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Our son David

Our son, David, lived in a group home for over ten years. Currently, he lives in a shared-living setting with a family in Newark. He has worked for Elwyn, Delaware in Wilmington for the last four years. Before that he worked for Easter Seals, first in a dog-biscuit business run by Easter Seals at the American Heart Association and then on a team from Easter Seals at the Visiting Nurse Association doing much of their routine paperwork, such as copying and collating documents, stuffing envelopes, etc. David enjoyed both of these jobs and was very good at them; however, the jobs were terminated due to circumstances not under Easter Seals’ control. At Elwyn, David works on a variety of jobs, often involving a team, but also often working on his own. He finds this work satisfying and enjoys the interaction with his fellow workers and Elwyn staff every day. The staff are trained to work with people like David who can do quite complicated, repetitive jobs, but have little judgement, have limited ability to plan ahead and require a constant routine with few changes. They work with him to improve in weak areas, such as being a self-starter or doing jobs that are distasteful to him when necessary. Anyone who has toured Elwyn can readily see that there is no “exploitation” of the workers here. The jobs are low-paying because that is the nature of the work that can be obtained.

Several years ago David was evaluated by the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and deemed capable of doing the jobs that he tested at. However, firstly, there were no such jobs available, and secondly, there is no funding for on-going job-coaching, which would be the minimum necessary for David to succeed in competitive employment.

If the funding for shared-living and sheltered workshops is eliminated by the Federal and State governments, in what I can only assume are cost-cutting measures for their own benefit, I see David living at home (at least as long as my husband and I are alive – we are both in our 70’s) and sitting in a chair doing nothing. Where he will go after we are dead is an unanswered question. Nowhere in the document produced by the so-called National Disability Rights Network is there anything addressing disabled people who are not capable of obtaining competitive employment, whether because of cognitive problems or social/behavioral problems such as autism or autistic tendencies. Nowhere have the advocates of eliminating group homes said anything addressing people who are not capable of living on their own. If the recommended measures succeed, a large segment of the disabled population will find their lives reverting back to what was the norm for the disabled fifty years ago – stuck at home (if they have a home) with parents struggling to care for them and provide some meaning to their daily lives.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.familiesspeakingup.com/2012/08/01/our-son-david/

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