More companies today are embracing individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDDs) and have found that they’ve had a positive influence on not only the company’s bottom line, but on customers, coworkers, and the community.
Direct support providers (DSPs) are a key element in setting up IDDs for success when it comes to equal opportunity positions. They provide a wide range of complex services that assist adults with disabilities, from activities of daily living and personal care to networking and financial duties.
Let’s take a look at how DSPs can be prepared to set up their IDDs for success in the workplace.
#1 Employment Focused Learning
It’s important that DSPs understand how to support their IDDs in both obtaining and maintaining a job.
Employment focused learning is about the following:
- Why employment for IDDs is important and how it affects their quality of life
- Learning about the various types of employment available to IDDs (what are the typical roles in equal opportunity positions and how do they work?)
- Meeting the members of a standard employment team to discover how they work together to support employment.
Understanding the above is a crucial component in DSP’s training.
#2 Identify Career Goals
You can’t expect anyone to be thrust into a job and succeed, whether they have a disability or not. Working in a field and doing tasks we dislike will ultimately lead to a lack of motivation, especially for IDDs, which could affect job performance.
DSPs are expected to help their IDDs identify their career goals and help them realize what types of employment would keep them motivated.
Here are a few tips:
- DSPs can be direct and start by asking what their IDDs would like to do. They should hear them out, even if their goals seem unrealistic. Having this conversation about career goals could be helpful in highlighting various jobs and tasks that might interest them.
- DSPs can speak with the family to gain more insight about what would keep the IDD happy and motivated.
- Take a field trip to a business. This is a great way for IDDs to be visually exposed to different careers and responsibilities, particularly those they may not have even considered yet.
#3 Teach Job-Finding Skills
For IDDs to be successful in the workplace, they’ll need to be taught different skills and effective strategies, starting with job-finding skills. This will help them find job opportunities, interview well, complete a job application, negotiate job offers, and complete job tasks.
- DSPs should walk their IDDs through the process of finding a job, from start to finish, and provide hands-on practice experience.
- Invite representatives from businesses to offer their perspectives when hiring an employee. This will give IDDs the opportunity to listen and learn how employers prefer to be approached in a job interview, and what kind of skills they care about.
- DSPs can help connect IDDs to local resources, like career centers or websites, that will help them search for a job.
#4 Teach Job-related Skills
A big part of preparing IDDs for the workforce is teaching them skills they’ll need for various tasks. Here’s how DSPs can prepare their IDDs:
- List all of the steps your IDD will be needing to do their job. This will also help DSPs see how their IDDs are doing at work and evaluate their progress.
- IDDs may not be able to complete every part of the job. DSPs should be prepared to work with the employer to see what tasks can be modified or what alternatives there are.
- DSPs should be prepared to offer direct support in the beginning, if possible, by being close by while their IDDs learn and practice their job tasks. Their support can gradually fade as their IDD is able to do the tasks independently.
- DSPs need to understand what transportation challenges there are for their IDDs and find solutions so it doesn’t prevent their IDDs from being late or missing work.
- DSPs will need to teach their IDDs social skills. Communication is always important in the workforce and IDDs will benefit greatly from strengthening these skills. An example of this learning would include how to greet people, how to make phone calls and send text messages, how to check emails, and so on.
A key ingredient in setting up IDDs for success in the workplace is through collaboration.
DSPS should prepare to constantly collaborate with their IDD’s family, employer, and even coworkers.
This will provide an opportunity for them to discuss expectations before the job begins, collect insights from coworkers to keep track of IDD’s performance, and overall staying on top of the mental and physical well-being of their IDDs as they explore a new job.