Employing Someone with Down Syndrome (What To Do and How You Do It)

March 6, 201910:04 am5249 views

According to WHO, “Down syndrome (DS) is a type of mental retardation caused by extra genetic material in chromosome 21. This can be due to a process called nondisjunction, in which genetic materials fail to separate during a crucial part of formation of gametes.” Due to their lack of skills and abilities, people with DS are often underestimated by business organisations.  A study from World Down Syndrome Day found that companies still find it difficult to hire people with disabilities. For example, companies might have no access for communication or mindset barriers and lower average qualifications as DS people often have less formal education.

Nonetheless, not all company has the mindset of difficulty in hiring DS candidates. As mentioned by World Down Syndrome Day, 82 percent companies believe that by hiring individuals with Down syndrome, it will make teams more open to opinions and needs of clients, and often tries to satisfy these needs. 83 percent companies also agree that interacting with them has made direct superior more capable of managing and resolving conflict, and has made a positive contribution to people development.

Likewise, Inclusion evolution mentioned that “often employees with down syndrome and other cognitive disabilities are highly motivated, loyal, prompt, and exceptional at customer service. They often boost co-worker morale and productivity.” As consequence, this could help improve company’s bottom line. Teresa Raypole said to inclusion evolution that DS can quickly learn during their internship, meaning that all soft skills they never learn in high school can be mastered during that time.

See also: One-on-Ones Practice to Develop Managers to be Better Leaders

Hence, although DS individuals have an intellectual disability, each of them has their own individual personality, strengths, and weaknesses that could be beneficial at work. They might have some common learning characteristics such as visual learning, verbal short-term memory impairment and verbal skills that are not reflective of cognitive ability. Thus, it is important to ensure that candidates with DS can understand what his job role is and apply appropriately.

Employing an individual with Down syndrome might not be easy, but according to Down Syndrome Australia, you could use these techniques during recruitment process to bring the best DS candidates into the workplace.

During recruitment and interview process

  • use easy-to-read English for job advertisement and application form,
  • use large print and give an appropriate area for applicant to write answer (if applicable),
  • use visual cues if appropriate,
  • make job advertisement available to local disability employment service (DES) and local down syndrome association,
  • use clear, easy to understand language when writing position description for job. Your local DES might be able to assist with the process,
  • when writing criteria, qualifications, and skills required for the job, ensure that only essential experience or qualifications are written, not ones that are desired. Remember, skills can be gained through volunteer work, work experience, and training courses.
  • speak clearly,
  • use short sentences,
  • if interviewee is unsure about question, ask question in different way,
  • avoid metaphors, acronym, and jargon,
  • allow longer for interview than you would typically,
  • use a tick box questionnaire to assess skill base – use easy to read English,
  • allow interviewee to bring a support with team who might assist with rewording some questions,
  • if a support person is present, address questions to the person with DS not the support person.

During orientation and training

It is vital to provide DS employee with adequate time for training and allow them to orientate themselves to work environment. Ordinary orientation process for all new employees can be carried out but with some adaptations to learning styles, as discussed below:

  • Allocate mentor to employee so they know where and who to ask questions. Let the mentor orientate employee so relationship can be established.
  • Provide employee with orientation folder so they can keep all the information together.
  • Provide photo of each co-employee with their name underneath, and what they do, and where to find them as a reference.
  • Explain the ‘unwritten rules’ of workplace, if any i.e. what coffee/tea mugs to use.
  • Provide schedule of the day, including break time and lunch. Use a visual as well as a written schedule so employee can keep it as a reference, include length of time relevant i.e. 30 minutes to lunch.
  • Break down jobs on daily schedule into individual tasks and then show employee how to do each task. You might also want to use photos or pictures in a “First – Next – Then” sequence so they can refer to it later.
  • After each task is explained, check their understanding before moving onto next. The ‘see one, do one, teach one’ technique can often assist mentor to understand if employee understands the tasks.
  • You might need to use simple language, i.e. no abbreviation or complex word, explain a task in different way, similar to that used in interview process.
  • You might need to extend orientation period from the usual practice.
  • Be mindful of confidentiality.

Lastly, “a well-structured program that sees to maximize mutual gains without ignoring the difficulties is enough to transform challenged into advantages. The result will be a positive impact, not only for the people with down syndrome, the companies that adopt this type inclusion, but also on society as a whole.” – McKinsey & Company  

Read also: Chieh Huang’s Ways on Sorting Out New Candidates

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