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PEOPLE HELPING PEOPLE

PEOPLE HELPING PEOPLE: Introducing the Workplace to Adults with Developmental Disabilities
By Susan Boland Butts

Aug 3, 2017

 

Have you ever worked with someone who was just wired differently than you? All of our brains work differently and these “diversities” can make for very interesting and productive workplaces.

We have long noted that other forms of diversity (gender, culture, ethnicity, age) can be of great benefit in our workplaces. What about “neurodiversity”? As defined by John Elder Robison, a scholar in residence at the College of William & Mary, neurodiversity is the idea that neurological differences like autism and ADHD are the result of normal, natural variation in the human genome. These individuals have so much to offer our workplaces and communities. So, how can you get started?

Introducing your workplace to a neuro-diverse population doesn’t have to be complicated – it can even be fun. These experiences broaden horizons by giving our individuals more options to consider when they make the decision to pursue employment. After all, how could one know that they want to work in a car dealership if they’ve never had the opportunity to visit one?

A group of 10 individuals went to Gwinnett Place Nissan where they had the opportunity to get into several cars and experience the sensation of sitting in the driver’s seat and honking the horns. Our hostess, Ms. Colvard, also showed the group an electric vehicle and let them plug in the charger. They set up individual crafting stations and paired each person with one of their employees. They provided some snacks and each individual was given a bag of car-themed swag as they were leaving.

Branch Manager Michelle welcomed our individuals to Synovus Bank of North Georgia in Tucker. She gave us a tour of the historic building, which included going behind the teller’s desk to learn about what bank tellers do and to see the drive through window in action. We also got to enter the vault and ask questions, including one about whether or not the safe deposit boxes were fire proof. After the tour we went to their historic board room for lunch and Bingo with bank staff.

Capital City Mechanical & Electrical, has offices in an industrial park in Norcross from which they dispatch employees who install and repair HVAC and electrical systems. A group of 11 people from Hi-Hope got a full tour of the facility and a demonstration on how HVAC and electrical systems work, including some safety advice with regard to things like fuse boxes. Capital City provided lunch from Panera Bread and wrapped things up with a quick game of Bingo to win some Capital City swag.

At each of these visits, employees of these adventurous companies had a great opportunity to engage with and get to know individuals who may have amazing talents to contribute to the workplace. Conversely, the individuals had a chance to learn more about these workplaces and build relationships with the employees.

This is where change happens – at the point where you and I have a relationship. Absent this we are too different and can’t imagine how we might work together. Would you open your workplace to some folks who work differently, but regardless, can contribute in a meaningful way? Give us a call!

Susan Boland Butts is executive director of The Hi-Hope Service Center.

The Hi-Hope Service Center cultivates community for adults with developmental disabilities by connecting them with integrated opportunities for learning, work and leisure. Through weekday community access, supported employment and residential group homes, the center supports 123 adults as they contribute their unique gifts and special abilities to our community. For more information please visit our website at www.hihopecenter.org.

People Helping People is a publication of the Gwinnett Coalition for Health & Human Services. For more information contact Ellen Gerstein at ellen@gwinnettcoalition.org or at 770-995-3339.

 

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