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Dayna Kneeland: Ready for Employment! New Definitions and Expanding Possibilities

January 11, 2014

 Ready for Employment!

New Definitions and Expanding Possibilities

CreativePlanningThe truth has always been that the world needs everyone’s gifts. We need each other’s unique ways of communicating and making meaning in the world to create balance, help us to grow, and remind us that we and everything around us is continuously changing.

Unfortunately we are not always aware of this. Furthermore, historically, we have gone through some intense periods of thinking there is one way to go about things. One example is the idea that we need to be literate in order to get a job

Back in the day we were asked to take literacy tests as a precursor to employment. As a result people who weren’t able to read and write were excluded from many employment opportunities. Even though these literacy tests are no longer the norm, we often still think that we need to be able to read and write in order to get a job. The good news is that it’s no longer true.

We are continuously changing the ways we view and understand literacy. For centuries, we expressed ourselves through non-verbal and oral forms of communication. Then, in the West, reading and writing became more common and we thought this is what being literate is all about. Now we are starting to understand that literacy is far more than simply reading and writing. There are many ways we learn, know, share, and express, and many factors that influence the ways we communicate. We are starting to value our ability to communicate both verbally and non-verbally, through our bodies and through technology, through thoughts, ideas, feelings, images, intentions, and imagination. We are starting to recognize that we communicate differently in various environments such as work, school, home, in person, online. We are deepening our understanding of the factors that influence the ways we express ourselves such as culture, language, generation, gender, or personality. We are starting to see that the real common ground in connection is through our presence, our emotions, and our hearts.

We are no longer precluded from work based on our ability to read and write. Many jobs require us to communicate and complete tasks in different ways. Whether we are always aware of it or not, our personalities, enthusiasm, energy, and even our challenges are vital to contribute to facilitating our collective dream to live in a world where we truly feel accepted, valued, and connected.

Of course there might be times when past ideas of work and literacy take root somewhere deep inside of us. Fortunately, we can help each other out to continue to move past these old ideas and expand our understanding of what literacy is, what meaningful contribution through work might look like, and of the many different ways we participate and contribute within our communities.

Dayna Kneeland

One Comment leave one →
  1. January 12, 2014 1:50 pm

    Very true! At LiveWorkPlay we often have conversations with individuals, families, and other service providers, doctors, etc. about what is needed for a person who has an intellectual disability to “be ready” for a home of their own, a job, or other aspects of their life journey.

    Often they are coming from a Special Education perspective whereby they have come to accept the notion that there are certain tests or evaluations that will tell you when a person has the “competency” to have a life in the community. This perspective is often reinforced by adult systems that carry on this tradition through day programs, sheltered workshops, or similar site-based environments.

    What we have learned is that rarely does excluding people help them to be included, and really, very little of the information from segregated environments gives us useful information about what the individual – or usually more importantly what those around them – can accomplish together. This is interesting with respect to employment, but also to living arrangements, where there are often false or unnecessary expectations created that prevent people from having the opportunity to live in an apartment or other home of their own.

    Is it really a fact that they need to be able to independently prepare a four course meal? Or manage every aspect of their personal finances? Of course not! But often these are the types of barriers that get created.

    It’s great to take a fresh look at these sorts of issues and ask important questions – like: what if the person NEVER achieves the type of literacy or numeracy other people think they require to work or live in the community? Does that mean they have to have an institutional lifestyle…or…does it mean the rest of us need to think differently and offer the support the person needs, rather than expecting the person to become what they are not.

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