The Role of a Lifetime: Challenges and Rewards of Working with IDD Individuals

Down syndrome adult man with mother gathering tomatoes in greenhouse.

Folks with disabilities of all kinds are capable and deserving of living full, happy lives. In this field, it is the worker’s responsibility–be they Direct Support Professionals, Residence Supervisory Staff or Registered Nurses–to assist and advocate for IDD folks, empowering them to live life as they choose.

Disabilities come in all shapes, sizes, and stripes, and they manifest differently in everyone. That means that every day is full of unique and diverse challenges as well as great rewards. Here are just a few:

1. The Learning Curve

The Challenge:  There is a learning curve. It’s important to realize going in that you cannot know all there is to know about disability. Disability culture is extremely diverse, from diagnosis to individual presentation and beyond. You will make mistakes, and you may, at times, struggle to understand how a client is feeling or how to help them. But as you learn, keep in mind that forming a relationship with anyone—disabled or not—and understanding what makes them tick takes time and patience.

The Reward: The flip side of this coin is that a career in disability services means a lifetime of learning. This can be both humbling and energizing. You will learn a lot, both during daily care and outside of working hours. Take the time to educate yourself on clinical diagnosis as well as the human perspective, and you will be sure to reap the benefits.

2. The Emotional Commitment

The Challenge: Working with IDD can be emotionally strenuous. Like anyone, adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities don’t always have the mechanisms to express themselves or cope with life’s difficulties. The path to independence is never straightforward, and if you think that might be frustrating for you as a worker, imagine how it must feel for the individuals themselves.

The Reward: The emotional connection you feel with clients is one of the best parts of the job. Creating and nurturing that kind of relationship is critical to their progress and is also a reward unto itself. While you are helping individuals along their path to independence and fulfillment, you celebrate their successes, share their disappointments, and grow in closeness and mutual understanding. This kind of bond can’t be found in a nine-to-five office job.

3. It’s Not Easy

The Challenge: A career in disability services takes time, effort, patience, humility, and compassion. When you work with IDD individuals, you are a collaborator, not a dictator. Your role as a worker in this field is not to coddle or patronize but to support and empower. Striking the perfect balance of disability care and respectful etiquette is not always easy, but it is necessary.

The Reward: Working with IDD adults might be one of the most rewarding jobs you’ll ever have. As much as you are bettering a client’s life, they are improving yours as well. You may find yourself surprised by the kind of things you learn as you make a positive impact on client’s lives. Every day offers something different and wonderful to love about this career.

If you think that working with IDD individuals is your calling, consider a career with Independent Living Association

Our mission is to serve New York City’s IDD community, and hardworking, passionate, and loyal individuals are always needed to continue meeting that goal. Reach out today to learn more.