I attended a webinar by Transcen.org Directors Sean Roy and Sara Murphy, who spoke about employment for young adults with disabilities.
According to Transcen's website,
"[Transcen's] work is driven by the belief that employment and active community participation are attainable for all individuals, regardless of disability or other perceived barriers to employment."
The most important point that they both wanted to emphasize was that parents of youth with disabilities should have "high expectations."
But how does a parent reframe their expectations? Reframing how you view your child's future career depends on the following core concepts, according to Roy:
- Everyone can work
- Work looks differently for everybody
- Employment should be rooted in what your family member wants to do
Seeing Your Family Member in a Different Way
Parents should hold high expectations for their child. Roy says, "People with disabilities can achieve the same life or choices as anyone else!"
Low expectations come from society's perceptions and parents' misconceptions. Don't let other people dissuade you from having high expectations for your child!
Roy says that there is a critical "balancing act" between "needing supports and advocating for high expectations." This "balancing act" is achieved through patience. Milestones are often achieved at a slower pace than neurotypical youth, and that is perfectly fine.
Altering how you view success is also important. Roy mentions that "success in employment is ongoing and will look different for everyone." It can be based upon measuring the hours worked, tasks completed, and tolerance for the job.
A Young Adult's Greatest Skills or Attributes
Young adults can itemize what they deem to be their greatest skills or attributes.
Roy mentioned a couple of useful tools to aid in developing a list of skills or attributes:
- Creating a positive personal profile. This is where you or the young adult can inventory all of the things that they "bring to the table." High schools often provide job or career matches that students can complete.
- Building a vision statement. This statement should be fluid, as the youth gains work experience.
Roy recommends KentuckyWorks' Brighter Futures Vision Statement because you can create a resume directly from the statement. It also provides a guide for parents to see how they can help.
The Power of High School Work Experiences
Work experiences may include volunteering, interning, or a paid entry-level job. Parents can aid by providing open doors through their own networks.
A key skill for any worker is being responsible. Here are some ways for parents to help their child to develop this important skill:
- School work
- Soft skills (hygiene, taking direction, dressing appropriately)
Roy cautions parents that they should allow their young adult to take risks, in terms of experiencing failure. He says, "the goal is to have given a good effort."
Roy recommends increasing community involvement for young adults with disabilities outside of the school or home. Joining one or more of the following groups, based upon interest, will develop network opportunities:
- video gaming groups
- gardening clubs
High school is a perfect time to start having the young adult focus their school programs on employment preparation. Here are some items to focus upon:
- Skills for work included as goals on your child's Individualized Education Plan
- Career exploration
- Developing functional and soft skills
- Work experience
Having concerns about your child's vulnerability, safety, and ability is normal. However, parents should have high expectations for their young adult and help them to create a vision statement. Roy encourages "celebrating and cultivating strengths and interests. Recognize challenges and address them" as they occur. In order to develop those high expectations, cultivate the information and support that you need in your community!