Address details

Down Syndrome NSW
Level 6/410 Church St, North Parramatta
9am-5pm Monday - Thursday
T: 9841 444

21 people with Down syndrome at work - 21 different jobs

We can work with the right support is a current campaign of Inclusion Australia, the national peak body for people with intellectual disability.

In the past, people with Down syndrome who did have jobs were more likely to have been in jobs deemed 'suitable' for a person with an intellectual disability. Now, their jobs are increasingly reflecting the personal and diverse  interests of individuals. People with Down syndrome are working in many different kinds of jobs, in a wider range of fields than ever before. Look around your own community, and take note of where you see workers with Down syndrome - you might be surprised.

For the next twenty one days, finishing on World Down Syndrome Day on 21 March, we will note a different job that someone with Down syndrome does - some will be international, since we can all learn from others all over the world.

Day 1
Let's start with a high profile employment story from 2015 - Steven Payne has worked for more than ten years as a strapper in the horse racing industry.

Day 2
In the lead up to World Down Syndrome Day 2016, the (US) National Down Syndrome Congress is posting 21 Quotes in 21 Days by 21 People with Trisomy 21 on their Facebook page and on their website. The first post features Tim, a confident worker at a yoghurt shop in California.

Day 3 
The dance teacher with Down's Syndrome
Kate Monaghan, BBC News Magazine, 11 February 2016
Becoming a professional dancer was always 22-year-old Hannah Sampson's dream. Having Down's Syndrome, though, she imagined there would be too many barriers in the way. After her mum heard about a dance group for disabled and non-disabled dancers, Hannah, who was still at school at the time, went along to try it out.

"She immediately threw herself into it, and her talent was apparent from the start" says Siobhan Hayes, Hannah's teacher ... video 2m 58s

Day 4

Emma: Master Shredder
Kathleen Calderwood, ABC Open, 17th September 2015
Jo Lynam hoped for years that her daughter Emma would learn to read and write. She thought this skill was essential for Emma to find a job; but it turned out to be the secret of her success. Emma now runs her own 'master shredder' business in Townsville in north Queensland, and has four clients including solicitors and a credit union ...

Billy kindly allowed us to use this
 photo from his 55th birthday post to
illustrate a flyer some years ago.

Day 5

Billy Schulz's, full and happy life (1956 - 2012) is well documented by his mother, Dr Jane Shulz, other family members, and by Billy himself. Grown Man Now, their website, remains as a tribute to Billy. 

In her book of the same name (a copy is in our library collection), Jane, a professor of special education, devotes considerable space to discussing the importance of work for Billy, the jobs he had, those he liked and did not like, and how they came about. He worked for several years in a university library and then at two locations of a well known grocery chain. 

In this blog post, Billy himself writes about his job at the store.
Day 6
Sydney landscape painter Josie Webster sells her remarkable work locally, and through Heart and Sold, based in the UK. Her work was included in their 2015 debut New York City exhibition. Josie is one of the featured artists  in Show Off, an exhibition to mark World Down Syndrome Day this month in Chatswood (Sydney).

Day 7

This employment story from the US is about a small business that employs several people with Down syndrome, but has been set up byBeau and Bitty Wright's family with the future of their young son and daughter in mind, even though they are both far too young to be thinking getting jobs just yet.

It's not the only such venture, and we expect to hear about many more in the future.

Day 8
On this International Women's Day, it seems appropriate to acknowledge the work of the late Laura Lee - she was well known for her advocacy and lobbying work on behalf of others with Down syndrome. She also worked at the World Bank. A leader and a role model for women and for men with Down syndrome.

Down syndrome activist remembered for the life she lived
Debra Alfarone, WUSA, 3 March 2016
Laura Lee wasn't just an advocate for people with Down syndrome, she lived her life with it. And she lived her life in a way that made others, including those without disabilities, look like they were standing still. Simply put, Laura Lee did things first. The 33-year-old Oakton woman with Down syndrome died in her sleep last week ...
See also Laura Lee 1982 - 2016 and
She inspired those with Down syndrome as unstoppable — until she wasn’t
Day 9
Like many others, it is not unusual for people with Down syndrome to have more than one job - a number of part-time jobs simultaneously, and/or a number of career changes over their working life.

One of the busiest people we know is Chris Bunton, from St Clair. He fits part-time work into a full schedule, as described in this article that links to the well-named video Keeping Up with Chris. He has even tutored young children in circus skills!

Day 10

You may well have seen Sarah Gordy on TV - the British actor is carving out a career in theatre and Call the Midwife (Series 3, Ep 6).

television, including roles in some very popular shows, including an episode of 

This interview with Sarah is one of the most popular posts ever on this blog.

On her own website, Sarah Gordy describes herself as a professional actor, dancer and model.

Day 11
Some fields of employment might seem beyond the reach of people with intellectual disabilities such as Down syndrome and/or communication disorders, but creative thinking, looking closely at the tasks involved, and the interests and abilities of individual people can lead to dreams realised.

Everyone Employed, 1st May 2015
Ever since Sam was young he has been passionate about helping others in his community, information that was discerned during the early phases of his employment discovery journey. More recently, it has become clear that Sam has developed a strong interest in law enforcement and detective work ...

Day 12
We first discovered Kayah Geunther's bakery business, Plus One Vegan Delights in September 2015  via the Facebook page. The comments over the last few months are full of praise for Kayah's baked goods. They are returning to Kingscliff (northern NSW) markets this month, and the customers are waiting.

In the current issue of Voice (March 2016), Kayah's dad, Rob Geunther writes about Kayah's developing business and baking skills, and other aspects of his life. He explains that naming the business 'Plus One Vegan Delights' refers to his 'little extra chromosome', and the way the business was going to be run:
It needed to be a platform for Kayah to find his life niche and this would probably mean thinking outside the box. A good deal of Kayah's journey has been about giving more and giving differently. From a young age he has always known how to stop and smell the flowers ... the whole article os available is the print edition of Voice.
Voice is the journal of Down Syndrome Australia - find out about subscribing here.

Day 13
Any writer will tell you how difficult it can be to make a living by writing, but getting a book published is a great start, and Marcus Sikora is already finding ways to expand the possibilities:

Rachel Kassenbrock, The Mighty, 27th July 2015
Marcus Sikora has a flare for the creative. The 25-year-old from Omaha, Nebraska, has acted in school productions and wrote and produced a one-act stage performance in cooperation with a local high school.

Sikora also has Down syndrome, but that hasn’t stopped him from achieving something that would be impressive for any 25-year-old. As of June 2015, he can add “published author” to his list of accomplishments ...

Day 14
Laura Green - UK entrepeneur in fashion

Kate Monaghan, BBC News, 10th July 2015
"I didn't want to work in Asda. I wanted to run my own business," says 28-year-old Laura Green. The young entrepreneur from Runcorn, Cheshire, says that because she has Down's Syndrome people didn't think it was even worth talking to her about her future ...
"There was no career planning at school for me. I was just killing time until I was moved onto the next step in the system. After three years I said 'no more' and I left." With that, Green spent time with family and friends trying to work out what it was she wanted to do with her life. 
"I decided that I wanted to work in fashion. Not for someone else but I wanted to set up my own business selling fashion accessories. So that's what I did."

Day 15
Potter Max McAuley's story illustrates another path to creating a job using your particular talents, and looking broadly for financial support.

Alex McAuley, The Life That Max Built, 30 September 2016
... Max and I applied for a grant from My Choice Matters, a NSW state government initiative to assist people with disabilities to achieve a specific goal. We applied for funding for Max to start his own business ‘Pottery to the Max’ with a view to him selling his work in order to fund his continuing ceramics classes ...

Day 16
Jasmine Prince is taking the path of creating/finding a job based on a particular person's interests and talents to a new level by providing jobs for others with Down syndrome ...

Evelien Sleutjes Happiness Wave, 8 October 2015
Jasmine Prince, a beautiful young woman with Down Syndrome just launched her first business, a sewing company. She inspires others to follow their dream and work by her side. With a little bit of help of her mom Laura Prince, who owes a a company called “Sew Inspired Stitch Lounge”, an after-school sewing program. Jasmine showed natural talent when she started sewing at a young age, and now she’s create job opportunities for people with Down Syndrome herself ...

Day 17
Work experience is an excellent way for senior high school students to get to know something about what different jobs involve. Mater Dei School, a Catholic special school at Camden (NSW) organises work experience for Year 10 - 12 students, with a weekly commitment for 15 week rotations. More than 30 local business, offering a range of services and products offer places.

Ethan Campbell is currently doing at work experience at Mt Annan Vet, where the staff are very supportive and impressed with his hard work - in the operating theatre, X-ray room, clipping dogs and dental  cleaning. He is loving every minute, including a surprise visit from his own dog, Henry.

Day 18
Working with cars is an attractive proposition for many people, including Nick Jones:

Melissa Cutler, Fox4 News, 11th February 2015
A Highland Park high school student is making an impact at his part-time job. Nick Jones' task is to make sure every car on his dealership's lot is perfect, and his work is making a bigger impression than he may realize. One thing that sets 18-year-old Nick apart from many is how happy he is to go to work ...

Day 19
We all work for many reasons, and you can see by his reaction to his first pay day that for 23 year old office worker Tim, that is an important one. He has more to say about his job here:

About Down's Syndrome : Tim
Down's Syndrome Association (UK)
... I got my first pay cheque this week. It was great. I now have my own bank account and card. I can save money and spend money. The first thing I did was take some money out using my card and brought a round of drinks for my family and friends! ...

Day 20
A great deal of progress has been made over the last couple of years, with increasing inclusion of people with disabilities in all forms of advertising. And none is more prominent than Australian model, Madeline Stuart, as you probably know.

Her recognition in the media is largely about her successfully emerging career as one of very few professional models in the world with Down syndrome, and she has been ready to capitalise on her access to media to advocate for others with Down syndrome too.

Lately, Madeline has worked for a second time at New York Fashion Week in February, and the most recent media coverage has been for a wedding venue promotion in which she  models a number of bridal gowns:
... ‘If she gets a lot of attention, it’s amazing because we can speak to the world about inclusion and diversity. In a way, if she doesn’t get as much attention it means it’s becoming the norm. It’s a win either way.’
Madeline's own website will lead you to her presence on other social media platforms.

Day 21
After a long and fulfilling working life, comes retirement - a relatively new stage for many people with Down syndrome, and steps are being taken to support them to manage the transition from work. We wish Shelli Fanning and others retiring soon, a happy time doing more things that they enjoy as they grow older.

Scott Hewitt, The Columbian, 11 January 2014
Shelli Fanning, 46, worked as housekeeper at Red Lion at the Quay for 23 years ...  It took some time and on-the-job testing to figure out what was easy for Shelli and what required more training and practice, and to set a reasonable number of work hours (not quite 20) per week. But to say that Shelli was coddled or that her work wasn’t valuable is absolutely untrue, according to Red Lion General Manager Paul Thornton ...


It was remarkably easy to find 21 different people with Down syndrome doing 21 different jobs, most of them highlighted in the mainstream media - that might not seem to be such a big deal, given the enormous number of jobs in existence, and the ubiquity of social media that allows us to share them, but it is a very significant change in the space of just two generations. 

And we know of people working in many different fields - farming, all areas of hospitality, as teachers' assistants, in many retail settings, in factories, in different clerical roles, all aspects of the arts to name a few. Some people have had several jobs, others have worked for long periods in one job, some work at several jobs at the same time, stitching together a full-tme working life.

Few of them are working without support, but we started with the concept of the We can work with the right support campaign and close this current series with the same thought. It can be seen from these twenty one examples, that tapping into each person's interests and talents and providing support where needed can lead to very satisfactory employment experiences for employes with Down syndrome and their employers.

There is still a long way to go for many people with Down syndrome who want to work, those who can employ them and those who can support them, but they are showing us how it's done.

No comments: