Capgemini’s AbiliNet Employee Resource Group recognized October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month. This year’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) theme was #InclusionWorks. Observed each October, NDEAM celebrates the contributions of workers with disabilities and educates about the value of a diverse workforce inclusive of their skills and talents. More information about NDEAM can be found on the Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy site.
I recently interviewed Stacy Leyk-Dakshindas (Certificate of Clinical Competence-Speech Language Pathology, Owner) to gain greater insight as to why National Disability Employment Awareness Month is important. Stacy owns The Speech and Learning Center.
Through the course of my interview with Stacy, she shared a number of resources that are helpful to those impacted directly by special needs and those who are a part of a support system for a caregiver.
YNH: What can employers do to increase employees’ awareness of the impact of disabilities in the lives of some of their colleagues?
SLD: I believe that employers can start to provide awareness by sharing statistics and information regarding various disabilities. For example, are employees aware that on March 27, 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new data regarding the prevalence of autism, which now impacts 1 in 68 children? When employers share this information it may expand the interest in learning more special needs diagnoses, and how it impacts not only the person, but his/her support system which often is the employee.
Offering the opportunity for employees to ask questions and request information on specific disabilities may be helpful, along with educational webinars on topics that are impacting the community as a whole. It may also be beneficial to provide examples of “simple” daily activities that are challenging or not possible for those who have a disability or a family member with a disability. For example, one with communication deficits may not be able to order a meal at a restaurant and one with physical disabilities may not have the fine motor skills to send a text message or use social media.
YNH: Are there any resources/websites/articles that you recommend employers share with their employees?
SLD: The best website to start with when researching about speech and language disorders is ASHA. This is the website for the American Speech Language and Hearing Association, which is where speech pathologists and audiologists receive their national certification. The website provides education on a variety of communication disorders from birth through the geriatric population. They also have resources to help you find a licensed provider in your area. One can feel confident that information from this website is accurate.
If one wants to find valuable information related to self-care or fine motor skills, the American Occupational Therapy Association website is valuable: AOTA.
Houston Family Magazine had a great article recently which included a Houston Area Special Needs Resource Guide. You can find this guide at the following link.
YNH: Are there any recent advancements or new research findings impacting the treatment of any disabilities, for the clients that you serve?
SLD: The most recent research that can be related to just about any disability are the findings on brain plasticity or neuroplasticity. This refers to the brains ability to change throughout life. It used to be thought that your brain was static, except during some critical developmental periods, but today, we know this isn’t true. Over the past few years, more studies have been completed to indicate that at ANY AGE, one can train the brain to reorganize pathways, create new connections and, in some cases, even create new neurons throughout your entire lifetime. This is excellent news as it indicates that after loss of a given function, we can learn that function again (e.g. speaking, walking). It also indicates that we are able to train our brains to learn new things that are challenging and that we can continue to learn new things as we age. For more information on this topic can be found here: Sharp Brains.
YNH: Are there resources available to economically disadvantaged families to assist them in treating and managing disabilities?
There are many organizations available to those with disabilities who need financial assistance. For example, the Houston Aphasia Recover Center (HARC). HARC is an amazing program for adults with aphasia (difficulty communicating following a stroke or brain injury). They have everything one can imagine to benefit not only a person with aphasia, but also for his or her family and they offer financial assistance for those who qualify. This includes, but is not limited to social events, support groups, computer lab, art, music, exercise, and everything in between!
There are also organizations that help with financial support to cover the cost of therapies associated with those who are diagnosed with Autism. One of these organizations is Hope for Three (hopeforthree.org), which provides financial assistance for those living in Fort Bend County.
Texana Center is a non-profit that covers some of the counties in the Houston area. They provide a wide array of services that help to improve the lives of many Texans by providing care, skills training and support for all kinds of behavioral challenges; including mental illness, intellectual disabilities and autism. Another program that adults with disabilities of any economic level can access is the H.E.A.R.T. Program (Housing, Entrepreneurship and Readiness Training). They are a Houston based organization that was founded to create new opportunities for adults with developmental disabilities to achieve their potential.
I am thankful to Stacy Leyk-Dakshindas for sharing new information and resources related to special needs and how we can better recognize and help both those with disabilities, and their caregivers. Stacy earned a Master of Arts Degree in Speech-Language Pathology at the University of Colorado-Boulder and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communication Disorders from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. She is licensed through the State of Texas and is certified by the American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Her special areas of interest include treatment of apraxia of speech, auditory processing, language delay, and voice disorders.Also, thanks to AbiliNet for bringing awareness to our colleagues, and helping us to think of those with all abilities in mind!
AbiliNet ‘s mission is to provide a network of support for employees with special needs, employees supporting family members who are differently-abled, and employees supporting aging parents with special needs. This year, AbiliNet will host webinars to educate employees on issues impacting those with special needs.