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Customized Employment

posted on June 20, 2015

Entrust is committed to contributing to the well-being of Alberta by focusing on employment.  Employment is the key to breaking down social barriers that many Albertans with disabilities face.  The workplace is the most social aspect in most people’s lives.  This is where people are able to feel pride and a sense of accomplishment by doing jobs that are just for them.  This is where people have the opportunity to collaborate with others to achieve higher goals and learn to perform more complex tasks.  There is often great comfort simply in working in close proximity to other adult human beings, in belonging.

Now, imagine waking up one morning and going to work to find that your desk has been moved.  You find out, in fact, that your company doesn’t need you anymore, at all.  Regardless of how much you liked or disliked your job, you would feel hurt.  But, not just in the way you might think.

The research team of Matthew Lieberman and Naomi Eisenberger conducted an experiment which involved laying a person in an MRI machine, then having them watch a simple cartoon.  In the cartoon, two sketched figures are throwing a ball to each other.  Also in the cartoon is a depiction of a hand that represents and is controlled by the person watching.  The two characters throw the ball back and forth to each other, as well as to the ‘hand’ of the person watching the cartoon, who is then able to throw the ball back to either character.  This goes on for a while, then eventually, the cartoon figures stop throwing the ball to the person watching.  They effectively reject the person from the game, completely.

What the researchers found was incredible.  The MRI results of the person watching the video, the person who was rejected from the game, showed that the same part of the brain that reacts to physical pain was stimulated when the characters stopped throwing the ball to their hand.  Furthermore, Lieberman and Eisenberger discovered that the more the subject talked about feeling bad about being excluded, the greater activity there was in the pain center of their brain.

This experiment teaches us that social pain is real.  It hurts people in the same way and with the same intensity as physical pain.  The need for social connection is essential and elemental to a person’s well-being.  In fact, Lieberman asserts that the need for social interaction is even more basic than the needs for food, water and shelter.

The exclusion of Albertans with disabilities from the workplace causes pain.  And Entrust wants to help eliminate that pain.  The Framework for Life program incorporates a design to help individuals with disabilities to gain meaningful employment in Alberta businesses by using strategies that educators have used for decades to maximize a person’s learning potential.  Task analysis and scaffolding are two of the strategies that are used.  Task analysis is a process whereby everyday tasks are broken down into smaller activities, making an entire process or procedure easier to remember and therefore duplicate.  Scaffolding is the idea of supporting an individual very closely at the beginning of a new assignment, then gradually phasing the assistance out as the individual becomes more independent.

Once steady employment is a part of a Albertan’s with disabilities life, all of the other aspects that Framework for Life focuses on are more easily successful, providing a full, well-rounded way of being for that individual within society and within themselves.  What Entrust needs to make this endeavour successful, however, is employers.  We are seeking employers who recognize that inclusive and diverse workplaces are good for business.  We are asking for referrals to Human Resources professionals and hiring authorities in Alberta who are willing to work with Framework for Life to implement a simple and cost-effective employment solution.  We are looking for people who will throw the ball back.

Check out Matthew Lieberman’s TEDx talk about the social brain.

- Tilton Reed, CEO