I graduated from Maryland School for the Blind in 2007 and then I was placed in a sheltered workshop, where I stayed for eight years. In 2015, I left the sheltered workshop and was introduced to self directed services, which is a program that allows disabled individuals to choose what they do on a daily basis. When I was in the sheltered workshop, I didn’t have the opportunity to work on job skills or do things that I enjoy. An average day at the sheltered workshop would look like me walking into the facility to see people watching movies, playing with children’s toys, coloring, or some other activity. We had scheduled snack and lunch times and was at the mercy of someone else telling us if there was work for the day.
There is a better alternative to sheltered workshops. Since I’ve left the sheltered workshop, I have experienced that meaningful programs are the alternative. I believe that meaningful programs for individuals with disabilities are very important and they should always be valued when it comes to finding jobs and doing recreational activities. Individuals with disabilities should not be forced to sit in a segregated environment because it is not productive or stimulating.
Since I started working in self directed services, I participate in two programs with an organization that supports adults with disabilities. I participate in a music class on Mondays and a dance class on Wednesdays. Both of these programs help me when it comes to finding a job in many ways. The music class helps me with work skills because it teaches me how to be on time, how to make friends, how to be patient, and how to be a leader. The dance class helps me exercise, socialize in a large group, and helps me memorize different dance moves to certain songs that we perform. Both of these programs, and others, are meaningful because they encourage individuals with disabilities to learn how to find work and increase their job skills.
The Musical Autist has three meaningful programs; we have Sensory Friendly Concerts, Empowerment Jam Sessions, and our newest program, Musical Autist Troupe.
Like the programs I talked about previously, the Musical Autist programs also help individuals improve their life skills. These programs help individuals learn what it means to work together as a team and communicate with each other. Sensory Friendly Concerts give people an opportunity to socialize and engage musically. Empowerment Jam Sessions help create an atmosphere that is stress free and encourages individuals to express themselves through music. Musical Autist Troupe promotes individuals to work on songs and communication skills. All three of these programs help to enhance the mission and vision of The Musical Autist, which is to create equal access to the fine arts and platforms for self advocacy.
The continuation of meaningful programs is important for individuals with disabilities so that they can find work and be contributing members to their communities. If these programs are cut, an individuals quality-of-life can decrease from the lack of assistance in facilitating community.
So let us keep these programs going so that individuals with disabilities can live full, healthy, and productive lives.