Mar 18, 2013 0 Share


Author's son holding up certificate of achievement.
Photo by Julie van der Poel

Cameron had a surprise at school on Friday. He was presented with an award for completing 180 days of paid employment. His employment support specialist from the adult service provider he’s enrolled with came to school and presented Cameron with a certificate and an iTunes gift card—which is Cameron’s second favorite form of currency. I must admit, when the agency representative contacted me about this milestone, my first reaction was, “Yeah … so?” I mean, Cameron is such a creature of habit, and loves his job so much, the idea that keeping that job for 180 days would be a remarkable milestone never occurred to me. But the agency representative confided that very few of their employees reach the 180-day mark.

Cameron was presented with his award during a classroom session of his internship class. (The class is structured such that each week, Tuesday through Thursday are on the job and Monday and Friday are in the classroom learning skills such as resume writing and interviewing.) The school’s Transition Specialist sent an email to administrators about Cameron’s achievement, which she forwarded to me. In her email, she said, “This is a nice example of our partnership with family and community resources.” It took me reading that sentence to truly appreciate the collaboration it took to get Cameron to the 180 days of paid employment milestone.

Here’s how this “It Takes a Village” collaboration plays out: My neighbor introduced me to a restaurant owner, who offered Cameron an internship upon learning that Cameron’s dream in life is to own his own pizzeria one day. Cameron’s school (and his Transition teacher) supported this opportunity by allowing him to travel outside the normal internship radius, providing travel training, and accommodating his schedule so that he could miss the end of day at school and return home from his internship. The adult service provider came on the scene, and championed the transition from internship to paid employment and from paid employment to additional hours and new skill development. I’ve stayed in the wings, gently nudging where I think nudging is needed. (I nudged for additional hours and training of new skills.) Luckily for me, all parties have been supportive of my involvement, and dare I say, appreciative? There is no doubt that I am appreciative of all parties’ involved.

I am very proud of Cameron, and don’t want my “Yeah… so?” attitude towards his adult service provider’s milestone to paint me as a cynic. But … rewarding Cameron for 180 days of employment is a little misleading to me. Cameron has not gone to work for 180 days. He was hired 180 days ago. And he works eight hours per week. Don’t get me wrong. Cameron’s schedule is great for Cameron, and is just what he needs in terms of hours and workload. In terms of outcomes for this adult service provider however, does someone being employed for eight hours a week for four months really warrant a celebration? Again, I’m very proud of Cameron, and have great gratitude for those that support him in his endeavors. But for the greater population of disabled employees, we really need to scrutinize outcomes and determine if success is really in the eye of the beholder, or if success is something we can all celebrate.