Team Effort: Residential and Employment Specialists

Inclusive employment is a team effort between the person, their parents, residential specialists, employment specialists, and businesses. In this blog post, we’re going to focus on teamwork between employment specialists and residential specialists.

The reality is that it’s not just the employment specialists that support someone to get a job. For people who live in a residential setting, the residential team plays an important role in maintaining successful employment.

One of the challenges to inclusive employment is the “getting ready to work” mindset. It’s the mindset that a person needs to accumulate certain skills before they can get a job. It’s the belief, for example, that they need to learn to shower and dress themselves before they can work. However, this mindset can put people with disabilities in a perpetual state of getting ready. The residential team plays an important role in changing this mindset from “getting ready” to “working.”

One of the biggest things residential specialists can do to promote employment is encourage the person to find a job they enjoy. Just like everyone else, it makes a big difference when the people around you, especially the people you see every day, believe in you and encourage you. That support will be reflected in your own attitude.

Good communication between the employment specialists and residential specialists is key, right down to seemingly insignificant details. Information such as whether a person is feeling well that morning may seem like a small thing from a residential standpoint, but it can have a huge impact on the person’s work day and how well they’re able to do their job.

Communication about holidays and schedules is also critical. On some holidays, such as Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the residential team and employment team might be off, but the person they support might still need to work. A business’s work schedule is not contingent on support staff’s schedules. If a person is scheduled to work, then they better show up for work, just like anyone else. It’s not optional. The teams still need to make sure the person gets to their job on time.

Which brings us to another potential challenge of customized employment: transportation. At Keystone Human Services, we’re fortunate that our residential services can provide transportation. Figuring out a transportation schedule can be a challenge, and there were bumps in the road, but our residential teams have been great at figuring things out. Staff adjusted their shifts. Some came in early. They’re willing to be flexible and change the residential schedule quickly when necessary so they can support the person in their job.

Teamwork is also essential to supporting the person themselves to change their mindset and adjust to life in the workforce. With the community-based system, people with disabilities are empowered to make their own choices, and the system as a whole has encouraged people that they don’t have to do anything they don’t want to do. After decades of an institutional model where people had no choices, this is certainly movement in a better direction. Our job is to support people to make informed choices, so they’re aware that while they have freedom of choice, there are consequences that go with those choices. Teams need to work together while the person learns how to make these informed decisions to maintain their employment.

Because ultimately, both the employment and residential staff want people to be excited to work. We all want people to find meaningful work. A job can open worlds of opportunity for people.