Having a Disability Shouldn’t Mean You Can’t Work

Here are Robert and Matt working on their on-the-job training (OJT) at Daily Bread in Melbourne, FL.

Robert and Matt assembled 35 comfort bags for the folks at Daily Bread in Melbourne, FL as part of their on the job training program. The bags consisted of new socks, shoelaces, combs, toothbrush and toothpaste, water, soup, applesauce, poptarts, gum, razors, lotion, writing pens, notebooks and facial wipes plus a handwritten card. Matt continued the next day to make over 200 cards he generated, printed, and signed for Savannah’s Cards 4 Kids in Miami, FL. Matt said he was so appreciative for the opportunity to let his computer skills shine!

Individuals diagnosed with neurodiversity or any other disability may not be able to maintain eye contact or make small talk, but they often bring unique skills to the workforce. As the labor market continues to get tighter, it should be a reminder to managers in any business not to overlook this pool of talented employees.

This country has experienced a monumental rise in the diagnoses of people with certain types of neurological disorders. This year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention upped its estimate to 1 in 59 U.S. births — twice the 2004 rate of 1 in 125.

National advocacy group Autism Speaks estimates 500,000 teens with autism will reach adulthood over the next 10 years.

Employing adults that have neurodiversity is a win for employers who need workers who are less likely to become bored by repetitive tasks and are above-average in reliability, loyalty and focus.

It’s a win for the adults with neurodiversity who deserve the right to work, and to do so without fear of being bullied or discriminated against. It’s a win for parents who crave true independence for their children. It’s a win for taxpayers, who don’t have to fund government assistance for individuals capable of supporting themselves. It is not the job of the government to take care of it’s citizens with social services. For profit businesses and non-profits alike can develop programs and services that can do the same thing the government can. It’s called business with a purpose.

It makes no sense that more than half of adults with neurodiversity are unemployed and not enrolled in higher education in the two years after high school. This is a lower rate than that of young adults with a learning disability, intellectual disability or speech-language impairment.

Although some young adults that have more severe neurological disorders are unable to work, others only need a little bit of training to be successful. It’s good to see several non-profits in town are engaged in finding and providing jobs.

employU’s On The Job Training program pairs a job coach with young adults with neurodiversity and similar special needs. The workers are eventually weaned off the coach, who stays in touch as issues arise.

“She’s well on her way to independence,” one mother of a young adult who is deaf when describing her daughter’s new job working at Sally’s Ice Cream in Flagler Beach. The position was obtained with help with the help of employU and her assigned job coach.

Workplace inclusion is good for the economy. It’s just smart business, and it is good for the soul. As Robert and Matt’s story shows, it’s good for the people given an opportunity to work.

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