~~~ WORK, in this house, is a REQUIREMENT ~~~

The purpose of this post is not to debate sheltered workshops, but to give those who are interested, insight into the vocational process we have experienced with Josh.  His “resume” of sorts.  

These are OUR OPINIONS & OUR EXPERIENCES, nothing more and nothing less.

I will start by saying that Josh will never be allowed to stay home on a
daily basis unless he is sick.  I have to work, dad has to work, big brother has to work, AND Josh has to work.  Plain and simple, Josh has to work just like the rest of us.  Even if he were to be home all day long WITH a list of chores to be accomplish everyday, he still would go crazy (as would I).  His mind is very active and he needs something to occupy it.  So, work, in this house, is a requirement.    

You first must understand how the process works here in our state.  Every state is different.  Any educational or vocational program we design for Josh is paid for by the city that we live in until he turns 22 years old.  Josh only turned 19 yesterday, so we continue to work with the city to develop a program for Josh.  

In very simple terms, the city we live in PAYS for whatever his program will include and there are limited options available to us.  Once he turns 22, the state will take over responsibility of his vocational program, meaning they take over paying for it and those options will be limited as well, although they are currently in the very early stages of expanding the options that will be available to Josh in three years from now.  

The first job Josh had was as a volunteer at our local humane society.  He worked in the adoption center doing laundry, sweeping and mopping floors, and walking and playing with the dogs and sometimes the cats.  There was NO PAY involved for doing this job.  In fact, Josh needed supervision during the time he spent at the shelter and we, mom and dad, had to hire a job coach and pay for her services out of our pocket.  He was ready to work, had the skill set to do the work, but still needed the supervision to remain safe.  There was no program, at the City or State level, that would pay for a job coach.  Fortunately, we had the means to do this for Josh, but coming up with “extra” money is never easy for a middle class family.  Josh eventually became bored with that job and we ran into scheduling difficulties, so that job came to an end.  

Josh’s next job was assisting two custodians at a local elementary school at the end of the summer helping to get the school ready for the fall.  Another job that he did for NO PAY.  We again had to pay for a job coach to assist/supervise him.  

His next job was for a local zoo, also a volunteer position.  Again, NO PAY.   This job was through the school department, so his job coach was paid for by them, thankfully.  

That bring us up to date.  Josh currently works at a sheltered workshop
part-time.  He attends school in the morning and work in the afternoon.  HE LOVES IT AND HE GETS A PAYCHECK.  This is his first paying job and again, he loves it.  He is happy.  He is fulfilled.  He is proud.  He is gaining skills.  He is exhausted when he gets home.  It puts money in his pocket.

We consider everything Josh has done up until and including now, stepping stones, resume building.  Josh’s next step, which will begin June 9th, will be working with an enclave (a small group of people with disabilities with one job coach to assist/supervise/train).  Just another step towards independence.  With every job, Josh has learned valuable skills.  

We want our kids to be accepted and included by society, but sometimes we, their family, look beyond their WANTS and make decisions for them based on what we think is right.  It just might be time to start listening to our loved ones with ID/DD about what makes them happy.  We absolutely feel Josh is capable of making decisions about where he wants to work.  HE MADE THE CHOICE TO WORK FOR GOODWILL.  He has had other experiences to give him an idea of what the possibilities are.  He loves Goodwill and I am, quite frankly, becoming disgusted with the bad press I see about sheltered workshops. 
Before you jump on the bandwagon of negative perceptions, are you informed about what this particular agency and agencies like them can do for our loved ones?  Has your loved one actually had the experience of working for one of them?  

I would caution people not to judge what they have not experienced. 

Are you aware that .82 cents on every single dollar of merchandise sold in their stores goes directly back into the workshop program Josh participates in?  Did you know that Savers (Big Brothers/Big Sisters) gives .02 cents on every dollar back to their sheltered workshop?  

Do I think improvements need to be made?  Yes, always, no matter what
subject we’re talking about, nothing is perfect and improvements can always be made.  BUT, I am telling you from experience, our experience, Josh loves his job, takes his job seriously, is gaining skills, and is truly loved by the people around him, coworkers, job coaches, and supervisors alike.  Is a sheltered workshop the vocational answer for everyone with ID/DD?  Of course not!!  Is it right for some?  Absolutely!  Should the sheltered workshop be an OPTION for families?  Yes it should!!

I am finding it increasingly difficult to not speak my mind about the
positive experiences we are having with Goodwill when all we see or hear about is how “bad” the sheltered workshop is for MY kid.  To all of you naysayers - YOU’RE WRONG!  Based on our personal experience with Josh and Goodwill, YOU ARE WRONG!