Jacket’s mom has asked me to help her find a job.
The request came in a text message “Do you knew anyone how hiding rigth now”the. Mind you, the motivation to text message has been revolutionary in improving Jacket’s mom’s literacy skills- but I had no idea what she was talking about. Then she said something about the store Target and finally she called me.
I spent a few minutes in a fever of excitement brainstorming ideas of getting her a job. She is capable of doing a lot of things. She’s amazing at cleaning (everyone comments on how perfectly tidy her apartment always is) and my first thought was of a job as a Homemaker (kind of like a Home Attendant) provided she didn’t have to cook or take anyone on public transportation. She could make sure people were bathed, help them with laundry, take them for a walk outside, etc.
But then of course there’s her temper. And her struggle with the abstract notion of telling time. Her challenges with visual-spacial processing, fluid reasoning, judgment and decision making skills… And her predisposition to scream really, really crazy and untrue shit when she feels backed into a corner— which is about every other day. There’s also all of those restraining orders (brought on by individuals and agencies) against her that I block out of my mind.
I’ve worked myself up into a tizzy thinking about it again. “It” being the elephant in the room. Her ACS case has been closed for over a year now and I don’t see another one being opened so I’m just going to say it- Jacket’s mom has Mild Mental Retardation (I’ve hinted sporadically). This is and was documented before I even met her. Yet after having her child in foster care for 17 months, she was never required to get services. Her attorney fought it. Once a worker said to me that she only is “Mild” which, as a psychologist who tests people for eligibility for OPWDD services each week, that’s like telling me she’s only kind of pregnant.
A lot of it has to do with no one wanting to say the “R” word out loud at meetings. This super sucks because it is particularly important to be upfront about the disability with people who are “just Mild” like Jacket’s mom. Being honest with them about their limitations ultimate allows them more independence (e.g. holding a job and then having money). And, yes- we’re slowing switching to “Intellectual Disability” (I’m talking to you- the horrified Aussies), but the medical/psychological term Mental Retardation remains a requirement for eligibility. People functioning in the Mild range of mental retardation can have very productive happy lives- get married, have kids, driver’s licenses, jobs— but support is almost always needed. They tend to do a very good job of “acting normal” and the disability might only be evident in small ways.
Jacket’s mom is ELIGIBLE for soooooooooooooooooooooo much. With Willowbrook (yep, that’s a very young Geraldo) still in people’s memories here in New York, funding for OPWDD services remains strong. And, after seeing how well Jacket’s mom took to the visitation coach (and now me), I know that she could and would benefit significantly from a wide variety of supports.
At the very least, Jacket’s mom will probably always require a job coach in order to keep a position longer than a few weeks. A job coach liaisons with a place of business and smooths over all of the frequent issues that come up between folks with Mental Retardation and their employers. If I was completely batshit crazy and didn’t have any boundaries, I would try to be that person for Jacket’s mom. I’ve already pictured it several times at parent-teacher conferences… in addition to conflict resolution, the main roles of a job coach is to educate others about the disability so that they will be more flexible and understanding.
Step One- tell Jacket’s mom that she has a disability. And it’s ok, lots of people do- for lots of different reasons (e.g. lead poisoning, birthing trauma, seizures). It’s really about getting over our own stigma. We don’t mind talking about people with Traumatic Brain Injuries… if it happens prior to age 21, guess what- you’re labeled with Mental Retardation. Same thing. No. Big. Deal. (people tend to freak when I tell them that) The government is here with lots of money for you. And housing. And food stamps. And jobs even though so many typically developed people can’t get jobs.
Avoiding her disability didn’t do her any favors.
Anyway, I’ll get off my soapbox now. I already gave those of you who are child welfare workers my public service announcement (note- Sinergia no longer does parent coaching) a year ago so I’ll stop now. :)
Deep breath. I just have to stick with my original goal which is simply to be a supportive person in Jacket’s life.
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- hershapeinthedoorway said: You go! My uncle has aspergers/bipolar so obviously needs a lot of help, but has been able to work for the past 20 years (he’s about 45), which is HUGE for someone with his disabilities. It IS possible, it just requires a network of support!
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- impossible-soul said: v. informative, thanks for sharing this!
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- surelock said: Just an idea, but it’s possible the mom wouldn’t know that job coaches aren’t something everyone gets? Could you help hook her up with one that way? And this was such a good post.
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