As meaningful work continues to be highly sought after by almost everyone in the 21st century workforce, few career paths can rival the sense of success available to those working with those with special needs. In fact, in a recent study, 9 out of 10 people admitted that they would trade money for a position that always offered them meaning, be it in the form of personal or professional growth opportunities, the chance to do work that betters the lives of others, or simply having a clear sense of purpose within the company.

It’s true that working with adults with special needs can be trying at times, but when progress is made, the sense of accomplishment it affords is monumental. Because progress happens at such a basic human level, when an adult with a disability holds eye contact, smiles, gets a joke, or secures a job for the first time, it’s an opportunity for the people working with him or her to literally see and experience the difference they’re making—not just in their lives, but in the lives of their friends and family as well.

For those of us at Shining Star, the individuals we work with make every day fulfilling and we know our work is making a positive impact and helping each person to grow, gain skills, and work towards independence. We are able to see the ways our work directly impacts each person—implementing successful routines and behaviors can make a world of difference. Our work makes us better people personally and professionally. We become more outgoing advocates, and mentally and physically stronger, which translates into other areas of our lives.

Like any job, working with individuals with special needs brings with it a host of unique challenges and opportunities. It’s never easy to experience someone exhibiting challenging or self-injurious behaviors, but this is what those of us who work with those with special needs signed up to do. Remembering that everything we do serves a greater purpose helps us see the bigger picture, and watching someone make even one inch of progress makes it all worthwhile.

Above everything, serving a population that many people don’t understand—those with developmental disabilities—enables us to see the world through a different set of eyes. We understand that every person and every family is walking a different journey and we all need to open our minds and our hearts to people of all abilities. Our job is so much more than just a job. It allows us to be a part of something bigger than ourselves and swell with pride as a person we serve, along with their family and community, grow and improve. There’s no better feeling than that.