Employment in down syndrome : the experiences of individuals with down syndrome, their employers and families in KwaZulu-Natal.
Employment is viewed as one of the pinnacle factors in enhancing quality of life. Despite being a right in South Africa, the employment opportunities available to individuals with Down syndrome are limited. This study aimed to explore the employment experiences of individuals with Down syndrome, their employers and their families in KwaZulu-Natal. This research provided valuable information for Speech-Language Therapists on enhancing communication in the workplace as effective communication in the workplace is crucial for employment. A qualitative approach and phenomenological design were used within the context of International Classification Framework, biopsychosocial model and critical paradigm. Individual semi-structured interviews were conducted and thematic analysis was used to analyse the data. Results revealed that individuals with Down syndrome valued their employment for the emotional and financial support it provided and the skill development opportunities available. Gaps were evident in legislation specific to the employment of individuals with Down syndrome as well as the implementation of these limited policies. Communication is necessary in the workplace; however, it is one of the areas that is severely impacted in individuals with Down syndrome. Employers and family members’ experiences indicated variability in speech intelligibility, language and literacy skills among the participants with Down syndrome linked to cognitive ability, intervention, education received, mood swings and memory loss. Intriguing trends relating to the positive use of technological devices for social and recreational purposes were evident. Employment success can be linked to successful job selection, visual and emotional support. Speech-Language Therapists, employers, family members and the Down syndrome association were found to have crucial roles in providing this support. The role of the Speech-Language Therapist continues to evolve and is required across the lifespan for different purposes.