Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Ongoing, Positive Impact of Disability Mentoring Day

The Ongoing, Positive Impact of Disability Mentoring Day

- By Barbara Davis -

From the time the Center became local coordinator of Disability Mentoring Day until the present, I have been involved with it as an assistant coordinator. In this capacity, I have seen first-hand the immediate impact that DMD has on its participants. Since I am still in contact with many of the participants I have worked with through the years, I can also attest to its ongoing influence.
Most DMD participants are teenagers and college students who have never worked. Some are adults who face a career change as a result of a newly acquired disability. Many have no clue about where to start or how to transfer the skills from the previous career to a new one. Participating in DMD gives them a place to start and a chance to see what they can do.
One person recuperating from a stroke found a new career path through direct participation in the first DMD I helped coordinate. He was not hired through the company where he was placed as a mentee, but the person who mentored him recommended him to someone she knew, and he was hired. Other adult participants eventually found work, including one woman who was hired by the company where she shadowed in a previous year. Each of these participants said that the confidence gained from DMD allowed them to apply for jobs they otherwise wouldn’t have.
For youth with high-functioning autism and similar disabilities, DMD has been a miracle. These young people were all eager to work, but faced a number of challenges. Their biggest one has been a lack of understanding of autism, and the stigma and fears from this lack of understanding. Most of these youth were never presented with any kind of opportunity to explore careers. They were always told that doors were closed to them in the area of employment.
Participation in DMD gave these kids a chance to walk through an open door. It allowed them to stock merchandise, answer phones, shadow a security guard, make flower arrangements, and help clean up in a gym. They saw people working together, they were met with acceptance and they were patiently shown how to do things. They also learned about time clocks, time sheets, pay checks, and lunch breaks. This was quite an awakening for them, and they loved it.
After this awakening, most of these kids found the confidence to walk through some other doors to pursue volunteer work and/or vocational training. Nearly all of them eventually found jobs; some with the assistance of a job coach and others, on their own. One youth whom I see pretty frequently, is independently riding the bus, volunteering in the community, and has become more confident in starting conversations with others. He has been on several job interviews, and I believe he will find a job sometime in the near future.
For most, Disability Mentoring Day is not just a one-day experience, nothing more than a few hours of learning about a job. Instead, it means finding that brass ring, grabbing hold of it, and sailing off – maybe after a few years of the “upward domino effect” of the confidence gained – into a bright new world of employment and other community involvement.
If you would like to participate in the 2010 Disability Mentoring on October 20, 2010, contact Keith at 502-589-6620 or

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