Volunteerism Works Both Ways
People with developmental disabilities are plenty used to being seen as the ones in need of help. By teaching them volunteerism, you might say we flip the script. Volunteering is not only beneficial to those with developmental disabilities, but to the larger community as well.
Our ultimate goal is not just for our students to join society but to contribute to it. In return, we expect the experience of volunteerism to enhance their lives in a number of areas.
Here are three areas we expect them to benefit:
Let’s start with social inclusion. Isolation still persists as a symptom of living with developmental disabilities. What better way to get to know other community members than volunteering. Activities and outings are fine but they are just visits. Volunteering allows for engagement and even lasting friendships. Community members, in return, get to meet these fine folks one-on-one and on common ground.
You and I know what giving to others does for our self-esteem and happiness. Lighting up someone else’s life lights up our own, right? Why deny our friends with special needs that experience? Meaningful activities and making a difference in the life of another have the same impact on them, after all. Being acknowledged and appreciated, knowing they are needed, are the ingredients that comprise personal satisfaction. Will they get the same experience when they find employment? Not necessarily, but they will know how to seek it out in whatever they do.
Speaking of employment, what are we working on with our adult students, if not marketable skills? Where can they get these? We must be open to all opportunities. Volunteering is practically at the top of the list. If it doesn’t lead to a job opportunity itself, it may at least provide the criteria a different employer is looking for.
Who do you know? Networking doesn’t come easy to many of us. How well will our students fare? They could certainly use introductions, which volunteering could provide. Then, we can only hope that the social skills we have taught them come into play. Now, think a little bigger. What about the connections special needs schools make with volunteer organizations and potential employers? Once you place one student, you may have opened the door for future young adults.
There’s one more thing to consider. We like to think big. Individuals with disabilities are gaining status as ordinary members of society. Why stop there?
Volunteering can lead to more highly valued social roles. There might be opportunities to meet more highly esteemed people. Their roles in society need no longer be socially devalued. The tide has shifted in the other direction. Our students may one day be leaders, looked up to by the next generation of individuals with developmental disabilities.
Alpha School an private special education school in New Jersey
Our Mission at The Alpha School is to help all of our special needs students with the learning, social, language, and behavioral support they deserve. Our highly skilled staff are committed daily to helping each student to becoming the best they can while providing a safe and nurturing educational environment.
We would be more than happy to discuss your child’s specific needs and challenges, so please call us at 732.370.1150, or request a tour of Alpha School of Jackson, NJ located just minutes off of Route 9 and Route 195 in Ocean County.
— Monica DeTuro, Principal-Alpha School, Jackson, NJ