For nearly 50 years, Life Skills has been serving adults and teens with developmental disabilities, such as autism, Down Syndrome and cerebral palsy. Life Skills helps individuals with developmental disabilities – including autism – learn, live, work and participatein the community. Life Skills believes that all people should have access to everything our community has to offer, regardless of the severity of their disability. October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, a perfect time to highlight the important employment services Life Skills offers our clients.
Life Skills ensures that our clients have the skills necessary to secure competitive employment and live independently. Life Skills’ clients benefit from having jobs, earning paychecks, making friends, experiencing workplace camaraderie and all of the other perks that come with employment. They also have a positive impact on coworkers’ values and benefit employers by working hard and getting the job done right.
Oftentimes, people with disabilities find themselves in a low-income cycle of poverty, making them dependent upon taxpayer-supported welfare programs. Through Life Skills’ Employment Services,we partner with many companies in the St. Louis area to place clients in appropriate jobs. More than 340 Life Skills clients earned a paycheck last year in competitive employment with nearly 200 local businesses, including companies such as Innoventor, Schnucks and Mercy.
Young people transitioning from youth to adulthood are of special concern at Life Skills. To help address the employment issues these individuals face, Life Skills offers Teen Summer Employment Servicesthrough which we secure jobs for high school students with developmental disabilities who are returning to school in the fall. To continue building skills during the summer months, students are placed in a job in the community and work 20 hours per week for up to eight weeks. Life Skills provides job coaching to help these individuals succeed, while they earn a paycheck and gain skills for future competitive employment.
Project SEARCH, a successful national program, the only program of its kind in the area, is another successful option for young people with developmental disabilities. When this collaborative program was implemented at the start of the 2010 school year, the high school seniors who enrolled were looking forward to getting real-world experience at Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital to improve their employment options after graduation. Through this program, and Life Skills’ job-development and job-coaching services, one-third of the program participants have found jobs. Through annual surveying, we learned that 100% of them believe they can do more as a result of participating in the program.
Because of these and other services, we are changing our clients’ lives and improving our community. A United Way-supported agency, Life Skills serves more than 4,200 clients in 95 counties annually throughout Missouri. For more details, visit www.lifeskills-mo.org