We all have hopes and dreams for our children’s futures. What will their interests be as an adult? What kind of work will they find meaningful? These hopes and questions are no different for those of us raising a child with a disability or special health-care needs.
With the right support, there are careers available for people with disabilities. Depending on your child’s disability, it might be hard to imagine them as an adult working or volunteering in the community. However once your child reaches middle school, their Admission, Review, and Dismissal (ARD) team will begin transition planning for adult life. You can even ask to begin this process earlier. These plans and goals should become part of their Individualized Education Program (IEP) moving forward.
It’s never too early to start thinking and asking your child about what they want to do when they grow up. You can help by supporting their interests and giving them chores and jobs to do around the house. Preparing early for what your child will do after high school will help stretch their wings and launch them into adulthood. And, you will have more peace of mind knowing they are better prepared to reach their potential.
Benefits of Work
- Earning their own money gives your young adult more financial independence.
- It increases self-esteem and self-confidence.
- Working expands their social life.
- Having a job enhances personal growth and job skills.
Kinds of Employment for People with Disabilities
- Competitive employment: This is paid work done for a business or other organization that might have workers with and without disabilities. Jobs range from working in an office mailroom or grocery store to working in sales or the high tech field. The pay rate is anywhere from minimum wage to a high-paying salary with benefits, the same a worker without a disability would get.
- Supported employment: a program developed by the federal government in the 1980s that helps people with disabilities find competitive jobs and provides the accommodations and support needed on the job. Supported employment services might include assessments, job searches, paid internships, on-the-job mentoring, and a job search coach. Some organizations that have supported employment programs are the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS), some waiver programs, and some nonprofit organizations (such as Goodwill Industries or Easter Seals).
- Self-employment: Some people like the flexibility of being their own bosses, and this is no different for people with disabilities or special health-care needs. Whether it’s a web design, catering, writing, or housecleaning business, your young adult might enjoy the benefits of being self-employed. The Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities has grants or financial support to help with a variety of job-related services, including starting your own business.
- Volunteer work: Volunteering is a great way to get experience and improve skills that might lead to future employment. There are many places in the community for your young adult to volunteer their time and gain valuable experience while they do it. Churches, hospitals, and nonprofit organizations are often looking for volunteers. VolunteerMatch lists local volunteer opportunities.
Career and Job Tips
- Know your child’s interests and help them think about ways they can gain work or volunteer experience that matches these interests.
- Does your child learn better by seeing things, hearing things, or being very hands-on? Knowing their learning style will help them with career planning and job searches.
- Will your child keep going with their formal education after high school? Continuing education is one way to reach their career goals.
- Besides a diploma, children who receive special education services will also get a Summary of Performance when they graduate from high school. This is a great tool that will help them with their job search and career planning. It should be part of their Individualized Education Program (IEP).
- Make the most of their time in high school and vocational training programs. Part of their transition planning should include learning basic job search skills as they are able – creating a resume, responding to job ads, completing a job application, and answering or asking interview questions. If your child is in a mostly academic or general education program, talk to their guidance counselor or special education teacher to see how to include job skills in their education.
- Help your young adult learn "soft" job skills. These include being able to get along with others, taking direction, asking for help, knowing when to ask for help, being on time, having appropriate hygiene, dressing properly for work, and more.
Job Search Tips From Other Parents
- Create a list of personal contacts that could give your child a job.
- Ask places you do business with about possible job openings.
- Focus on your child’s talents, interests, and abilities when talking to potential employers.
- Connect with other parents to talk about where their children have found jobs they like.
- Talk with your child’s teachers to get ideas.
- Reach out to community or state agencies that can help your child find employment – and start on this early.
Sophie’s Work Story
“I volunteer in the gym at my local community center where I enjoy helping out at the basketball court and playground area. I do a great job and take pride in what I do. The best part of my work is being around people and making new friends.”
Brenna’s Work Story
“I work in a clothing store because I love fashion. I greet customers, fold, and put price tags on clothes, and work as a team member alongside my co-workers. Earning my own money makes me feel more independent and happy. Plus, I’ve made new friends since starting this job over a year ago.”
An Employer’s Viewpoint
“Brenna has a positive, helpful attitude and does everything with a smile. From day one, she has proven to be an asset to my associate team. She helps me prepare the store in the mornings for customers and helps maintain the store’s standards once we’ve opened.”