And clearly, this isn’t about some well-intentioned singer getting bashed for no reason. It’s about him publicly leaving out people with disabilities. Think about it: How would any one of us feel if we were one of thousands in an audience and everyone was asked to engage except us? Couldn’t he have at least said, “And if getting up’s not your thing, wave your hands in the air” or something like that?
Kanye and Kim are not exactly models of empathy and goodness, but still, their mindsets aren’t uncommon. I’ve seen this as the mom of a kid with cerebral palsy. Forget about people refusing to accommodate Max—they just don’t think to include him, whether it’s kids playing a game at a party or on the playground. It’s often up to me as his mom to pave the road for him. I am always standing by, but I ache for this sort of inclusion to happen naturally.
One good thing to come out of the Kanye kerfuffle: It’s getting people talking about how we treat people with disabilities.
When I heard about Elf on the Shelf: A Birthday Tradition – I knew it was something I wanted to do with Norrin.
Tomorrow is actually my birthday. When I was talking to Norrin about it he immediately started reciting his birthday wish list. I explained to him that on my birthday, I get presents – not him.
Norrin will be nine in January and birthdays have always been tricky for us. We haven’t had a birthday party since he turned three. It’s easier to celebrate in school. And January is always a hard month to plan for since the weather in New York can be unpredictable. But we still want his birthday to be special and build anticipation to the day. I know Elf on the Shelf: A Birthday Tradition will help!
Now I know some parents are hesitant about Elf on the Shelf and feel the Pinterest pressure. But Birthday Elf is super easy and fun.
The Elf on the Shelf®: A Birthday Tradition tells the little-known story of how Santa’s finest helpers celebrate birthdays at the North Pole—and how you can invite your scout elf to share that tradition with YOU! Each kit includes special instructions for inviting your scout elf for a birthday visit, and a festive birthday outfit for your scout elf to slip into before the big day! Also available—the Birthday Countdown & Game and the Birthday Chair Decoration Kit.
5 ways Elf on the Shelf: A Birthday Tradition Can Help Your Child With Autism Feel the Birthday Magic
Build Anticipation. Unlike the holiday season, your Elf appears only on the day of your child’s birthday. You can use the Birthday Countdown & Game (or any other calendar) to count down the days until your child’s birthday and their Elf arrives. It gives kids something extra to look forward to.
Understand Birthdays. Many kids – including my own – have difficulty understanding that everyone has their own birthday. If you have more than one child in the home, the Elf – along with the Birthday Countdown & Game – can be your family’s way of distinguishing birthdays.
Sparks Imagination. Imaginative play doesn’t come naturally to Norrin. But he is getting so much better! Still birthdays can be such an abstract concept for him to understand. We’ll read the book, talk about Elfee and birthdays. It all helps to connect the dots.
Communication & Storytelling. While counting down, talk about the days of week, talk about the months and other family member birthdays. Talk about your pregnancy and how excited you were the days leading up to your child’s birth. Talk to them about the day they were born – even if you think they won’t understand. Let them hear the story.
Feel Special on Their Day. I love the idea of the Birthday Chair Decorating Kit along with the Elf because it really makes a kid feel special. We don’t have big birthday parties for Norrin and I’m not the mom to go crazy with decorations. The Birthday Chair Decorating Kit is easy and fun. It’ll be nice that we can do something a little extra to celebrate.
Tempting as it might be, stop trying to read the child’s mind. Consider what the next level of communication might be and expect that…expect the child to respond in a way that just a bit more difficult than [his or] her current means of communication.
I always try to keep that in mind when I talk to Norrin. He’s been much more expressive and so now I expect a little more each time we talk.
Here are my 6 simple rules for prompting conversation with my son:
Set the mood. Make sure your child is relaxed and ready to talk. Turn off all distractions so they can focus on you. And give yourself at least 10 – 15 minutes to commit to giving them your full attention. Go for a walk in the neighborhood and talk about what you see. Sit at the table while they are having an afternoon snack. I like talking to Norrin right before bed. He’s had his bath, he’s winding down and open to talking.
Keep it simple and specific. Don’t go into a whole monologue and/or fire off a bunch of questions. Use simple language and ask them one specific question at a time.
Follow up. Conversations are all about the follow up question. Build your conversation based on the answers your child provides.
Be patient and wait for response. Some kids need a few minutes to digest the question and think about the answer. So wait a minute or two.
Repeat and/or rephrase the question. If you’ve asked a question and too much time has passed. Ask again. If you have to ask a third time, rephrase the question. If they need help, provide two choices or use pictures and have them point.
Look for inspiration. There is inspiration everywhere. Show them a picture of something fun you did together and ask your child about it. Sometimes I’ll point out something as we’re walking around the neighborhood and ask him to tell me about the specific object.
It really doesn’t matter what you talk to your child about. The important thing is to take the time to talk to your child and get them into a back and forth dialogue. And with each conversation, always expect a little bit more.
This is a post in the weekly Autism Hopes series by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez, a mom who blogs over at Atypical Familia.
When Norrin was first diagnosed with autism, I didn’t know anything about the diagnosis or navigating the special needs system. I was able to talk to friend of a friend who was a speech therapist. She provided the emotional support I needed and helped me better understand the process. A few years later, her son was diagnosed with autism. She called me up crying and I gave her the support she needed.
Being a special education professional doesn’t always make the diagnosis easier to accept or understand.
Earlier this month, I got to ask Mama Fry a few questions:
What did you know/think about autism when you were a special education teacher?
Not nearly enough. I haven’t been in a classroom for about 9 years now and much has changed. Back then it was more about getting kids to be all the same or “normal” rather than celebrating and tapping into their skill sets.
How did you advise autism/special needs parents?
My area was vocational training. I was thinking past school. Getting them ready for what real life job situations might happen. Most of my conversations with parents then was problem solving behaviors or trying to figure out accommodations that would suit their kid best.
What was it like when your son was diagnosed?
Surreal. It absolutely never occurred to me that he might have autism. I thought it was a speech delay and that’s it. I was truly gobsmacked. I had recently stopped working outside the home because working with autism was burning me out. Surprise! It came to live with me instead.
How have you changed since?
I understand how each kid is just so different. My son is not just a name on a page to me. He’s my heart. I can’t punch out at the end of a shift. Behaviors are communication not just non compliance.
What advice would you give to special ed teachers who don’t have special needs kids?
Ask about what’s going on at home. Sleep is a huge factor. Eating too. Realize the student you have, their behaviors could be based on those two things a lot. Ask what concerns the parents the most. Share what’s working in class.