""My daughter and other people with disabilities in the workforce deserve to be treated like other employees and have the opportunity to earn the same amount as others.""

About: Barbara (age 47)

Age Range: 36 to 59 years

County: Loudon

When my daughter, Barbara, was in the third grade, we found out that she has an intellectual disability and developmental delays. I was shocked at first because she seemed to be doing fine at school and had been able to keep up with grade material until that point. When she was younger she began walking and talking around the same time most children would. She did have some difficulties with speech, but I simply thought she had a stutter or was tonguetied at times. I never thought it could be something more until the school brought up that they had some concerns.

Currently, Barbara uses limited speech. Once you know her well it is easier to understand and communicate with her. If she is able to write, spell, or say your name, then you know she likes you.

I wish all the resources and services in schools now had been available when Barbara was in school. They just kept moving her forward from one grade to the next, even though the material was not appropriate for her and she was not receiving adequate attention. She attended high school for a short time before she stopped school at age 16. In high school, she was placed in a "low education" class where the students and teachers simply worked with her on her language skills. Of all the things I wish Barbara could've had, it would have been a better education.

After Barbara was out of school, and once her brothers began to move out, she expressed an interest in moving out as well. She moved into a group home when she was 19, but she was with about 10 other girls and disliked it very much. We had help in placing her in other group homes, but she did not stay in any of them for long.

She now lives with a woman named Teresa in a single home and we can tell this is a good fit for her long-term. She has only lived there for about a month, but she and Teresa both enjoy many of the same activities. Barbara stays busy helping Teresa run errands. And although she is not able to do things like balance a checkbook or pay bills, she can clean up after herself, and help with the laundry and cooking.

Barbara also has been able to find employment. My daughter works at two different drugstores for about three hours a day. I am happy that she has been able to find a job and she is very proud to work. However, I do wish she were paid at least minimum wage like everyone else. As of now, she is paid based on what she does while there. For example, if she takes down 20 boxes in one hour then she receives payment based on those 20 boxes. Because of this, when she gets paid every two weeks, the amount can vary greatly and it is hard for someone to manage their money and plan ahead in life when each pay check varies. My daughter and other people with disabilities in the workforce deserve to be treated like other employees and have the opportunity to earn the same amount as others.

When thinking about the future, there are always challenges and things I worry about. Many times, I have thought of moving her back in with me. However, I worry that if anything were to happen to me, the transition back into another home would be very difficult for her. Could we find another home in which she felt comfortable, safe, and joyful? It's something that stays with me.

If something were to happen to me, I at least have the reassurance that Barbara will be okay financially. She does receive money through her SSI and a little from her job. At least I know she will have enough money to pay for things like housing and medical bills. As the years progress, I want to continue to have the peace of mind that she is secure and happy.

Updated on Tuesday, January 9, 2018