How Developmental Challenges Can Be an Asset


Hiring people with developmental challenges can be a great asset to a business. According to Owens (2010), companies like The Home Depot, CVS Caremark and Walgreen’s all have programs that enable workers who might not have had an opportunity otherwise. The community sees employing people with developmental challenges as a benefit, the government sees it as a benefit, and businesses often receive support for providing such programs.


There are many people who are presented with developmental challenges in the United States. Owens writes that approximately 1.5 million people in the U.S. have one type of autism or another. Most of those people are under 18. About one in 110 children have autism. Owens says these numbers are all growing. It is important that people with developmental challenges be given opportunities in the workplace. First, the misconceptions about hiring developmentally challenged people must be addressed.

[blockQuote position=”left”]The best benefit of all for companies who employ the developmentally disabled is that they are empowering people. – tweet this[/blockQuote]

There are many misconceptions about employing people with developmental challenges. Perhaps most destructive of the misconceptions is that developmentally disabled employees pose a safety hazard on the job. However, according to the EEOC (2004), citing many surveys, this is false. Employers may refuse to hire a developmentally disabled person for a position if it is clear there is a “direct threat” posed to their safety, or of the safety of those around them.

Another misconception is that an employee with developmental challenges receives “special treatment.” For developmentally disabled employment programs to work, it is crucial for management and the other employees to be involved, according to the EEOC. Sometimes, managers receive questions about employees that could be in violation of privacy laws to answer. According to the EEOC, this is why employers must make sure all their employees are trained and updated on equal-employment opportunity laws, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Working with the developmentally disabled is an opportunity to spread knowledge and increase diversity.

An ancillary benefit to working with the developmentally disabled is that the government – federal and at the state level – have programs in place for companies who hire developmentally disabled folks. According to Phillips, in 1995, the cost of institutionalized care for one person was $176,000 per year. However, if a developmentally disabled person could be taught a job, and better integrated into a community, so they may live at home, or in a group home, then the cost decreased to $70,000 per year.

According to Jennings (2009) and Owens (2010), customers, stockholders and the community view giving employment opportunities to the developmentally disabled as a benefit to society. It’s a socially responsible thing for a company to do, and it builds friends in the community.

Perhaps the best benefit of all for companies who employ the developmentally disabled is that they are empowering people. As Philips notes, employment programs improve the lives of the developmentally disabled, and give them self respect. What could be better than knowing that efforts made by the company have made the lives better for their employees, while benefitting the community at-large?