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.
The number-one job kids would like to have they grow up: superhero. That’s per a new poll of 3910 adults who are parents to children under age 10. Other career aspirations that top kids’ lists (in descending order): celebrity, doctor, President of the United States, teacher, prince/princess, astronaut, chef, police officer and Santa. (Apologies, Santa.)
The majority of parents, 65 percent, said they would like their children to someday follow in their career footsteps. Parents noted that the top things they believe are influencing their kids’ ambitions are TV shows and movies.
Both my kids think they know what they want to be when they grow up. Actually, with my son, it’s more like an obsession. We are not sure how or why Max decided on a career as a firefighter, but he talks about it all the time—and wears a plastic Fire Chief hat as often as he can (school and bathtime excluded). Max may have disabilities, but who am I to discourage him? Perhaps, someday, there will be a position for him in a fire department. For now, he is content to visit our local fire station every weekend. This past weekend, we took him to the FASNY Museum of Firefighting in Hudson, New York, and it was like he had reached nirvana, so blissful was he.
If I had answered that poll, conducted by Coupon Codes Pro, I would have said that parents are most likely shape their children’s career aspirations. My daughter wants to be a writer and editor when she grows up, just like Mommy. She’s started her own blog, and posts when she feels like it. I have to admit, I love it. I saw it coming: Back when she was little, one of her favorite games was for me to write out sentences that had spelling errors, and then she’d fix them with a pencil.
Whatever my kids do when they grow up is going to be fine with me, because it’s not something I can control. I do not know what the future holds for Max, both in terms of his development and the kind of work options that will exist for people with disabilities years from now. I do not know what my children’s interests will be when the time comes for them to choose jobs. Right now, I’m glad they’re taking an interest in work. Whatever career they ultimately choose, I just want them to be happy.
I recently found out about Touchless Toilet Technology from Kohler—a way to flush just by holding a hand over the tank lid, where a sensor has been placed. It’s really cool, and it seems like it would have been an excellent potty tool when I was training Max. Back then, both of us needed all the motivation and temptation that we could get. Max was day trained at school for a long time before he finally became so at home, at age 9. One key thing I learned: Parents have to be just as ready as the kids are. Potty-training a kid with special needs requires dedication, and if you’re not diligent about whatever tactic you try, your child won’t get into the groove.
I asked special needs parents on social media for their best tricks and tactics for potty training a child with special needs. May the flush be with you!
“What finally worked was using star stickers on a chart. Nicholas got to put one on every time he went. It seemed to really work for him that way (even though I still had to more or less force him onto the seat each time).”—Sarah L.
“The Clean Pants Check. We did the usual sitting on the potty 30 minutes after eating or drinking, but instead of checking every 30 minutes thereafter to see if he was ‘dirty,’ we checked to see if he was CLEAN, then rewarded him. He is autistic and was not potty-trained at 4.5 years old. It only took one month with this method.”—Peggy M.
“Lukas is autistic. We did lots of modeling and letting him see us go. We are not a shy family. No pressure. A couple of months after turning four, he just went in and did it. That was it.”—Rebecca D.
“I put a Pull-Up on over a pair of panties. She felt the wetness, which ultimately motivated her not to go in her pants, and I had the leak protection of a Pull-Up.”—Crystal S.
“My son was very stubborn. Making him responsible helped. He had to get the Pull-Ups from the drawer and throw them away. I bought toddler wipes so he could more easily clean himself. Eventually I think it just came down to…it was time. He was 9.”—Angela S.
“For my grandson, I picked a weekend, I talked about it with him and told him when he got home from school on Friday, he would be able to wear Big Boy underwear that he picked out the week prior (Buzz Lightyear)…. The two days of potty training gave him the ability to understand what holding it meant, and he had had to tell somebody. He has had a few accidents, but we never went back to diapers. He will be 9 tomorrow and completely potty trained. They said he would never accomplish being potty trained…. HA!”—Barbara D.
“We used potty-training DVDs and huge celebrations: woo-hoos, dancing, making a complete jack@$$ of ourselves.”—Devon B.
“Learning to point to icon on his speech app led to being willing to sign/verbalize needing to go. Didn’t happen until age 12 after trying many other ways.”—Peggy R.
“Repetition. We just did it over and over and over and over (you get it) until it stuck. Oh, and Reece’s Pieces.”—Patty H.
“I bought those little tablets that you throw in the water of the toilet, they come in all different colors. I guess it’s kind of like target practice: Once they pee on the little tablet it starts to dissolve nd turn the toilet water whatever color the tablet is.”—Stacy S.
“A giraffe puppet trained mine! They wouldn’t do it for me, but they’d do it for the puppet.”—Kristen R.
“For my daughter, I painted her toenails while she sat on the potty. She was fascinated by watching me do it and it would keep her still and help her stay put for a few minutes.”—Rosie R.
“There is this funny song about poop in Brazil, with a video clip and everything. I used to sing it for my son, making voices and faces, while he tried to do number 2. It worked really well. This is the link. Yeah, it’s a poop singing!”—Andrea B.
“He wanted a doctor kit so I put a brand new one on top of the entertainment center out of reach and said he had to use the potty and get out of diapers to have it. Every time he asked for it I just said, ‘You know what you need to do.’ I didn’t push him to use the potty. One day he decided he wanted it enough and did it. He was almost 5.”—Jennifer R.
“Had a treat box in the bathroom filled with cheap toys my son loves from Walmart and Big Lots! When he did his thing, he would get to choose one.”—Kay T.
“I used Daniel’s favorite, M&M’s, plus I kept a potty chair in the family room for emergencies!”—April G.
“A Lalaloopsy mini doll as a reward for poop on the potty. I bought an eight-pack for $44. Best money I ever spent. After two years of potty training for poop, this finally seemed to work at the age of 6.”—Christie C.
“I told my son with Sensory Processing Disorder that we couldn’t go to Disney World the following week, because Mickey didn’t let kids his age who couldn’t use the potty into Disney World. I only told him this because his OT and I agreed he was not doing it purely out of stubbornness, at that point. I wish I had done it sooner because 48 hours later, he was completely day-trained.”—KLW
CUE: LET IT GO
“Nothing worked. And we tried EVERYTHING! He just had to be ready. We finally just gave up, told him he could stop trying and wear Pull-Ups as long as he needed to. He self-trained the next day. He was 4 and we’d been trying for two years. I think just stepping back and taking the pressure off, letting him set the agenda and be in control of the process was key for him. He has Asperger’s.”—Angela C.
Where you live can have a major impact on whether your child with autism will end up in an inclusive or segregated class, according to a study in the journal Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities. Looking through U.S. Department of Education data from 1998 to 2008, University of Kansas assistant professor of special education Jennifer Kurth found that “considerable variations exist among states in placing students with autism spectrum disorders in inclusive, mainstreaming, self-contained and separate schools.” Contrary to popular belief, it’s not just IQ and other child characteristics that determine what kind of class a child with autism will end up in.
On average, about 37 percent of students on the spectrum spent at least 80 percent of their school day in inclusive environments, reports Disability Scoop. Yet there was a wide range in stats, from 8 percent of kids in inclusive classrooms in Washington D.C. to 62 percent in Iowa. All in all, states in the Eastern U.S. have more restrictive placement rates than those in the Western U.S. The states that tend to favor inclusion: Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, West Virginia and Wisconsin. States that tend toward more restrictive settings: Alaska, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina and Washington D.C. Surprisingly, Kurth’s findings did not indicate that state funding had a clear-cut impact on placement.
What’s the takeaway for parents of kids with special needs? Same as it always is: It’s up to us to make sure our children get the education and services that are the best fit for them. Educators and other experts may steer us in one direction, but as parents, we have the right to push for the educational settings in which we feel our children will flourish. We also have to work with the realities of our school districts, no matter what the law is. My son is in a private special needs school, and our district pays for it. Several years ago, I looked into the possibility of including him in a local public school. At the time, our district had fired all of the long-term aides and brought in hourly workers. Our district liaison said to me, straight up, that the quality of the workers was dubious and that my son was better off staying put in his special needs school. I could have pushed it, I could have tried to find my own aide, I could have done any number of things. In the end, though, my husband and I felt that the special needs school Max was in was the right choice for him.
Bottom line: Regional differences may exist in terms of classroom placement for kids with special needs, but parents everywhere know what’s best for their child.
The web has been buzzing over a vile incident involving a 15-year-old with autism in Bay Village, Ohio. A group of teens asked him over to their house, purportedly to participate in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge geared toward raising money for the disease. Instead, as the teen stood in a driveway in his underwear, a bucket full of urine, fecal and spit was dumped onto him from the roof. The boy’s mother, Diane, discovered a video of what happened on her son’s cell phone. Police say that the group of teens who committed it could face delinquency chargers. The parents released the video, hoping to raise awareness about bullying.
People have been justifiably horrified, with many speaking out against bullying. Last Friday evening, his community held a rally with people holding signs such as “No room for hate.” Comedian Drew Carey has offered $10,000 in reward money to help find out who was behind the incident. All over social media, people have denounced what happened.
As horrific as this assault was for this teen and his family, as extra-upsetting as it is to those of us who have kids with special needs, the outpouring of support has been heartening. Still, it’s sad that it takes a shocking incident like this for people to spread the word that people with special needs deserve respect. If that were to occur regularly, though, events like this could be avoided. Not entirely, of course, because there will always be rotten apples. But if kids were raised to treat peers with special needs as their equals, children with autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and other special needs would be less subject to derision, exclusion and bullying.
This isn’t just about making sure kids with special needs are included in school’s anti-bullying messages; this is about parents talking with their kids about children and adults with special needs from a young age, so children grow up with that equality mindset.
Here’s a challenge for parents to take. It involves no icy water, just a willingness to help kids understand the diversity of people that exist in this world, and to talk about it with them.
• Explain to your child how everyone has differences, and that some kids and adults have ones that are more visible—and that different is OK.
• Point out even though a child may act, speak, walk or talk in a non-typical way, in many ways they are like other children: ones who like to play, laugh, eat ice-cream, read bedtime stories…you know. That they feel happy and sad, just like they do. That they are kids.
• Help make kids aware of the ability in disability, and that everyone has their own kind of talents. If you do not have any kids or adults with special needs in your circle, google images of Special Olympics athletes—a good conversation starter. Or poke around blogs by parents of kids with special needs to help your child get a sense of what our children can do.
• Discourage the use of the words “retard” and “retarded,” which perpetuate negative stereotypes of people with disability. (If you don’t get what’s so wrong with them, watch this video.)
• Make this an ongoing conversation, just as parents regularly talk with kids throughout childhood about race, ethics and other all-important topics. Encourage them to ask you questions.
• Bridge the gap that can exist at parks, playgrounds, parties, when kids may be hesitant to approach a child with special needs. Encourage interaction. Tell them to just say “Hi,” as they would with any child.
I hope you’ll take this challenge. It’s not just for the sake of kids like my son—it’s for the benefit of your child, too. Teach your child to welcome and respect people with special needs and you will raise a better human being.