In episode 2 of Born Fabulous Podcast, Steve Riggio speaks about those critical years right after high school. He talks honestly about the fact that as a society we should not be keeping young adults in high school after they graduate, for experiences that are usually not inclusive, effective, or empowering.
I agree – one thousand percent.
One of the many things I admire about the Riggios, is their vision and passion to help create the world they want to see. Even after they tragically lost Melissa. Many do not realize to this day they are involved with the issues of disabilities, higher education, employment, and independent living. Because of them, and so many others who have stepped in to make a difference the past several decades, young adults with disabilities do have more options.
College is the big buzz word now. Some young adults with various disabilities, including intellectual disabilities, who have been able to earn standard or advanced diplomas, can qualify for typical four – year degree programs. I know some who are thriving breaking barriers in politics and the fine arts. One friend will be starting her masters degree next year. She has an intellectual disability and will have a MFA. But our education system is broken, and until it has more fixes than it does now, or an overhaul, many do not qualify to go to a traditional college and receive a traditional diploma. For the many who do not, there are numerous other college options today. There are four – year programs that include a dorm component, four – year programs that are commuter based, and two – year community college programs with a strong workforce development component. https://thinkcollege.netis a wonderful resource to turn to for more information.
And for those who don’t want a program, who just want some continuing education, they can go to their local college or community college and audit courses that are specific to their interests such as drama, art, business, etc. They can follow a specific vocational path. They can start a business. Think outside the box. Through person centered planning, create what will best help your young adult achieve a successful life / work balance.
Let’s also acknowledge the fact that college is not for everyone. This applies to those with and without disabilities. Some young adults are burned out after high school. Some do not want to leave home. Some already have a different focus that should be nurtured. Some are able to get a job they love on their own. I know several successful young adults with an intellectual disability who did not need a job coach – starting with Tim Harris who is the focus of episodes 9 -12. Tim did not need a job coach when he got his first job at Red Robin. Now he is a great example of someone who started more than one business. Sean McElwee did have a job coach and also started a business. Every one is different and every community is different. Thankfully due to many angels in our midst there are other options as well. I will mention three.
The first is Project SEARCH, which was started by Erin Riehle at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in 1995. It is now in hundreds of work places all over the world. Hospitals, universities, government employers, airports, and banks are just some of the entities using the Project SEARCH model. A young adult enters Project SEARCH right after graduation, and participates in several rotating internships in a workplace that also dedicates classroom space to work on job skills. The goal is employment before or at the program’s completion. Each Project SEARCH site has its own focus and personality. I encourage families and community leaders to tour a few, learn, and collaborate if you are able to help. If you want a site, and do not have one in your area, be the change to bring one there! To learn more go to: https://www.projectsearch.us
The second is Marriott Bridges from School to Work Program. It helps businesses meet their workforce needs while offering young people with disabilities the opportunity to learn, grow, and succeed through employment. Built by business, for businesses. Some of the employers that have partnered with this program are Union Packaging in Philadelphia, Chicago Children’s Museum, and Orchard Supply Hardware in Los Angeles. To learn more go to: http://www.bridgestowork.org/join-bridges/employers/
The third is Joyce Bender, the host of Radio America’s show Disability Matters. Her main focus now is employment for people with disabilities. Her show features well known people in the world of disabilities, many who are pioneers, weekly. Just because the focus may not appear to be ‘the disability you are interested in’ – I encourage you to listen and learn. We need to know our history. We need to learn from each other and work together. Some of the initiatives Joyce and her peers are working on focus right on youth transitioning to the workforce. She has some lightbulb ideas about empowering employers to truly break the high unemployment rate. Joyce also features a newsbreak mid show called Advocacy Matters – where national legislative updates are discussed and explained. I thank Joyce for her drive, over all these decades, and for her creative way of solving problems. To learn more about Joyce you can go to: https://www.voiceamerica.com/episode/113417/mission-of-starkloff-disability-institute This just happens to be one of my favorite episodes. Look at her website to see where you would like to start.
It is my wish that after hearing what the Riggios did ten years ago, many will be inspired to help their loved ones follow their dreams. This world will be a much better place when more of us become involved in our communities. And let us not forget the numerous non – profits out there that often work together for the common good, at local, state, and national levels. The Riggios mentioned partnering with such entities, and I know from personal experience that no one works in a silo. Together—we can do so much. That is why Born Fabulous will be interviewing families of superstars with Autism and other disabilities, along with self – advocates, in future seasons. We are all in this together. We are more alike than different. As self-advocates, as parents, and as caring citizens.
I hope you are enjoying the episodes of Born Fabulous Podcast. There is a link underneath this blog that leads you to them, and to subscribing on iTunes. If you like the show, please leave an iTunes review. Also, feel free to like the Born Fabulous Facebook and Instagram Pages.
Thank you for your time, and for caring.
From my heart,