Hi everyone and welcome to my letter W post in the #AtoZChallenge. Today, I want to discuss work and day activities for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities.
People with a mild intellectual disability and no additional problems can often work paid jobs that would otherwise be performed by typically-developing adolescents, such as filling shelves in a supermarket or being waiters in a restaurant. They may not be able to complete all duties required for these jobs, but in the Dutch system, if you can do a task that is part of a job and have minimal employee skills (such as coming on time, respecting authority, etc.), you are expected to join the mainstream workforce. I, thankfully, have not been judged to meet these criteria, but then again I’m lucky in that I’ve been on disability benefits since 2004. A few years back, I heard of a profoundly and multiply disabled woman at my day center who somehow was judged to meet the criteria. The work specialist had probably never seen her, as they said she could do simple manual labor, while she had severe spastic quadriplegia.
Alternatively, there are sheltered workshops for people who can work, but need to do things at a slower pace and need some more support than can be reasonably expected within the mainstream workforce. However, these workshops have been facing significant budget cuts.
When this, too, isn’t an option, you enter the world of day activities. Those still can be “work-like”. In fact, most day activities for more cognitively capable intellectually disabled people simulate a work environment. Some of these activities are truly meaningless, in that the staff will let clients fill the same boxes with a number of items repeatedly only to empty them again so that the client can fill them once more. I honestly have very strong opinions on this: if it’s truly what a person wants and there’s no way of making the activity actually meaningful, I’m fine with it. Otherwise, I don’t see why day activities need to be “work” and things like crafting or music can’t be day activities for more cognitively capable individuals.
For more severely disabled individuals, day activities are usually sensorially-based. This includes snoezelen®, which is being in a room where the sensory environment can be completely controlled to suit the individual’s needs. I actually love this, although only for about 30 minutes at a time.
Other activities include cooking and baking, with which the clients usually don’t really help (although some moderately disabled people can) but will experience the sensory stimuli associated with the process. For example, I used to attend a group for profoundly disabled individuals and, when we’d bake something with apples in it, the staff would massage the clients’ arms with an apple. Music, story time, and simple crafts are also common activities for this population.
I, personally, if I had to choose a day activities setting, would choose the one for more severely disabled people. I know I can’t really function in a group setting, which is why I’m stuck at the care home for now, but I honestly have zero interest in meaningless labor.