As the debate over sheltered workshops and "meaningful employment" continues, I've struggled with exactly what that means. In my teens I worked at a few fast food places. I ended up moving to a better job at a drug store. From there I ended up paying medical claims for an insurance company. None of those were exciting. They were available. I did my best and moved up in the last company, changing positions when I discovered something that I was good at.
I've always envied people who have the resources to create their own employment, follow their dreams, and earn a living doing what they were meant to do. Most of us aren't that lucky. What we can do however, is pay attention to what motivates us. We can take an honest inventory of our talents and skills. Hopefully, we'll think of a dream job, and maybe get a chance to work towards it. That's what dreams are for - setting realistic goals. Who likes to keep working towards the same dream all of their lives without getting anywhere?
As parents, I think too often we end up settling for our kids too. Sometimes it's a matter of financial resources. Parents may look for employment for their son or daughter that allows them to pursue their own careers. They can't afford to stay home, so the child has to go somewhere. Sometimes we end up falling for the hype we've been fed since our child was born - they are limited - they won't be happy in challenging positions so we should give them something easy to do so they can be "productive." Sometimes, we just don't know where to turn or what to do. Services and supports are out there, to varying degrees, but they can be difficult if not impossible to navigate unless you have someone who can show you the ropes.
In the past several months I've gathered stories about people who have Down syndrome that have fabulous jobs. Their parents were able to find a talent or skill and turn it into an opportunity. Full disclosure: I'm a little jealous. I know not everyone operates on the same level. Not all people, with or without Down syndrome, could to the jobs that these people have. The thing that inspires me is that the parents were able to find solutions. I've been thinking a great deal about how we can support each other to make this the norm, rather than the exception to the rule. I've been thinking about WHY we settle - for ourselves and our children.
Here are a few of the people who have turned their passions into "meaningful jobs."
- As a 2004 graduate of Eldorado High School in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Tim was elected homecoming king by the highest margin of votes in school history.
- In the fall of 2004, Tim moved to Roswell, New Mexico to attend Eastern New Mexico University.
- Tim spent much of 2009 and 2010 living aboard a sailboat with his parents and traveling throughout the Bahamas.
- After observing the effect Tim had on Red Robin restaurant and its customers, an idea emerged regarding Tim owning his own restaurant. In May of 2010, a lease was signed for a facility in Albuquerque and a construction company was hired for tenant improvements.
He wants to be 'a professional'
Creative Thinking and Not Settling
I would like to have a brainstorming session on how we can help each other discover the hidden talent and passion in each of us and our children. We all have something to contribute.... Anyone interested?