High unemployment among Down syndrome youth

SELF-EMPLOYED: Jenna-Leigh McDonald, a young person living with Down syndrome in Buffalo City, is seen here selling sweets from her home to generate a small income for herself. Picture: TAMMY FRAY

Unemployment among young people living with disabilities such as Down syndrome is a serious concern in Buffalo City.

Down Syndrome Association Amathole (DSAA) support officer Faith Esbend, said she was aware of unemployed youth with Down syndrome who had completed school but were sitting outside shops begging because they could not find work.

This made it harder for them to feel like they fit into society and affected their social skills and mood.

Davis has over the past 20 years tried to help youth with Down syndrome to find work and has at times been able to secure jobs for some in industries such as hospitality, old age homes, supermarkets, hair salons, and bed and breakfasts.

The DSAA provides skills development for youth to prepare them for work in these industries.

Tasha Oosthuizen, a young person living with Down syndrome, works as a teaching assistant at Giggles and Wiggles Educare Centre.

She works four hours a day and assists the head teacher, Lynda Van Staden.

Oosthuizen loves her work at the centre and said she found it fulfilling.

She is a firm advocate for herself and others living with Down syndrome and one day hopes to work backstage at a movie or television production company.

“I am organised, I like to clean and take care of things and I follow instructions so I am very helpful,” she said.

Van Staden said Oosthuizen was an asset to the teaching staff at the centre, and was dedicated and patient with the children.

Initially, there were concerns as to how she would perform but Van Staden said that through setting clear expectations, Oosthuizen had thrived at the centre.

Van Staden said: “There is not enough inclusivity of people with disabilities in the marketplace. People in my opinion are not open enough to work with people who are different, arguably it is fear, or simply not knowing how to interact.

“Businesses must consider hiring disabled youth. It is not always smooth sailing, but the rewards are great.

“For corporate, there are grants and incentives available.

“It is important to understand the capabilities of the individual with ‘disabilities’, it is not a one size fits all.

“Longevity of the employment is always the issue and with proper intervention between the employer and employee this can be overcome.

“True inclusion of all means we are able to look past things we do differently and focus on what we have in common, accepting the differences.”

DSAA will host a tea on October 22 on Down Syndrome Awareness Day at the Osner Hotel, to raise funds for the association. For more information contact DSAA at 043-722-4918 or email dsaael@telkomsa.net.

Tips on job interviews for youth with disabilities

  • When interviewing an applicant with a disability, remember to confirm the venue and time for the interview well in advance. Avoid changing the time or date at the last minute as this will cause confusion.
  • Allow the applicant to come in the day before the interview to familiarise themselves with where the building is situated.
  • Provide them with more time to answer questions in the interview.
  • Allow their helper/assistant to be present during the interview to help facilitate understanding.
  • If a portion of the interview requires reading or writing, ensure the language is simple, with pictures to demonstrate meaning.
  • Provide the applicant with the interview questions beforehand to allow them time to practise.
  • Avoid questions such as “what level of education do you have?” Instead, ask “what are your strengths and challenges?” This is mindful that people with intellectual disabilities often face obstacles to accessing higher education.
  • Explain the expectations of the job clearly and ensure these expectations are understood by the applicant.


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