Ollie & Cameron test out jobs for WorkFit programme

The mother of identical twin boys with Down’s syndrome hopes their starring role in a national film about employment will change people’s outdated attitudes.

The film, made by the Down’s Syndrome Association for its employment programme WorkFit, sees Elaine Scougal’s six-year-old boys Ollie and Cameron ‘testing out’ jobs at the fire service, a café, hairdressers and supermarket.

WorkFit promotes the message that children with Down’s syndrome should grow up expecting to be employed and spoken to about what they might like to do from an early age by parents, teachers and others.

The programme brings together employers and jobseekers who have Down’s syndrome, and is a tailored service dedicated to training employers about the learning profile of people with Down’s syndrome so that they can be supported in the workplace.

“I hope that the film helps employers to think about people with Down’s syndrome as potential employees, people with hopes, dreams and ability,” Scougal said. “I also hope that it encourages parents to talk about employment opportunities with their children so that they have a presumption of seeking employment when the time comes.

“I think there are lot of outdated perceptions out there about Down’s syndrome, and learning disabilities in general are a barrier to people getting jobs. There’s an assumption by many that people with Down’s syndrome don’t have the competence or ability to work and that a voluntary role is more suitable if anything.

“It’s about creating the ethos of seeing each employee as an individual, not as a condition or disability, and evaluating how their individual needs can be met within any employment context. That takes an open mind, but I believe, slowly, more minds are opening to employing people with disabilities and tailoring training to meet needs.” 

WorkFit employment and development manager Alison Thwaite added: “The film aims to promote a ‘presumption of employment’, where children who have Down’s syndrome grow up expecting to be employed and are spoken to about what they might like to do from an early age. They can then incorporate their career goals into their education and, when they’re ready to transition to employment, come to WorkFit with ideas of what they would like to do. We also hope the film encourages more potential employers to consider signing up to WorkFit. All of our support is free of charge and without obligation and continues as long as the person who has Down’s syndrome is employed.”

The twins have become internet sensations since Scougal set up a Facebook page when they were just weeks old. It now has more than 200,000 followers, who enjoy watching videos of the boys and reading about their latest updates.

Explaining why she set up the page, Scougal said: “After a few weeks of hearing some stereotyped views and pitying reactions to Cam and Ollie’s diagnosis after birth, we decided we wanted to spread the word that our children were children, not defined by their chromosome counts. We set up the Facebook page and it took off so quickly, I think due to identical twins with Down’s syndrome being quite rare, occurring at a rate of about one or two in a million births.

“We get messages regularly stating that the page has opened [people’s] eyes about Down’s syndrome in terms of rebutting stereotypes they might have held. Some people also comment that they were very aware that the boys had Down’s syndrome when they first started following but now they’ve forgotten. 

“That’s a big thing – that the diagnosis just fades into the background and people just see them for who they are, Ollie and Cam. That’s what we hoped for.”

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