February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 44

STAFFORD CONNECTS
Around the same time, I had the
opportunity to engage with several
developmentally disabled and/
or neurodiverse members of our
community. It became evident that
they too yearned for greater inclusion
and participation in community
life. Although my expertise was
primarily in adaptive recreation, I
noticed a shift in the needs of our
community in Stafford. There was
a growing demand for more social
and educational programs, but
what stood out was the need for
something more foundational -
meaningful employment.
I saw a gap that needed bridging
and envisioned creating a pathway
to employment, one that was specifically
designed for adults with
developmental or intellectual disabilities.
This pathway would not
only offer them the opportunity
to explore different fields but also
provide them with skills to increase
their marketability. It would also
integrate them more fully into the
fabric of our community. Thus, the
concept of Stafford Connects -
a program that would go beyond
traditional recreational and educational
offerings to provide real,
tangible employment opportunities
- began to take shape.
Employment Challenges for
Individuals With Disabilities
Although there are signs of improvement,
the employment landscape
for individuals with
disabilities
continues to be complex
and challenging. According to a
comprehensive 2022 Bureau of
Labor Statistics report, the unemployment
rate among adults with
disabilities stood at an alarming
7.6 percent, almost twice as high
as that of the general population
(tinyurl.com/37mbr4xz). This
stark disparity highlights a signifsocietal
challenge that demands
attention and action.
Digging deeper, the data reveals
a troubling reality, particularly for
those with autism spectrum disorder
(ASD). Estimates suggest that
the unemployment rate for this
group skyrockets to nearly 86 percent.
This figure is not just a number,
but also a reflection of the multitude
of challenges and barriers
faced by neurodiverse individuals
in the workforce. Despite a strong
willingness to work, evidenced by
77 percent of unemployed neurodiverse
individuals being open and
eager for employment, they encounter
numerous obstacles.
The barriers are multifaceted,
ranging from physical limitations
to broader societal issues. One of
the most significant hurdles is negative
employer attitudes. There's
a pervasive lack of understanding
and accommodation in the workplace,
which often stems from misconceptions
about the capabilities
of individuals
icant
with
disabilities.
Additionally, the lack of targeted
job training and placement services
further exacerbates the issue, leaving
many neurodiverse individuals
without the support they need to
find and sustain employment.
Redefining Inclusion
in the Workplace
Stafford Connects' initiative illuminates
a path of hope and opportunity.
This program is uniquely
designed to provide mentorship,
job and life skills training for young
adults ages 18-30 with disabilities.
Over a 12-week engagement period,
participants are paired with experienced
government employees
to explore and engage in a variety
of job roles.
It's as much about
discovering personal interests and
strengths as it is about recognizing
44 Parks & Recreation | FEBR U AR Y 2 0 2 4 | PARK S ANDRECRE AT ION . OR G
areas for improvement and discovering
dislikes. We believe in the
power of continuous engagement
to cultivate a sense of accomplishment
and belonging.
The approach is centered on
identifying opportunities that ensure
mutual success for both participants
and facilitators. A key
aspect is the emphasis on finding
stable and long-term employment
opportunities. We recognize that
sustained involvement in a job role
can significantly influence an individual's
perception of success and
self-worth. For example, for some,
tasks like preparing silverware in
a restaurant might seem repetitive,
yet they are essential and can
be tailored to accommodate the
unique abilities of various individuals.
This reflects our dedication
to understanding and meeting the
specific needs of each participant,
and ensuring every job role is a
stepping stone toward a successful
and fulfilling career.
For participants
working outdoors with minimal
social interaction, roles within the
parks department, such as
field
and facility maintenance, are ideal.
These positions offer the tranquility
of nature and the satisfaction of
physical work. In contrast, those
who excel in social settings or have
strong organizational skills might
find
their
niche
in
office-based
roles, where their interpersonal and
administrative abilities can shine.
Stafford Connects serves a wide
spectrum of disabilities, from autism
and Fragile X syndrome (a
genetic disorder) to various developmental
and intellectual
disabilities.
The program meticulously
outlines specific goals and tasks,
with a strong emphasis on developing
soft
which
range from communicawho
prefer
skills. These skills,
http://tinyurl.com/37mbr4xz

February 2024 - Parks and Recreation

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of February 2024 - Parks and Recreation

February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - Intro
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - Cover1
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - Cover2
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 1
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 2
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 3
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 4
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 5
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 6
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 7
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 8
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 9
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 10
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 11
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 12
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 13
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 14
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 15
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 16
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 17
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 18
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 19
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 20
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 21
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 22
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 23
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 24
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 25
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 26
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 27
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 28
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 29
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 30
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 31
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 32
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 33
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 34
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 35
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 36
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 37
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 38
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 39
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 40
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 41
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 42
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 43
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 44
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 45
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 46
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 47
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 48
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 49
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 50
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 51
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 52
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 53
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 54
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 55
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - 56
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - Cover3
February 2024 - Parks and Recreation - Cover4
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/march-2024
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/february-2024
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/january-2024
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/december-2023
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/november-2023
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/october-2023
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/september-2023
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/august-2023
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/july-2023
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/june-2023
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/may-2023
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/april-2023
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/march-2023
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/february-2023
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/january-2023
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/december-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/november-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/october-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/september-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/august-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/july-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/june-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/may-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/april-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/march-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/february-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/january-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/december-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/november-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/october-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/september-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/august-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/july-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/june-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/may-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/april-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/march-2021
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