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Thresholds Newsletter Jan 2013 Exploring Interests

Work Interest and Interest in Work

Respecting interests in choosing careers is essential to assisting young people to achieve success in the workplace; however, there are work interests and interests in working. The former refers to the type of work while the latter refers to willingness to meet employment expectations. Success usually results when an individual has a strong interest in the type of work and in fulfilling the employer’s expectations.

Identifying Work Interests

They say that the key to job satisfaction is turning your interest into your job. Those who have a passion for a certain hobby and can support themselves financially doing it have dream jobs.Career Services has met hundreds of job seekers during its 40 years in supporting individuals with an intellectual disability to find work. Identifying interests can be a challenging part of the process. Many applicants have had restricted opportunities in their childhood and adolescent years and cannot draw on a range of experiences when expressing interest. Some have a strong vocational interest but not the educational qualifications required for a particular job. Interest testing is not often effective. Even in a pictorial format, it requires an understanding of most and least interesting and an ability to see the whole job from one snapshot of the job. Some test takers choose the most familiar job to them rather than the job they like the most. Career Cruising has some potential but needs to be adapted for some individuals. Often, the best approach to making choices is to have exploratory work placements that provide actual experience. Thresholds, an initiative focused on helping young people transition from school to adult life, was based on allowing each participant to make informed choices by experiencing community-based activities, community living and work opportunities.

Because of this need for actual experiences in order to form an opinion, the more experiences a young person has the better. Parents need to encourage participation in various activities at home or in the community. Teachers need to provide variety in co-op work experiences. When a student leaves school and applies for assistance to get a job, he/she can almost always identify a favourite co-op experience. It can be a good starting point for the job search, and can sometimes become the workplace after leaving school.


Lacey turned her co-op experience at East Side Mario’s into a work placement after leaving high school, TISS.

When individuals request a job in a field for which they are not qualified, trying to find a good skill match that is connected to the field often pays off for everyone-the individual, the employer, and the job coach. Doug loves cooking at home and enjoys his volunteer work with Loaves and Fishes; Geoff’s fondness for socializing is a good fit for giving tours to visitors at the Brockville Museum; Becky’s enjoyment of crafts is advantageous for her volunteer work in the Day Program at St. Vincent’s; Derrick’s huge interest in sports translated into a volunteer position of keeping statistics for the St. Mary football team.

Developing an Interest in Working

Turning a work interest into employment requires respect for the needs of the employer. Compromise may be needed. A job may have preferred tasks and non-preferred tasks, but all have to be completed. A job may have a schedule that is not perfect for the individual who has a recreational activity on a specific day. A job requires you to go to work even when you are tired from being up late the night before. Employers may be prepared to accommodate disability-related issues, but they become frustrated by having to accommodate for factors that are a matter of choice. More jobs are lost to the latter.

An intellectual disability is not the same barrier to employment that it once was.Skilled Job Developers educate employers on the benefits to their workplaces of hiring employees with a disability and of looking at their positions differently resulting in an unbundling of various duties in a way that allows an individual with a disability to be employed doing the work that is compatible with his/her skill set. Employment after high school can be a realistic goal for many more individuals than ever before.

Parents and teachers can set the stage for motivated workers by preparing students for work beginning at age 14. Talking about work as a real expectation is a first step:when you go to work, not if you want to go to work. Involving your child in chores at home, arranging co-op placements, introducing the concept of working faster, building tolerance for correction of mistakes, increasing stamina and mobility through exercise,etc. all help to improve the chance of employment. Transition planning can include work goals and the strategies to achieve them.

Career Services has seen several young people with a mild intellectual disability who are very capable of working turn down employment or who take themselves out of the job-market by very restrictive criteria. Individual choice has been pushed as the top priority in-service planning; individuals are offered a range of options one of which could be work. The problem is that it can be difficult to fit work in around an individual’s various activities, and employers needs may not be met. The result is employment is lost as a real goal.Developmental services providers need to help employable adults pursue their recreational and educational goals when other young adults do so: in the evenings or on weekends.

Although most individuals with an intellectual disability qualify for Ontario Disability Support Program’s income support when they reach 18 years old, this does not mean that an individual is unemployable. ODSP provides $100 per month to everyone who reports earnings and then deducts half of the earnings from the ODSP cheque. Many families worry about losing ODSP, however, full–time work at minimum wage does not eliminate all of the ODSP. Furthermore, the Ministry of Community and Social Services allows rapid reinstatement as an incentive to ODSP recipients to become employed as this reduces the risk of not re-qualifying for ODSP if the employment ends. The reasons for exiting ODSP and the length of time off ODSP are not relevant in determining eligibility for rapid reinstatement.

Job Developers or Job Coaches who support people on placements can be instrumental in facilitating success on the job. Career Services’ experience has shown that the support is for everyone: the job seeker, the employer, and the co-workers. Striking the balance between advocating for the individual with a disability and respecting the pressures and standards of the place of employment is the goal. Knowing when to reduce and eliminate the job coaching is also critical to success. This can be challenging in a service environment that encourages individualized paid support especially when the support worker’s livelihood depends on providing individualized support to a specific person.

Transitioning to work can be a challenging process for some individuals given the differences between the school setting and the work setting. A longer work day, less variety in activities during the day, fewer special events during the week/month, less vacation time(shorter Christmas vacation, no March break and working during the summer), and more physical demands are all difficult adjustments. Flexibility during the first months or even years of working can mean the difference between easing into work and giving up on work completely. Having a strong match between interest and the job can make a significant difference in motivation, as can developing strong relationships with co-workers. This is when the job interest merges with the interest in working and helps an individual to make a successful transition from school to adult life in the work world.

Brandy had a co-op placement at St. Vincent’s during her student years at TISS; recently she has returned there as a volunteer placement and is thinking of taking the Personal Support Worker course at St. Lawrence College, a goal she was too nervous to pursue upon graduating from high school.

Submitted by: Susan O’Donnell, Career Services

David’s Co-op Placement at West Winds Ranch

Recently I got to spend some time with David Breese and his co-op supervisor, Alison Downing, at West Winds Ranch in Westport. David had a very successful placement with Alison through the cooperative education program at Rideau District High School.We sat outside on the picnic tables and David and Alison told me about what David had learned while working with them and about some of the adventures they shared too! I could tell from the stories they shared and from listening to the easy conversation they were having that Alison and David had a rapport and perhaps a friendship had been built as well.

David told me about the jobs he did, which included fencing, feeding the animals,haying, mucking out stalls, carpentry work and helping with special events such as birthday parties and The Great Easter Egg Hunt. David was there for a 1/2 day, 5days a week. Alison said that David was persistent and had a good attitude even after a hard day’s work.

David learned some great skills while working there. He learned how to handle horses and other animals safely. David always used caution when working with the animals.He learned some carpentry skills and also had the opportunity to see how dry-walling and sanding were done. Since the ranch is also a producer of food, he was able to learn safe handling skills. David also increased his interpersonal skills as he had many opportunities to work with the public.

Alison was very impressed when people came to the ranch looking for someone to speak to that David began to take on the role of "greeter”. He didn’t duck away like other staff have done before. She said David would handle the inquiry if he could, or if needed, he knew to direct them to Alison. Alison said David worked well as a team member and that he was not closed minded. He was willing to try anything. David learned quickly and was able to keep to a routine. He was always on time and reliable.Alison also said he showed a good sense of humour, which is important to have after a long hot day of lifting bales of hay! Alison spoke very highly of David’s work.

This placement has led to some part time work for David at the ranch. While we were there she asked if he could be available to help with a fencing project next week. They can always use an extra pair of hands during haying season and they also hope that David will be able to help with lawn cutting and the garden next summer. David also helps them to participate in the community Christmas parade.

David’s successful cooperative education placement shows how important and meaningful they can be for individuals. He had a placement in the community like his peers, he gained excellent skills that will assist him in other areas of his life, whether it be work related or social. This placement also gave David more of a presence in his community through the community events he participated in. People were able to see David hard at work and to witness all of the capabilities that he had to offer. He also had the chance to meet other people and make connections.

David is also very pleased that Alison has him doing some part time work when needed. This will be a great experience for his resume.

This all happened because many people worked together to find the right placement for David even if it meant overcoming some challenges, such as transportation. Great things happen when people work together!

Submitted by Kerri Steacy, Gananoque and District Association for Community Living.

Love Anthony

Love Anthony, by Lisa Genova (2012), is a fictional book that was released this fall. It is a story that has a number of plausible situations that the readers maybe able to relate to from their own experiences.

If not, the author has an incredible way with words that transports you to places and into others’ shoes that may forever change how you view others. One of the main story lines is about a mother and her child, Anthony, who has Autism and is non-verbal.The structure of the story allows you to "hear” how the public’s, parents’, and child’s voices vary. It reminds us that everyone perceives the world in his/her own way and that asserting our own thoughts and feelings on others may not be a true reflection of who the person is, or what he/she is thinking.

I listened to the audio book as I was on my travels.Debra Messing reads the book with feeling and successfully teleported me into the realities that the characters were experiencing. At the end of the novel, there is chapter that allows you to reflect on what you’ve read, your own experiences, and may even help you find the answers to some of the questions that you still have about yourself and/or someone that you love.

Review written by: Valerie Hors fall (Student Engagement Teacher - UCDSB)

Chris and Canadian Tire

Chris Laurin was a Grade 12 student at Thousand Islands Secondary School when he signed up for the Skills Development World of Work course during the 2011-2012 school year. Chris had participated for years in the Skills Development Course program at TISS and had always met with success in his classes. He was no stranger to work placements having completed placements at the school cafeteria, Brett’s Valu-Mart and Goodwill.

In the fall of 2011 Chris was placed at Canadian Tire where he worked each day for two hours under the supervision of Kay Clarey. He earned the respect of his immediate supervisors as they recognized his willingness to perform to the best of his ability and his friendly and easy-going nature.It didn’t hurt that Chris is a large fellow with considerable strength and his work often included moving stock, merchandise and at times entire displays.

Chris consistently proved himself to be an excellent worker, and by the time the semester ended, Chris had worked for pay on the occasional weekend. Chris’ supervisor suggested that, if he chose, he could have a full time job. Chris had to think about this as his plan was to return to school until June; however, Chris eventually decided that the offer from Canadian Tire was too good to pass up and he worked therefor the remainder of the school year and through the summer. Although Chris has been laid off, it is quite possible that he will be rehired in the New Year.

Submitted by: Betty Holthaus (Learning Resource Teacher - UCDSB)

Bryan - Working Inspiration

All it takes to include people with disabilities in the workplace is a willingness and openness to explore the options. Bryan Pinhey’s experience in Kemptville is a good example of what can happen when employers and community find ways to include someone’s unique abilities.

Bryan is a friendly and enthusiastic person who has an intellectual disability. Bryan has three paying jobs: St. James Church-cleaning, B&H Grocery-stocking and facing shelves, Municipality of North Grenville-shoveling snow in the winter and cleaning in the spring and summer.

Owner Jim Beveridge of B&H Grocery has hired two people with an intellectual disability through Community Living North Grenville and is always greeted by Bryan with a warm hello. Jim says the experience has enriched his business and provided a great learning opportunity for everyone involved.

Bryan joined Community Living North Grenville through our Youth in Transitions program when he graduated from North Grenville District High School. He participated in the employment readiness workshops, which enabled him to be ready, willing and able to work within his own community.

Employment has given Bryan an opportunity for independence and self-reliance. He enjoys having his own money, and being able to purchase things he may want or need.It gives him a sense of well-being and being in charge.

Bryan also volunteers his time at the local Salvation Army where he helps with stocking the shelves and Big Sky Ranch where he assists in feeding and taking care of the animals.

"I am happy, I like all of my jobs and I enjoy working” stated Bryan.

Bryan is popular and well known in his community. He brings so much joy wherever he goes, and feels very much a part of his community. Being connected also means that he is safe and secure in his community, a feeling that all people need.

Submitted by Tracey Bennet, Community Supports Supervisor, Community Living North Grenville



CAREER SERVICES OF BROCKVILLE Contact Person: Susan O’Donnell 613-342-5775

COMMUNITY LIVING NORTH GRENVILLE Contact Person: Nancy Fischer 613-258-7177 X135

DEVELOPMENTAL SERVICES OF LEEDS AND GRENVILLE Contact Person: Heather Nielsen 613-345-1290



UPPER CANADA DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD OF EASTERN ONTARIO Contact Person: Valerie Horsfall 1-613-275-2928 X2285

CATHOLIC DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD OF EASTERN ONTARIO Contact Person: Judy Dallas 1-613-283-5007 X202

Re:Action 4 Inclusion - ensuring students who have an intellectual disability don't get left behind

A youth leadership conference for high school students sponsored by Community Living Ontario March 1 - 3, 20136604 Rama RR #6, Orillia, ON

Our Goal: That Communities offer all people equal opportunity, full participation, respect and value as individuals.