Enabling Abilities, Enhancing Employability
A wise African proverb says that it takes a village to raise a child. And for Persons with Intellectual Disabilities (PWIDs), it takes a community to provide the right support networks, a team of specialists to improve job readiness and employability, and industry partners who embrace inclusiveness.
Daniel Khuresh Faizullabhoy, 30, is a Guest Relationship Officer at a leading property management firm. “I just love my work!” enthuses Daniel, who takes pride in his duties and ensures that the office pantries under his care are well-stocked.
Daniel also loves life with a huge sense of curiosity. He enjoys music, food and travel, and is always fascinated by aeroplanes, languages and accents. Like many of us, Daniel wants a meaningful career and hopes to find a life partner to settle down with one day.
Looking at Daniel today, it’s hard to imagine how things were starkly different a year ago for this cheerful and helpful young man.
A steep learning curve
In November 2020, Daniel secured the job through SG Enable’s Job Placement Job Support (JPJS) Programme. SG Enable is an agency dedicated to enabling persons with disabilities, with a comprehensive service that matches jobseekers to suitable employers, while providing job skills training and on-the-job support.
Daniel faced a steep learning curve adapting to the work environment and carrying out the tasks assigned to him. For example, he struggled with topping up coffee beans for the coffee machine in the pantries. As he was not able to gauge the amount of beans needed, the excess beans would spill onto the floor and create a mess. When it came to refilling the tea display trays, Daniel was not able to judge the number of sachets needed and would often underfill them. He also had a hard time with social interactions, often unaware how his loud his voice was in a quiet office environment.
In March 2021, Daniel’s employer reached out to SG Enable to share its challenges in guiding and training him. Given his performance, his employer had little choice but to extend his probation period and was prepared to terminate his employment if things did not improve.
In turn, SG Enable contacted MINDS Hi-Job!, its partner for intellectual disabilities employment. The MINDS Hi-Job! JPJS Programme empowers individuals with special needs through providing fulfilling employment opportunities. Following job placements, a team of dedicated Job Coaches and Allied Health Professionals provide job support to clients for up to a year to ensure successful job retention.
Managing work-life transitions
Upon hearing Daniel’s difficulties, a Job Coach, Psychologist and Occupational Therapist from MINDS visited Daniel at his workplace and met with his supervisor. The team observed Daniel carrying out his duties to understand where his difficulties were and designed an intervention plan.
As a high-functioning adult with special needs, Daniel has weak fine motor skills. He also has mild cognitive disabilities, as well as underdeveloped social skills. The team assessed that Daniel needed more visual cues to organise and plan his tasks ahead. His short-term memory also meant he needed more practice and repetitions.
To help Daniel understand how to top up the coffee machine properly, the Occupational Therapist designed a plan where Daniel would pour the coffee beans from the bag into a clear container first then into the machine. This additional step would provide a strong visual cue for Daniel to gauge if the machine still required more coffee beans.
Next, to refill the teabag display stand, Daniel learnt to insert his fingers into the tray as a guide to determine if there was still space to slot in more sachets. To overcome his forgetfulness which teabag boxes were opened the day before, he practiced labelling the open boxes as a visual reminder to himself.
The team also spent time with Daniel on the ground, coaching and guiding him on what he should and should not do in various settings and scenarios. Through a numbered chart, Daniel learnt to understand and control his voice volume better. Gradually, he lowered down to Volume 1 (very soft), when it came to speaking near meeting rooms, and Volume 3 (moderate) for social situations. Realising that Daniel would feel anxious at times, the team also taught him some deep breathing exercises to calm himself down.
Going beyond the workplace, his Job Coach Seri Nashuha, worked closely with Daniel’s caregivers to help him practice these skills at home. He would pack teabags and label the open boxes, learn to speak at different volumes and practice the breathing exercises. In addition, Seri followed up with Daniel’s work buddy and employer for regular feedback on his progress.
Over the next six months, Daniel showed good improvement in his work performance and social skills. It was not an easy journey but Daniel’s perseverance paid off when his employer announced his job confirmation as a full-time staff member.
“I am incredibly proud of Daniel for his hard work and determination in the last few months, and I’m happy to see our efforts come to fruition with his job confirmation. As a Job Coach, it’s a huge sense of fulfillment when we successfully place or support a client. In turn, working closely with our PWIDs/ PWDs and their caregivers on their journey has inspired me to be be more empathetic”, shared Seri, who has been a Job Coach with MINDS for the last six years.
Sharing in the pride and joy are Daniel’s parents and caregivers. Daniel’s father Khuresh shared, “I am hugely grateful to SG Enable and MINDS for the JPJS Programme in enabling people with disabilities to gain meaningful employment, and the relentless efforts from MINDS Allied Health Professionals who provide on-the-ground care and support. It makes me so proud to know that Singapore has such a fine, engaged and committed team. I am equally thankful for the inclusiveness from companies like Daniel’s employer, and his supervisors and colleagues to provide employment opportunities for a better future.”
As MINDS celebrates its 60th anniversary, we celebrate the achievements of our clients with intellectual disabilities in their careers, and the milestones we have reached in creating inclusive workplaces. We invite organisations to partner us in creating inclusive hiring practices for an inclusive workforce.
The MINDS Hi-Job! JPJS Programme empowers individuals with special needs through providing fulfilling employment and training opportunities. For adults with special needs and industry partners who are interested to enrol in this programme, learn more here. Learn more about SG Enable’s opportunities for inclusive hiring here.