Supported Employment and the Higgs Boson

Supported Employment and the Higgs Boson

I have always been a bit of a science geek. I find a sense of understanding about life, and even spirituality, from the deep discoveries we are making in the cosmos, particle physics, and quantum mechanics. And the pace of recent discoveries has been exhilarating. Just a few short years ago, we only knew of the planets in our own solar system. Now the number of identified planets is close to 800. This kind of thing alters the perception of our place in the universe.

What I also love about science is illustrated by the recent confirmation of the Higgs boson, a tiny particle that’s been theorized but never found. Without getting into a technical description, discovering or ruling out the Higgs would alter our fundamental understanding of how things are and how matter, including ourselves, exists. It is a monumental achievement in science.

But before the announcement of the Higgs, like any theory without evidence, there were conflicting scientific opinions. A group of respected physicists doubted the particle would ever be found, and believed that it likely didn’t exist.

But here is what happened. After a good deal of research, the particle was confirmed. So what did the scientists who had a different view do? Did they refuse to accept the results? No. They discarded their own carefully developed theories and embraced the new evidence. Basically they said, “We were wrong; let’s move on in a world where the Higgs exists.”

Now compare this to the evidence facing disability providers regarding segregated employment and sheltered workshops. Researcher Bob Cimera offered this succinct summary of a 2012 study: “…individuals from sheltered workshops earned less ($118.55 versus $137.20 per week), worked fewer hours (22.44 versus 24.78), and cost substantially more to serve ($7,894.63 versus $4,542.65) than peers who did not participate in sheltered workshops prior to become supported employees.”

Put another way, individuals who participate in sheltered workshops prior to becoming employed in the community via supported employment were “worse off than individuals who never participated in sheltered workshops.”

So, unless there is some contradictory evidence, wouldn’t it make sense to start planning a better way to fund day services than sheltered work? Yet, when this is proposed, the protesting roar of established providers has been loud. And it is based on their belief that “many people need a workshop; they are not productive enough to work in mainstream employment.” Well, where is the evidence? So far, all the research says that simply is not true.

Sheltered work doesn’t work – we have found our Higgs boson in the disability field, but most everyone still refuses to accept it.



I agree and many of my clients would, also. Still, there are a couple of huge barriers that I see, and I’m not sure what the next step needs to be from a practical standpoint.

First of all, there are very few jobs for anyone right now, which is why we have college graduates who can’t find anything above minimum wage.

Second, although some of my clients are physically able to work (vs. attending a day program or respite), they have significant mobility or behavioral challenges which preclude them from being in the job training programs. The programs will not take someone who will always need a job coach, since the goal is to have them work without a coach. So the clients who need help with toileting or who have outbursts, aren’t able to utilize those programs.

Finally, the agencies which provide residential services refuse to provide the necessary transportation and supports to make employment options a reality.

So, while I nod my head in philosophical agreement, I don’t know what to DO to make the system change and help my clients. I’m a case manager working for a nonprofit and I serve people with MR, CP, and Autism.

    Jason Semprini

    Every problem you just mentioned has little to do with the person with a disability and everything to do with how our society is built. In my city, transportation is always an excuse of providers. But lets do something about it! In terms of actual work, outbursts and toilet use are not just ill conceived preconceptions, but will have nothing to do with the essential function of the job.

    But ya. Good point on the lack of jobs out there. But again, that is society’s problem. We are the society, we can change the externalities.

Bruzz Buzz

I have found that many disabled individuals get caught in the traps that sheltered workshops cause because of the very argument that the comment left before mine give. They always talk about those who have extreme mobility or behavioral issues and the fact that supporting them outside of a workshop is not feasible. It is that very reason that many thousands of individuals who can compete for jobs outside of sheltered workshops are never allowed to break the chains that shleters bind them in. I have a small, but viable solution that could grow into a model to break these chains. I was hoping you would take a look at it and give me some exposure. I love your blog. It states the obvious. Great job.

gareth batty

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