What is work?

Kathy O’Grady, Guest Editor


THERE IS A SECTION ON THE VOCABULARY SCALE of a commonly used intelligence test called ‘Similarities‘ and the respondent is required to state how the items are alike and what about them is the same. This requires a capacity to think and to verbalise, categorise, and reason abstractly. The items start off easy i.e. how are a shoe and a sock alike, what about them is the same? An apple and a banana … then the test notches it up a bit and the items get progressively more difficult, such as ‘Work and play‘. Perhaps one of the most difficult to answer, I often wonder is there an answer?

Recently I visited the Work Therapy Unit run in Cornamagh by St Hilda’s Services in Athlone (See Gallery Section page 16-17). A lot of the ‘work‘ involves crafts and creativity. The participants in this programme were certainly having fun as they ‘work‘. The task of acting as guest editor of Issue 67 of Frontline appealed to my sense of joy in doing something constructive. While it has been fun it also proved to be a lot of ‘work‘! This issue focuses on the world of work and supported employment. Pat Reen laments the policy changes in FÁS that have had the consequence of limiting opportunities for our people to engage in supported employment. Sandra Tallon gives us helpful information from the IASE. Yet the reality for most adults with intellectual disability is that opportunities for ordinary work in ordinary places are quite restricted. At best they are offered day services on a spectrum from day care to meaningful engagement to supported work and supported employment. But what really is work? Is it the same thing as paid employment? Does the woman who work in ordinary places remains in the family home work? Do the adults with intellectual disability who attend our many day resource centres work? Is the work from the group from Stewarts whose tapestry of the song of ‘The Wandering Aengus‘ now hangs in Dundalk Institute of Technology (See Gallery in Issue 66) and the work of the participants in St Hilda’s who produced the mosaics not a legacy that will endure. Thanks to Colin Griffiths who has edited Frontline and instituted the Gallery section to showcase the work of so many productive people who really do work as artists with a legacy of artefacts for us to enjoy as the fruits of their labour.

Issue 67 also highlights the importance of health promotion for men with intellectual disabilities in early detection of testicular cancer. When the people of Ireland are not working, far too many engage in over indulgence in alcohol and binge drinking. The legacy of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome and Foetal Alcohol Effects is something we are only beginning to take seriously. The basic message of ‘If you are pregnant, don’t drink‘, ‘If you are going to get pregnant, don’t drink alcohol‘ isn’t so much about lifestyle choice as it is about prevention of disability. It begs the question of when can child abuse begin? The blunt answer is in utero.

Enjoy the many helpful features in this issue, including ‘Supporting Sexuality and Leadership‘. Got to run, work awaits.