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Special Employees on the Job

Barbara Bensoussan

Despite what people may think, individuals with developmental disabilities have a lot to offer in a work setting. And a regular job gives them the means to make money, and contribute to society — and a priceless chance at fulfillment.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

iconshj Nobody quite knew what to do with Yaakov.

Already in his early 20s, he could easily fall through the cracks: developmentally delayed but high functioning, with emotional issues that impeded his integration into constructive activities.

“We couldn’t pull him out of bed,” says Suri Englard, director of Day Services at HASC. “He’d sleep till three in the afternoon, then wake up with tons of energy that he often used to bother other people. We’d tried putting him in day programs, but nothing worked out.”

Yaakov had shown interest in computers, so HASC staff decided to enroll him in a six-week computer course offered by COJO (the Council of Jewish Organizations). To their surprise, he went religiously and even did all the homework.

“One day the teacher had to leave class early, and he put Yaakov in charge!” exclaims Suri.

“We wanted to keep the momentum,” she continues. “So we invented a job for him at the agency, asking him to create a sort of computer inventory of our supplies. It worked so well that now he’s been employed for eight months by a hospital at one of their offsite offices, doing filing and office work on the computer. He’s usually on time, he dresses himself, and best of all, he’s happy. He feels fulfilled — he feels that he’s like everyone else.”

Many of us derive satisfaction, self-esteem, and a sense of identity through the work we do, whether it’s inside or outside the home (or both). People with developmental and/or emotional disabilities are no different; they also want to contribute to society and enjoy the social milieu a job often provides. “A job changes everything for them,” Suri says. “It produces a ripple effect that makes other aspects of their lives better.”


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