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Performance Management

Learning Benefits Parents of Special Needs Kids

Education programs offered as an added benefit can enhance productivity and boost employee retention.

Employers are offering more and more when it comes to benefits, perks and wellness programs in the quest to keep employees engaged, healthy and productive. The question is if CLOs can play a role.

Mike Civello thinks they can.

“The CLO is going to play a critical part in helping organizations better adapt to a continuously diversifying workplace and population,” said Civello, vice president of employee benefits at Rethink Benefits.

Civello’s company, Rethink Benefits, teams up with employers to provide parents in their workforce with resources to help care for children with autism or other developmental disabilities.

The program provides parents with 1,500 short informational videos — most between 2-6 minutes long — on a variety of topics with the goal of teaching parents, grandparents or caregivers how to teach critical skills to a child with a developmental disability.

Learning as an Added Benefit

Intuit, a California-based financial technology company, started using the program after interviews with employees with special needs children proved there was a demand for more support.

“We know that supporting physical, mental and emotional wellness matters are vital in order for employees to do their best work,” said Hannah Dixon, benefits analyst at Intuit. “Programs like this contribute to employees truly achieving their greatest performance in the workplace.” She said the program has been well received with almost 200 employees now using it.

Civello said the videos teach skills needed to work with children who have special needs and how to teach things children without disabilities learn more organically. For example, a video could teach a parent how to teach a child to make eye contact when prompted.

“The video content is broken down into short, digestible steps,” Civello said. “They are instructional videos, not educational tutorials or talking heads.”

Dixon said the videos use real children with learning disabilities to visually show how to build skills. “They are relatable, use language that is easy to understand and provide an additional resource for parents and family members,” she said.

Parents who use Rethink through their employer are also connected with a therapist who serves as that parent’s coach and is available 24/7.

“We can help parents with a lot of the things they typically struggle with and lose a lot of work time,” Civello said. “Parents aren’t trained physicians yet they have to navigate an incredibly complex situation and we help them achieve that which helps the organization overall and employee productivity.”

The CLO Role?

Programs like this don’t currently play a role within Intuit’s overall learning and development program but that might change, Dixon said.

“Given the personalized, individual choice made by the employee, we do see a potential to partner and integrate some of the wellness offerings more directly into internal leadership development,” Dixon said.

More than 50 percent of working moms who have children with autism cut back their hours or leave the workforce altogether if they are in a two-parent household, Civello said.

“The CLO or CHRO really needs to look at all programs, not just health and benefits programs, to make sure the environment and the social construct is supportive,” said Civello, adding that employee resource groups and affinity groups can also help.

At Intuit, Dixon said development and the learning opportunities enhance the workplace and help drive employee retention.

“Although Rethink is a program that is used outside of work by the parent, it nevertheless aims to develop the parent into a more effective caregiver,” Dixon said. “As the line between work and home can be very blurred, CLOs are likely to appreciate the development and learning Rethink brings to the table.”

Ave Rio is associate editor at Chief Learning Officer magazine. She can be reached at editor@CLOmedia.com.