Disability Employment Awareness

Adults with Down Syndrome, Advocate, Community Participation, Disability, Down Syndrome, Employment, Inclusion, Independent Living, Mainstreaming, People with Disabilities 3 Comments »

In addition to National Down Syndrome Awareness Month, October is also National Disability Employment Awareness Month. How appropriate that they occur in the same month!

In the last few years, we have seen many adults with Down syndrome in the workplace. Billy is one of them; he has worked at Food City in Kingsport for over 10 years. He was originally hired by Ed Moore, who has been a manager at the grocery chain for over fifty years. His philosophy is one that might be adopted by all employers.

Click on the image to see the Grown Man Now Interview Series; “Current Employment” is the name of this interview with Mr. Moore.

Interview with Mr. Ed Moore, Food City Manager

Interview with Mr. Ed Moore, Food City Manager

We also see adults with other disabilities in a number of work situations. Employers have found that many people formerly considered unemployable can be valuable members of the work force if they are trained properly and given the opportunity. Our president emphasizes their value to our nation in declaring October  National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

Utilizing the talents of all Americans is essential for our Nation to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world. During National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we recognize the skills that people with disabilities bring to our workforce, and we rededicate ourselves to improving employment opportunities in both the public and private sectors for those living with disabilities…

— Barack Obama, President of the United States of America

Are you aware of the many adults with disabilities at work in your community?

 

Down Syndrome Awareness Month

Adults with Down Syndrome, Down Syndrome, Family, Mother of an Adult with a Disability, People with Disabilities No Comments »

Since October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month, it seems a good time to look at what it means to have Down syndrome. First of all, what does the name mean? Langdon Down was a physician who first identified characteristics of people previously called Mongoloid, due to the slanted eyes seen in natives of Mongolia. Down is capitalized because it is a proper noun; syndrome is not because it is a list of identifying characteristics seen in a particular population.

Because of the similarity of physical characteristics, it is frequently assumed that children and adults with Down syndrome are always alike in other ways. The truth is that they may be quite different in personality, temperament and intelligence. The video displayed is a good way to look at these individual differences.

Ten Things People with Down Syndrome Would Like You to Know
Ten Things People with Down Syndrome Would Like You to Know

 

My son Billy, for example, was raised in a family with three other children, a father of German descent, raised in the mid-west, and a mother of English-Scotch-Irish descent, raised in the south. He has characteristics of both parents and a personality of his own. If you have questions about Down syndrome or Billy, I will be happy to answer them. If you have specific questions about the causes and demographics of Down syndrome, you can Google Down syndrome and find numerous sources.

I welcome your questions and comments.

What’s the Word?

Advocate, Community Participation, Courage, Disability, Education, Inclusion, Inspiration, Movie Reviews, People with Disabilities, Special Education No Comments »

There is a new film released entitled “My Idiot Brother.” Following the current, intense battle against the use of the word “retarded,” I wonder if the use of this pejorative term will attract the same attention as the R word. Is idiot different from retarded?

When I first began my studies in special education, I learned the terms historically used to identify persons who had intellectual disabilities. The terms used were imbecile, idiot, and moron. After years of usage, these words became offensive and were changed to severely retarded, moderately retarded, and mildly retarded. Initially they were useful in identifying levels of disability and in planning educational programs. They also became used as hurtful words, slung at people in anger or rejection, such as “You idiot!”

See the connection? Whatever the term, as long as we remain insensitive to people who are vulnerable, those who have disabilities, and those who are unable to fight back, we will use terms in inappropriate and unkind ways.

Rather than fighting the word, let us fight the deeper problem – attitude. I think the answer is another R word: respect. In our family, we have words that we do not use. In addition to the words referred to above, we add “stupid” and “dumb.”

Billy asks me why we don’t use those words. I reply, “Because those words make people feel bad.” If we can teach that idea, we won’t have to stage battles to obliterate each objectionable word that comes along. And they will come along if we continue to believe that the word is the problem.

I, for one, will not see “My Idiot Brother.”

“I can’t read the words.”

Adults with Down Syndrome, Courage, Education, Frustration, Mother of an Adult with a Disability, Reading 6 Comments »

If you follow our blogs, you know that my son Billy has overcome a number of  hurdles and has succeeded in many areas of his life. He graduated from high school, has been successful in several jobs,  is considered a valuable member of our community, and is certainly a cherished and important part of our family and circle of  friends.  He is a competent and happy man. However, there are times that  Billy expresses dissatisfaction with his disabilities in certain areas. He cited one of these areas this morning. As we were leaving church, he said to me, “I can’t read the words.”

Reading a magazine.

Reading a magazine.

After we got into the car, I asked him to tell me about this problem. For years we have marveled at the way he follows the hymns half a beat behind, presenting the effect of singing with the congregation. He is so talented in doing this that it appears he is following with the congregation. One Christmas a friend, who holds a position in our church, asked me if I thought Billy would be willing to read a piece in a program. I told her that he reads very little and she was totally surprised.

We have worked on reading for most of Billy’s life, in school and at home. He brings in the paper each morning and reads the weather report and some of the headlines. He reads his TV guide and parts of People magazine, where he is prompted by illustrations and familiar terms. The hymnal, however, is not illustrated and has few words relevant to Billy’s life. He jumps in when phrases are repeated in the chorus, as in the

hymn Till We Meet Again, which we sang this morning. I did not realize how frustrated he was with the other parts that he could not read.

We talked about this again after we got home and Billy said, ” I am so dumb.” I always tell him that he is smart in so many ways and that “dumb” is a hurtful word and one to be avoided. It breaks my heart to hear him say that about himself.

Although there are over 900 songs in the Methodist Hymnal, we will find a way to work on reading them. Perhaps we can isolate words that are most frequently used and establish a hymn sight word list. It will be a challenge for both of us.

Once again I am amazed at Billy’s courage. He loves to go to church. He frequently nods during the sermon and I realize he doesn’t comprehend the message. If I poke him he tells me, “The Bible says don’t poke in church,” and we both giggle. This is another measure of his courage. Even when he doesn’t understand, he hangs in and gives it his all.

There must be a better term than “dumb.”

Life Expectancy

Adults with Down Syndrome, Aging, Down Syndrome, Family Challenges, Mother of an Adult with a Disability 11 Comments »

I like the TV show Glee, but I missed the season finale. Tom thought I should see it, so I found it and watched it. And watched it again.

We knew that Sue, the irascible coach (Jane Lynch), had a sister who had Down syndrome. In this episode, the sister had died and Sue was angry and bereft. She explained her feelings:

“Everyone told me that people with Down syndrome don’t live past 30. But my sister lived to 35, then to 40, then 50. I thought that after this, we could grow old together. She lived a life with no enemies and no regrets; why is it her time and not mine? How come I’m the one still standing here?”

It has been a common assumption that the life expectancy for those with Down syndrome is short. But as the life expectancy for the general population has increased, so has that of persons with Down syndrome. One reference stated that the average life expectancy of individuals with Down syndrome has increased from 9 years in 1929 to 12-15 years in 1947 and 18 years in 1961. The current projection is that 44% will survive to the age of 60 years and 13% to 68 years.

A graph showing increasing longevity for people with Down Syndrome

Increasing Longevity: People with Down Syndrome

The coach said, “I don’t know how to deal with her death. For now I’m just going to miss her.”

As for me, I don’t know how to deal with these projections. Billy is in his 50s and I am in my 80s. It’s a toss up to see who will go first. So like the coach, I don’t know how to deal with it. For now I’m just going to enjoy him.

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