Counting our blessings

Community News & Features Oct 1, 2004 at 3:54 pm

By Cecile Jayme

My friend, Danny had been diagnosed with an intellectual set back at the age of 25. Before a major breakdown, he was a successful sales person in a prestigious company back home with a university degree. Briefly, Danny went through series of jobs and counseling. He was unable to develop job skills required and integrate socially in the workplace. His confidence and dignity deteriorated.

Danny and his family immigrated to Canada in 1991 – a land of “plenty”. Not only did his family find job opportunities, free health benefits and education, and child and tax benefits! But Danny still could not integrate. His wife volunteered in various organizations and last year joined Family Services Association of Toronto (FSAT). One of the programs she joined was Family Services Association of Toronto’s (FSAT) OPTIONS program. This seemed to be just right for Danny.

OPTIONS helps individuals with impaired learning ability resulting to limited ability in adapting to the demands of daily work life and live with dignity as a confident and productive member of society. One of OPTIONS’ goals is to assist and support persons like Danny in their employment through developing their job maintenance skills and facilitate their social integration in the workplace.

I asked Danny what were his expectations if he were to join OPTIONS. He replied: “as a mentally-ill person, I have reservations regarding people labeling me because of my ‘stigma’. This hinders my willingness to interact with co-employees.” In my interview with Danny, he explained that one solution to this situation was by “explaining to my co-workers the symptoms and behaviour that is expected from me because of my illness.” He adds: “There should be close coordination between my immediate boss and myself by way of regular meetings and giving me feedback with my work so I could work on it… let someone in the office coach me so I know I am doing my work correctly. What is also important to me is building up my confidence in my abilities.” Danny says with his other job experiences, he finds it difficult to sometimes understand certain assignments; he wishes that there would be someone to simplify instructions “until such time that I know how to do it myself.” He states further that he would need to know if there are boundaries in his workplace.

OPTIONS can help Danny find employment, gain confidence and integrate with his co-workers socially. The volunteer sector of FSAT has volunteer positions which will help support individuals like Danny by partnering with him during his initial work orientation period and at the same time facilitate inclusion in routines during breaks, mealtime and meetings. Also, the volunteer will liaise with Danny’s employer regarding workplace adjustments that will facilitate employment task, coach him on workplace dynamics and participate and provide networking opportunities and job coaching.
The needs of Danny can be met by FSAT’s OPTIONs program. That is how lucky we are!

For more information on FSAT’s OPTIONS program as a client, you can reach them at (416) 971-6326 extension 224. To volunteer you can reach FSAT at (416) 595-9230 extension 235.