Imagine that your work day has just ended. You leave the office feeling good. In your car, you roll down the windows and let the sun warm your face. The next thing you know, you wake up in a hospital bed…and a month has passed. The doctor at your bedside cautiously explains that you received a traumatic brain injury in an auto accident. You try to ask a question, but the words won’t come out of your mouth. After several attempts at communication, you’re exhausted and fade in a restless sleep. The months that follow are filled with what seems like every type of therapy in the book – you have to learn to speak, walk, eat and organize your thoughts all over again. Your life is upside down. You still feel the weight of your responsibilities. You want to work and support yourself (and your loved ones) again. Your desire for independence rules your thoughts, visions of life before your accident haunt your dreams.
Everyone agrees: life after a brain injury can be as traumatic as the injury itself. Many people choose to isolate themselves. Others do their best to pretend that nothing has changed, that they are still the same person post-accident. Still others seek out solution after solution until they find an accommodating neuro rehab program. In these ways and many others, the brain-injured people are expressing the one thing they all have in common: they want to be productive members of society again. And that means working.
So what sort of employment is available for someone with a brain injury? (Or for anyone else with a disability, for that matter?) The answer depends on the severity of the injury. Our goal at Life Skills Village is to help our clients reach their maximum level of functionality in every area of life – including the vocational. We offer several levels of vocational rehabilitation for our clients:
A sheltered workshop is a safe environment where, people with brain injuries can work without fear of losing their job for health or behavioral reasons. Clients are paid to perform simple tasks such as stuffing envelopes or washing clothes. Life Skills Village takes an altruistic approach to the Sheltered Workshop. Everything our clients do benefits the southeast Michigan community. Whether it’s collecting, washing and sorting clothes before we donate them to a veteran’s organization or assembling hygiene kits and distributing them to the homeless – we believe our clients should see the good they are capable of doing for others.
This may be the best employment option for someone with entrenched behavioral problems following the head injury.
Supported employment or, as we call it at Life Skills Village, the Work Re-Entry Program, is for people with brain injuries who have expressed employment as one of their highest priorities. Our therapists work with the client to prepare a resume, learn and rehearse interview skills, dress for success and will even attend the interview. We also work directly with the employer to coach them on ways to work with someone who has a head injury. Very often, a job coach accompanies the client to work. The coaches stay on as long as the client and employer feel that their presence is necessary.
What kind of work can people with brain injuries perform? Depending on their level of function, people with a TBI can do anything, including but not limited to:
Employers have every incentive to participate in our Work Re-Entry Program, including limiting the cost of hiring a new employee and helping disabled people rejoin the community.
This is a relatively new concept that we’ve been developing at Life Skills Village. We define a micro-business as a business than can be operated by one or two people. For example, we recently launched “Good Brains Packaging,” which weighs, bags and labels coffee that is then purchased for distribution by marketing companies. We have another client who plans to launch a T-Shirt company that promotes a positive image of people with brain injuries. Most of these micro-businesses are housed in the “Nine-to-Five” room (we also refer to it as the “voc room” or the “microbusiness incubator) at Life Skills Village.
Competitive employment happens when a client is paid directly by the employer and no longer require a job coach. However, brain injuries are capricious and can cause debilitating symptoms even years later. That’s why Life Skills Village offers “The Academy.” This post-discharge support program means a client can return to our program to speak to a therapist for advice on overcoming a challenge on the job (or any other problem).
Life Skills Village offers a Sheltered Workshop, Supported Employment Program and Micro-Business Development programs to our clients. Just in case you aren’t within driving distance of Oak Park, Michigan – we have included several useful websites below that are designed to help people with disabilities work from home. You can find our current list below or periodically check for updates on our Resource Links page.
Job/Resume Assistance for disabled
ADA & IT Technical Assistance Program (ADATA) - Disability and Business Technical Assistance Centers
APSE: The Network on Employment
Formerly the Association for Persons in Supported Employment
Big Tent Jobs.com
Specialize in jobs for people with hidden and visible disabilities.
Customer Service and Transcription Jobs
Digital Marketing Jobs
Freedom to Work Web Site
Goodwill Industries International, Inc.
IT Career Guide
Job Accommodation Network (JAN)
Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs - Michigan Rehabilitation Services
Michigan Department of Career Development
Michigan Employment/Disability Resources
Michigan Rehab Services
Occupational Outlook Handbook – Bureau of Labor Statistics
The Riley Guide
Social Security Employment
Social Security program for people on disability who want to return to work without losing Medicare benefits.
Specializes in legitimate work from home opportunities
Traumatic Brain Injury Facts: Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Services
VCU Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Workplace Supports and Job Retention
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About the Doc
Dr. Bryan Weinstein is a practicing psychiatrist with certification from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. He has practiced psychiatric pharmacology and psychotherapy since 1997. Dr. Weinstein is the CEO of Life Skills Village.