On October 7th, employees who work to obtain meaningful employment for people with disabilities in the state of Pennsylvania filed into the Hiram G. Andrews center for the Experience – a shared interaction regarding inter-agency collaboration. The mission of the Hiram G. Andrews Center is very relevant to those in attendance, “to offer quality individualized post-secondary education, which provides career opportunities and independent life skills.”
At one point in the conversation, the participants began to discuss the concept of dreams. Specifically—how can we help our people identify and pursue realistic dreams for meaningful, integrated employment? And how can we equip them with the skills necessary to pursue these dreams in everyday life?
One participant raised his hand, “You cannot set people’s dreams for them,” he explained. “My story was like Joe’s. My parents and those around me tried to provide ‘guidance’ in my pursuit of a career, but I resented their help. I felt like they were pushing me to pursue their dream for me, not my dream for myself.”
The participants reflected on his story. Often, as providers, we become so invested in the search for employment that we develop a dream for them—but this is our dream, not theirs. We need to be intentional in our conversations about dreams. Ask individuals—what is your dream job? Why is that your dream? Then, we must assess their abilities and use the discovery process to decide how we can support the achievement of something incredibly meaningful.
The bottom line is this—the ability to relentlessly pursue our professional goals and motivation in general absolutely are intrinsic (they come from within). No parent, advocate, or provider can set a dream for someone else. We must discuss and define dreams with each individual—to gauge their internal excitement and intrinsic motivation, and then be sure that our personal commitment aligns accordingly.