Go put your strengths to work

Go Put Your Strengths To Work – apologies to Marcus Buckingham for stealing the title of his book…but it perfectly describes what we at Diya aspire to have our intellectually challenged trainees do in jobs in the community and on tasks at home. Buckingham’s research and writing stresses on strengths….and that’s the focus of our work, at Diya.

Intellectually challenged adults have limitations both in intellectual functioning and adaptive behavior which covers many everyday social and practical skills. When it comes to placing them, the myth is that they don’t fit into a corporate workplace, where structures and roles are clearly defined and there’s a certain level of  inflexibility. Employers fear that the intellectually challenged are unprepared for challenges in the actual workplace. We work hard to bust this myth.

At Diya we focus on strengths – strengths are activities that make you feel strong and confident when you do them, things that others recognize as being good in you. We identify strengths and work hard on building them.

Training at Diya Foundation tackles employer concerns head on. Our daily living, social and emotional skills-training helps them with their adaptive behavior. Over the training period at Diya, parents will vouch for the fact that conversation skills improve, their wards are more self assured, there’s greater willingness and confidence in doing things for oneself, etc. The importance given to punctuality, attendance and grooming also prepare them for the rigours of a job in the community. Working on orders coming in for the social enterprise Diya Innovations, meeting the timelines and tight deadlines excite and enthuse the trainees to work hard and face challenges. Unlike many other training centers and sheltered workshops, we work on live orders at Diya, and meeting targets both on production and quality are parameters that our trainees get graded on.

Nigel, born with Down Syndrome, is meticulous with any task. At Diya for almost 8 years, he trained on completing tasks on time and with perfection. In his current job (this August will be 2 years), at a multinational in Whitefield, Bangalore, he works on keeping the work place clean. His strength, one that makes him an asset to his team, is cleaning whatever space he’s given, to the best of his ability…quite often that’s far greater than the ability of a ‘normal’ person. In his first week on the job he showed his team his strength…while wiping downs tables at the canteen, he noticed encrusted food between the slats of wood of the table. Using a coffee stirrer, he scraped the food away and used a broom to clean up the scraped food….there’s no guessing how long that dried up food had been there! Nigel has settled well in his workplace thanks to the sensitization of the team to the needs of the differently abled and the allowances and adjustments made in structuring the tasks. His adaptive behaviours have also improved over time.

Bhuvana, born with Down Syndrome is another example of perfection at a repetitive skilled job. She makes perfect newspaper bags, folding, pressing and sticking those sheets on a die. Her ‘reject’ rate is zero. She’s a huge asset to Diya Innovations, where she is employed, creating bags for boutique stores and restaurants. She’s conscientious of the quality and quantity expected of her, and never disappoints.

Though there are plenty of monotonous, repetitive jobs that our trainees would be great at, placements in the community are rare. The onus is on us to advocate the strengths of this workforce and help the employer see the benefits of employing them.

Employment for them means greater self esteem, greater acceptance by the family and greater inclusion in the community. Do get in touch with us if you see jobs in the community, where we could place our trainees.