There are quite a few organizations around, that help people with intellectual disability to be placed in main stream work environments.
We are quite different, in that we take anyone who has an intellectual disability regardless of their level of functioning. We have found there are lots of places that take the high functioning adults and try to place them in the mainstream workplace or in protective workshops who do contract work.
They do have some success, however there are people that fall through the cracks as it is a very complex disability.
Many intellectually disabled people who take on mainstream jobs are very lonely as there is no real socializing with peers. They find themselves having to fit in with other mainstream people instead of people accommodating them. Organizations who specialize in mainstream placements, do a wonderful job of trying to make the higher functioning adults adapt to mainstream working hours, behaviour in the workeplace, etc. but it is sometimes very difficult for our adults to adapt.
Some can, but many cannot. I have at least two adults who have attended programmes to get placement, and who have found it increasingly difficult to adapt to an environment that doesn’t understand them.
Deadlines are another problem. many Intellectually disabled adults respond badly to deadlines as this creates a lot of stress. One needs to remember that many of them are on very strong medications for Epilepsy, Anxiety, or antidepressants for mood swings and volatile behaviour.
Even in someone with no intellectual limitations, these medications will render their concentration, focus, and tolerance for interruption, frustration and problem solving hampered.
Due to the medication, and the amount of focus it takes for people with this disability to keep up, they do get tired very quickly. An eight hour work day is just not feasible. My vision is to create a safe place for them to go during the day from 7am-5pm (this accommodates parents/guardians who work) where those that can will learn as many new fun skills as possible in a loving and caring environment with the guidance from people who understand their needs. For instance, we have a quiet lounge for those who need a little time out, or they are encouraged to walk around outside until they feel ready to focus on their activities again. No real deadlines are imposed.
The higher functioning adults do baking and have the weekly deadline of the tea garden for which they bake. They also get a chance to do other activities such as the gardening, art works, beading, knitting, embroidery and dancing so they receive a more holistic lifestyle experience. In summer we are hoping to have Friday afternoons where they will braai their own food and have a lovely social afternoon. This is also so they learn to cook for themselves in a fun and relaxed environment.
The lower functioning adults are kept busy with beading, sorting, art works and gardening.
We hope to start a laundry service soon so that those that don’t quite make the baking team, but are high functioning enough to do some work, will have a vocation. I have also got some ideas about making the baking decorations with some of the lower functioning adults.
Our adults are capable of beautiful, and significant contributions to their own life, their family, and their community. But these contributions need to be made on terms with which they can engage, and they grow into their place a little bit slower than someone else might.
HOWEVER, all of them do need constant supervision at the moment. We have to work at a much slower pace. These adults are with us, to be cared for, and to care for themselves and others within our environment – and community as a whole, for their ‘working’ life.