My daughter is 5 and I want her to get a job!
It is Learning Disability Week (19th -25th June) and this year the focus is on ‘Employment’.
Now at 5 years old, I think my daughter might be a little too young to get a job.
However, I think if there was some kind of child-friendly positions available, she is already demonstrating some strong skills she could bring to the workplace.
- She is determined
- Hard working – under many circumstances
- She is a multi-tasker
- A professional mess maker
- A leader
- Shows strong managerial qualities (Bossy and Steadfast)
- Fantastic at negotiation
- She is creative and fun
- A team player (loves all her friends)
- Her hobbies include eating the finest foods and sipping the finest juices. She would be an asset to any company.
However, my daughter has a learning disability. This does not mean she cannot and does not learn. It means she learns differently and at a pace that is right for her. She has a number of challenges that impact her rate of learning. She also fatigues very easily from low tone and her Nystagmus.
But at 5 years old – despite only learning to walk just before she was 3 years old. And only saying her first words at 4. She is a confident and able child who can recite her alphabet, recognise all the letters, count to 20 (with some help), can spell ‘Mummy and Daddy’ and can also dance so fantastically to Gangnam style that she could put PSY out of a job!
Although I am shedding a little humour on her abilities, it is not at all to detract from the fact that I want my daughter to be able to access employment when she is older. Either that or be running her own business. Just because she has a learning disability does not mean she is rendered useless and not an asset to many businesses and society.
Currently, only 6% of people with a learning disability manage to find employment.
There are approx 1.5 million people
in the UK with a learning disability.
This is positively catastrophic. For them and our society.
Gaining employment whilst having a disability can be incredibly challenging.
I wanted to share a story about a young guy I know who happened to have Cerebral Palsy. He wanted to find work and had been looking for a long time. He grew increasingly despondent, dejected and disillusioned at the possibility of gaining employment. He is a very clever and creative guy and therefore there should be no reason at all that he shouldn’t be able to secure a job. Yet he was coming up against brick walls. As a Princes Trust Mentor, I was aware of a number of programs he might be able to access and I suggested he try and get on one.
He successfully signed up and what followed was a placement at a leading online fashion retailer ASOS. He had to work with teams, learn new skills and present to them why he would like a job there. After a few weeks, he completed the journey and was given the chance to attend a job interview.
It wasn’t even me and I was so nervous! A lot hinged on him getting this job. For him and for me. I needed to see someone despite having a disability being able to secure a job.
After all, I am in a daily fight with schools, local authorities and therapists to get my daughter the best possible support for her future. What would be the point if when she reached adulthood all the doors then got shut on her? He needed to get this job as he had lost faith in being able to secure one. He was starting to believe his disability meant he could never secure a job.
And this was not right.
He had the skills, the qualifications and the willingness – so his disability should be inconsequential.
He was nervous and asked my opinion on how to prepare. I am rusty on the securing a job front but I said to him, to be honest.
He has a disability and that is nothing to be ashamed of.
In fact, it is something to be proud of.
I said to let them know if he had any worries. I felt that not ignoring the elephant in the room and embracing his uniqueness would only add to his credentials as a strong candidate.
He made the trip to London and had his interviews.
I am so happy to say he was offered the job. The company agreed to make ‘reasonable’ adjustments for him so that he would be more comfortable at work. They were to carry out risk assessments and make sure they had what they needed for him.
He had done it. He had achieved it.
The amount on average companies have to pay for reasonable adjustments is approx £75 per person. (Mencap)
So I would say to any companies that might have concerns or reservations about employing someone with learning difficulties that there is no reason why they should not be. Employing more people with Learning Difficulty only adds to the varying skill set your teams will have.
We have a diverse society and this needs to be reflected in the workplace too.
With 97% of employers who have already hired someone with a learning disability saying they would hire someone else with a Learning Difficulty, it is time for employers to start making significant strides in the amount of people they employ.
Mencap have put together a great FAQ for employers who may have questions about hiring someone with a Learning Difficulty and you can read those here