Volunteering in the community

The goal of participation leads to volunteering at various jobs in the community. Everyone wants to make a contribution and have fun, these same skills give life meaning and purpose. That volunteering begins with participation as a child.

What chores and responsibilities does your child have: i.e. noticing small details others may miss, requesting help to go with someone, taking out the trash, sorting the light and dark clothes, bringing in the mail, answering the phone? What kinds of performances with others in the community enrich lives: i.e. joy in music making crafts, singing, playing, listening to stories, creating and telling stories; enjoying paintings, being other friends.

Volunteering is a way of making a contribution and working for the common good. This conversation may lead the volunteer coordinator to make reasonable accommodations, i.e. have a phone beside the employee so answering does not involve walking to a certain location, have a speech-generating device mounted on a wheelchair so volunteer can ask, comment, negotiate a final product, have a picture available to look at to offer help.

We as parents have no intentions of insisting on children finding a job, we just know though that those who had complex communication profiles do contribute. We want to celebrate these gifts and extend the joy in accomplishing a task well done.

Interesting one of the first requests we had to speak about our book was to a community group that was seeking to match volunteer coordinators with volunteers who happened to have complex communication profiles.

Volunteer Coordinator Expectations___________________________________________  

That started our thinking about how a volunteer coordinator might plan so work could be done as efficiently and pleasantly as possible for all. Take into account the actual physical setting, the steps to success, thinking skills (sequencing, ordering).

Social interaction and greetings

1. How would volunteers greet others at the beginning and end of the day?  

2. What words such as “please, thank you, you’re welcome, no thanks” would help volunteers at work?

3. What would be a manageable sequence a volunteer might follow in a day?

4. What are the visual props and sounds that matter to the volunteer? i.e. how is the room arranged, what sounds are in the background?



5. How does the volunteer see the task that is to be accomplished?

6. How would the task be broken into manageable pieces?

7. Where was the beginning and where the end of a job for the volunteer?

8. What communication would the volunteer need to do a task?



9. What support does each volunteer need to work at their best? physically, mentally, emotionally

10. Who else would show the volunteer what to do?

11. What coaching does need this volunteer need to work as independently as possible? i.e. another employee or caregiver.

12. What accommodations would the volunteer need that would enhance the overall result?

13. How will the volunteer demonstrate success? i.e. wages, work totals, special awards, praise.


Now let’s look with our volunteers who are children with complex communication profiles at what communication they might be wanting to use when they volunteer.

Identifying Volunteer Expectations                                                                                            

Social interaction and greetings

1. I usually greet people and say bye when I leave by______________.

2. When I usually ask, I say ________(Please, smile, look at them).  When someone helps me, I say______  ( thank you, smile).

3. I show I am interested in ________(topics, interests, action) by __________(looking at the choices, saying the word, demonstrate the action).

4. I consider myself good at communication when I  _______ (use steady eye contact; follow one-step directions;  standing next to the person I want to help).

5. I show I am ready to do a task by _____________(going to location to do a job, wait for someone to show me) 


6. I use these gestures to tell about my feelings_________(i.e.cry when sad, laugh when happy, raise an eyebrow to ask a question) 

7. I show what I have seen and heard by ____________(i.e. repeating the sounds/words, follow the sequence)

8. I explain an activity by ___________(acting it out, spelling out the key words) 

9. I use my speech generating devices, communication boards, visual schedule easily___ sometimes___never

10. I write with _______(pencil, pen, marker) or type with ______(computer, keyboard. alphabet board) 

11. I know I sometimes say words I do not want to say? How would someone help me say the words I want to? (write them for me to read, wait for me to get to the right display on my speech generating device; guess)

12. When I want to do things right, I would say_________(please say and write me a message, tell me one direction at a time, give me a choice to answer your question, show me a picture of what finished looks like, tell me what I am doing right, give me a way to do differently, just say thanks for your help)

Wants and needs

13. I like to put together my materials__________( i.e. heap up, boxes, bags) 

14. What lights help me work best__________(soft lights, bright lights, no shadows)

15. I prefer the temperatures where i am working to be __________(warm, moderate, cold)

16. Loud noise level drives me ___________(angry, happy, focused). I prefer ______(tv, music, voices in background)

17. I expect safety measures to be in place________(exit signs, light switches obvious) and have medical needs     that help me work well_____________ (water to swallow pills, time to rest).

18. I show I am frustrated or bored doing my job by ____________(stopping, complaining, need encouragement to continue) 

Sharing information

19. __________(parent, friend, coach) helps me make the most of what I want to say.

20. I usually enjoy working on a job for _____________(5, 15, 30, 60 minutes) 

21. When I help make things work well, I show my feeling of respect, interest, focus, empathy, and joy by ________________(smiling, humming, giving a high five)

22. I just my reading best _________(picture books, chapter books, magazines, illustrated books)  

23. I like to do math problems that involve ___________(adding/subtracting unto 20, 100; multiply and divide, geometry problems) 


24. I like to sit to work (with my own chair, prefer standing, need to walk around) 

25. I need to take breaks every ____________(hour, 10 minutes, lunch break) 

26. I move best from one place to the next by_________ (independently, with physical help, with written instructions)


Nine easy steps to use this information to support both volunteer and volunteer coordinator.

Now is the satisfying part as you discover, decide, prioritize, and evaluate interaction with volunteer and volunteer coordinator

1. Complete the survey (both volunteer coordinator and volunteer).

2. Discover where the volunteer’s skills match that of the volunteer coordinator in social interaction, communication, wants and needs, sharing information, and making accommodations.

3. Select and describe areas where they work together best.

4. Decide tasks that would need further help.

5. Prioritize those areas that are most essential.

6. Set goals for volunteer and volunteer coordinator to meet short term goals first, and then long term goals.

7. Enlist others to support volunteer as coach or partner in doing the task.

8. Plan for evaluation on these tasks within a month, 3 months, and finally 6 month by coach, partner, and volunteer.

9. Choose a way to celebrate achieving these goals.