By Julie Coulter
Many students with special needs may have trouble seeing themselves as employees or understanding an employer's expectations of an employee. Students with special needs can learn how to work effectively and can succeed in the workplace.
During high school, special needs students need to learn about the work world and see the many types of employment opportunities open to them. High school counselors and case managers can assist these students by arranging presentations to students by employers, transition agencies, and employees so that students can learn about the various types of jobs in their geographic area. School administrators can assist high school students to find work through transition programs or in after school employment. For example, North Hunterdon High School in Annandale, NJ, has a career development program, which allows students to work in six or eight different jobs during the school year. This program helps them to try and find a job that fits their skill set and which they enjoy.
Parents of students with special needs can make sure that their student's Individual Education Plan addresses appropriate steps to transition from high school to post-secondary education or the employment community. The goals of the student's academic courses and after school activities should include learning how to function in settings outside of school, how to advocate for themselves, how to ask for assistance, personal money management, and communication skills. Parents need to make sure that their student is involved in the transition planning process as an active participant rather than a passive observer.
Parents and educators can help the student with special needs learn to discuss their strengths and special needs with employers. If the person with special needs will need accommodation in the workplace, the person needs to decide when to tell the employer. If the new employee does not disclose his or her need for accommodation during the interview process, or soon after employment begins, the employer is not required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to meet those needs.
Working in a job, receiving a paycheck, and learning how to manage money are all experiences that really help a person with special needs function in the world and feel a part of the community. While the rate of unemployment among people with special needs is very high, with community support, employer assistance, parental guidance and educational training, students with special needs can find a place in the work world and make a contribution to the community.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Julie Coulter and her husband, Dan, produce videos that support people with Asperger Syndrome and autism. You can find more articles on their website at:www.coultervideo.com.
Copyright Coulter Video 2004 Used by Permission All Rights Reserved