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Abstract

The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted countless individuals, including those who experience intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Even amid a pandemic, for many individuals, working continues to be a critically important aspect of their life, providing opportunities to accomplish their desired quality of life. Currently, limitations exist to understanding both the working lives of individuals with IDD, but also how individuals with IDD make meaning from their work during a pandemic. Using a psychology of working theory (PWT; Blustein, 2006), this research brief summarizes a qualitative study on the working experiences of individuals with IDD. This study included interviews with six adults with IDD across the United States. The purpose of the study was to gather data on how individuals with IDD were impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and to establish an understanding of work through the PWT framework. Qualitative content analysis was used to examine data collected from interviews to identify emergent themes from the work lives of those interviewed. Results indicate that the pandemic impacted individuals work to varying degrees, including reduced hours and loss of jobs. The pandemic also impacted their personal lives, limiting opportunities for social gatherings with families or activities such as Special Olympics. All participants confirmed the application of the PWT taxonomy as a good fit to describe their working experiences. Specifically, participants were still self-determined and motivated to work during the pandemic, yet their social connections were negatively impacted. Lastly, we briefly discuss the concept of dignity of risk and additional practices to support individuals with IDD as they continue to work.

Plain Language Summary

The global pandemic has changed the lives of many people. It has also changed the lives of people with IDD. For many people, working is an important part of their life. Working provides the chance to achieve a desired quality of life. Currently, there is little known about the working lives of people with IDD. There is less known about how a pandemic impacts work. We used the psychology of working theory to frame our brief report. We conducted six interviews with adults with IDD across the United States. We used the theory to understand how participant's make meaning of work. We used content analysis to examine our data. We looked for themes across participant responses. Results show the pandemic changed people's work lives. Changes in work included reduced hours and loss of jobs. The pandemic also changed people's personal lives. People had less access to social contact with family and friends. Results also showed participants wanted to work. At the end of the brief we talk about what it means to make decisions based on risk. We also talk about ways to support people with IDD as they continue to work.

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