Samarpan always wanted a job. He wanted to travel to work, get paid, and work just like any other young person his age. However, studying in a special school, he was constantly protected, and taught skills in “pretend situations,” so for him, real work had not been a real consideration. And then came the introduction to SRV. A personal futures plan was developed alongside Samarpan, in which he expressed his desire to work at a real job. At the same time, the organization that supports Samarpan, Ashish Centre, was exploring SRV implementation, and had learned about some important aspects of skills teaching relating to helping learners develop real skills.

Soon, Ashish Centre was approached by a company who said they wanted to hire people with disabilities for e-commerce operation. They were excited about guiding Ashish to develop a special area in their building that looked just like their materials handling room, so that Samarpan and others could “train up,” and when they were ready, move into the real work setting and the real job. Sounds great, right? Except that SRV had taught us differently, and we gently negotiated on this point, and asked that Samarpan and any others interested in applying learn and train on the job, in the real workplace. So, Samarpan went to his new place of work, and learned the skills he needed for his job, on the job.

His supervisors were very helpful and Samarpan learned about his job, on the job, from his peers and supervisors. There was no transfer of skills required from one setting to another and he stepped into the valued role of staff in a manner which was similar to any person in a new job. Now the Ashish Centre has assisted several other people with autism to work with the company, with two of them already promoted to supervisory positions. As firm believers of ‘pedagogical verisimilitude,’ Ashish has moved away from creating pretend situations. They learn the skills they need in local businesses and restaurants, using real public transportation to navigate in the society by being in society.

As a professional working with those with disabilities, I often come across situations where schools create ‘mock’ situations to teach skills to people with disabilities. We might find pretend shops, pretend workplaces, and even pretend restaurants located in the school itself. Social Role Valorization approaches the idea of competency enhancement with a developmental approach, and one aspect is that people learn best when they are taught in the environment where the behavior is expected to be carried out. In fact, when one learns in the “fake” environments, one is simply less likely to generalize successfully. Dr Wolfensberger coined the term “pedagogic verisimilitude,” meaning that teaching is most likely to be successful when the tasks are real, not fake “mock-ups,” and when they are taught in the natural, real environment. Simply speaking, it means teaching skills in an environment which is as close to the natural situation as possible, and using real materials, not representational ones.

For Samarpan, as well as many stakeholders in the process of trying to use SRV, it was a timely connection of the right idea…. coming at the right time…. with the right people listening.