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The Spectrum Network Helps People Live and Work in the Community

  • Published: 2009-12-11 (Revised/Updated 2010-07-11) : Disabled World.
  • Synopsis: The Spectrum Network for adults with mental illness and people who experience developmental physical or intellectual disabilities

Main Document

The people at The Spectrum Network create customized solutions for people with disabilities, so they can live and work in their own communities.

The organization is there for adults with mental illness, as well as people who experience developmental, physical, or intellectual disabilities. They are also there for people who have a chemical dependency. The Spectrum Network also has a transition program for high school students.

The organization invests in their programs and believes in the people they are there to serve. They measure themselves against the highest accreditation and quality standards, focusing on independence. With thirty-five years of experience, The Spectrum Network helps people with disabilities to build natural supports and skills so they can independently succeed at both work and daily life.

Programs and The Spectrum Network

Work is a very important part of what The Spectrum Network does, challenging them both intellectually and physically. It gives them economic stability and connects them to their communities. They help people to work through their employment program, assisting people to find and keep jobs. Through their training area, the organization teaches specific job tasks, helping people to learn the very social skills needed to do well in the workplace.

At times, people find themselves in need of additional support concerning day-to-day tasks. These tasks might include things such as balancing a checkbook, washing dishes, or ordering something from a menu in a restaurant. The Spectrum Network teaches these kinds of skills through their Supported Community Living (SCL) program. The organization has an on-site day activities program that gives people opportunities to develop hobbies, make new friends and socialize at their location in Decorah.

Anyone can access the services through The Spectrum Network. At this time they have people in nine different counties who are using their services. Most of the people who are at The Spectrum Network are between the ages of sixteen and seventy-two years of age. Ninety-percent of them live in their own homes, with the remaining ten-percent living in residential care facilities.

Employment and The Spectrum Network

People who are looking for work that is meaningful or who would like to receive on-the-job training or gain experience can go to The Spectrum Network too. They help people through all steps of both finding and keeping a job. The services they offer include:

Resume building
Interview coaching
Job search assistance
Help in filling out applications
Ongoing employment support
Interest and skills assessment

The Spectrum Network also presents people with job site assessments, as well as job shadowing. These services give people the opportunity to check out a job so they can be sure that it is the right one for them. Once a person is on the job, the organization continues to give them as much or as little support as they need. The support offered might include things such as being there, on the job site - or being available to, 'debrief,' the person at the end of their workday. The Spectrum Network gives people the support they need whether it is during the day, in the evening, or on weekends. Employment specialists for the organization provided greater than two-hundred hours of support to people every month as they worked in the community during the last fiscal year.

Something else The Spectrum Network offers people who make use of their services is the opportunity to join a team that works alongside other employees at an area business. The team is referred to as an, 'enclave,' and works in a number of capacities. The enclaves provide quality assurance for local manufacturers, for example, or custodial services for banks.

The organization gives support to both people who come to them for services and employers throughout the enclave hiring process. Job coaches accompany enclaves while they are in training, as well as while they are on the job, so that the work need and expectations of the employer are met. They also help people to build natural supports in their workplace so they can succeed when they no longer need support.

Training and The Spectrum Network

The Spectrum Network knows that learning new skills is the first step towards independence in employment. They offer people on-the-job training in areas that range from manufacturing to retail. While people are in training, the organization helps them to learn, 'soft skills,' such as ways to communicate effectively with fellow employees. They also offer computer classes to help people build their skills.

As a person starts the training program, The Spectrum Network meets with them and their support team in order to create a personalized training plan and outline specific steps and goals for them to achieve. Staff members monitor their progress, providing support along the way. The same staff members work to make sure that the person advances along the path towards reaching their goals.

The Spectrum Network has its own Thrift Store, and through businesses such as this one they offer people a number of way to increase their skills while learning to succeed in the workplace. The organization also fulfills subcontracts from businesses such as Gemini, Inc., Deco Products, and Rockwell Collins. People who receive services through The Spectrum Network's training program gain experience in things such as assembly, collating, sorting, and stocking parts. All of these skills are valuable to prospective employers.

Success in employment involves more than just the completion of tasks, and The Spectrum Network is aware of this fact. Being successful and maintaining a job also involves things such as socializing, keeping a good attendance record, respecting the personal boundaries of others, and staying focused on a task. At times, these skills do not come naturally to everyone. Job coaches at The Spectrum Network carefully coach people as they train so they can work independently.

Daily Living Skills and The Spectrum Network

The Supported Community Living (SCL) program at The Spectrum Network helps people to build skills and confidence as they connect to their community. The program offers them support in areas that range from finding a place to live, planning meals, to contacting a health care provider. The organization provides individualized services based on every person's needs and strengths. Their staff members have the ability to focus on helping people to learn how to do things for themselves while achieving independence.

When the organization first meets a person who has come to them for services through the SCL program, they discuss the variety of services they offer. They spend time with the person and get to know them. After receiving input from the person and other people like family members or a case manager, The Spectrum Network creates a plan which outlines the person's unique goals. The organization revisits the person's plan from time to time to ensure that they are helping them to reach their goals.

There are some different areas of support that the SCL program provides support to people for. These areas involve Money Management, Household Management, Healthy Living, and Recreation/Community.

Money Management: The SCL program helps people to learn how to balance a checkbook, setup and follow a budget, make purchase decisions, manage debt, and pay bills on time.

Household Management:
The SCL program helps people learn how to find a place to live, plan menus and shopping, cook, do laundry, setup cleaning schedules, and learn home safety and maintenance.

Healthy Living: The SCL program helps people to learn how to take care of special health needs, make and keep appointments, communicate health concerns with medical professionals, learn how to take medications, and make healthy choices.

Recreation/Community: The SCL program helps people to learn how to get involved in community activities, nurture hobbies and areas of interest, and learn computer skills such as using e-mail and the Internet.

Day Activities and The Spectrum Network

The Adult Day Services program helps people to join in activities such as painting, gardening, virtual bowling, playing cards and cooking; many times while they are out in their communities. The program presents people with the opportunity to make new friends and explore new interests. The Spectrum Network offers people a number of activities that provide them with mental stimulation while encouraging them to communicate and building their confidence.

The program is based in the organization's main building in Decorah, and participants regularly go out into the surrounding community. They cultivate a plot in the Decorah community garden, visit stores, and go on picnics. Participants are always on the lookout for events at museums, parks, libraries, and additional community locations. The Spectrum Network provides transportation through the local taxi services and Northeast Iowa Transit.

The Spectrum Network has a focus on healthy living. They believe that good mental and physical health are the foundation of a great quality life. Their program incorporates daily exercise, classes in health topics, support for special health needs, and assistance with taking medications. The organization's professional staff members are well-trained to assist people who have a disability, mental illness, or who are elderly. They have licensed medication managers who are able to help people monitor and take medications - thespectrumnetwork.org



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