Working with mentally challenged adults takes a great deal of patience and empathy and a pervasive sense of humor. This article discusses these qualities in more detail to provide a glimpse of the kind of person you need to be to work with the mentally challenged.
Demand and Formal Qualifications
There always will be demand for support workers for the mentally challenged, and a bachelor's degree is not generally required. However, most workplaces prefer employees to be a couple of years out of high school.
A driver's license is almost always necessary, as a significant part of working with mentally challenged adults is transporting them from one place to another. A clean criminal record is also imperative.
The majority of jobs working with the mentally challenged are part time, casual or both.
It is also important to understand where your charges are coming from. "Mentally challenged" is a wide-reaching statement that describes those with Down Syndrome, Autism Spectrum Disorder, brain damage and a host of other problems. Even though these people are challenged in some way, this isn't to say they're all challenged in the same way. Some are far more capable than others, and it is of vital importance that you treat every individual as just that--an individual.
Don't be afraid to laugh. Mentally challenged adults are people, too, and they enjoy a laugh just as much as you do. Include them in a joke, tease them good-naturedly and laugh with them. Don't feel as though their mental handicap somehow means that every action you do near or with them has to be serious and purposeful; oftentimes, what these adults need most is a friend.
When the day is over, you should not be afraid to laugh with your co-workers in private. There is nothing wrong with sharing a funny story with co-workers at the end of a hard day. It's a therapeutic way to unwind.
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