Some mentally challenged people, including those with mental retardation and those with mental illnesses, cannot hold jobs due to their conditions. However, many mentally challenged people can work, especially if they receive the right type of training and support on the job. Having a job allows people with mental challenges to maintain some independence and self-sufficiency and may also boost their self-esteem.
Types of Jobs
Mentally challenged people work in a variety of jobs. The best job for a mentally challenged person depends on his abilities, needs and personal interests. In general, though, mentally challenged people often do best in low stress jobs and jobs that allow people to work at their own pace. People that have difficulty learning new tasks and remembering things may perform best at jobs that involve simple, repetitive tasks. People with mental challenges may perform well in many different job settings, including food service jobs, clerical jobs, housekeeping jobs, grounds keeping jobs and general assembly or factory jobs.
All 50 states have vocational rehabilitation agencies that assist with job training and placement for people with disabilities, including the mentally challenged (see link in the Resources section for contact information). Numerous social services agencies also provide assistance with job training and placement. Agency staff help clients identify what type of job they’d like and provide assistance with resume writing and interviewing. They also identify other services that would help clients succeed on the job, like job training and job coaching.
Mentally challenged people often benefit from specialized job training. It may take them longer to learn their job duties than it takes other people. They should receiving training on one task at a time and have the opportunity to practice and master that task before moving on to the next one. They may benefit from receiving written instructions as well as verbal instructions, if they read well. Some may have poor literacy skills, in which case pictures or diagrams may help. In addition to training on specific job tasks, people with mental challenges may need training related to interpersonal skills, communication skills, problem solving skills and expectations in the workplace, like the expectation of showing up for work on time every day.
People with mental challenges may benefit from supportive services on the job, like job coaching. Job coaches perform analyses of the tasks to be performed, provide comprehensive training on tasks, identify accommodations that can help mentally challenged individuals perform their jobs and advocate for their clients in the workplace. They also provide travel training when necessary so clients can travel to their jobs independently.