July 2016 Newsletter
Getting Ready for Work
By Krisa Winn
Here’s a sobering statistic: In the 2010 FINDS Survey by the ARC, only 15% of those who had a family member with intellectual and developmental disabilities reported them as being gainfully employed. Similarly, the National Core Indicators Study found that only around 18% of those with intellectual and developmental disabilities were employed in paid positions in the community. Of those who were not employed, 46% indicated that they wanted employment.
The encouraging news is that more companies are beginning to recruit individuals with disabilities, particularly those on the autism spectrum. Employers recognize that employees with special needs often have less absenteeism, are often more willing to work at jobs requiring sameness—what others may deem monotonous—and are more likely to stick with the job, resulting in less turnover for the employer.
In light of these trends, the question arises: What actions can you take now, as a homeschool parent, to help your son or daughter beat the odds and prepare for employment?
Recently, I had the privilege of sitting in on a panel that discussed finding employment for students who have disabilities. The panel was comprised of:
I was eager to hear what these experienced professionals had to say, as we get a lot of calls from members who are looking for ways to transition their students from home to more independent living after high school. Although I still don’t have all of the answers, I came away with some helpful tips that I’d like to share with you.
Assess Your Child’s Interests
This is something that we talk about a lot in the homeschool community. Homeschooling offers an opportunity not only to discover but also to nurture your child’s interests, gifts, and passions. One of the best ways to determine your child’s interests is to listen and watch. When I was in the classroom, it was hard to really listen to my students. My attention was often divided, and I seldom had the opportunity to listen in on or have “real conversations” with my students.
The homeschool setting affords these experiences. Slowing down and listening to what my child has to say, instead of assuming that I know what she will say before she even says it, has been revealing. She is still quite young, but even now I have some clues as to what path her future may take.
Another way to assess interests is to look at the things your child is good at doing. Do you have one child who makes the best scrambled eggs ever, or a child who is your go-to person when something is lost because he or she is great at attending to details? These simple strengths may one day open the door for an employment opportunity.
Dianna Waring (of Dianna Waring Presents) takes this idea a step further. She recently posted a video called “Awkward Kids, AMAZING Adults!” In this short video, Dianna talks about the connection between what we do naturally and awkwardly as children—such as talking too much, moving too much, and making messes—and what those same characteristics look like once we’ve grown into them as adults.
Diana wonders if Oprah Winfrey, one of the most successful television hosts of all time, may have “talked too much in class,” or if Mikhail Baryshnikov, the iconic ballet dancer, couldn’t sit still as a child. Is there a persistent characteristic about your child that seems like a negative now? God could be cultivating that into an asset for later in life.
Create the Expectation
Ellen Graham, one of the contributors on the panel I mentioned before, encouraged parents to make the idea of obtaining and keeping a job an ongoing dialog between them and their children. In Ellen’s home, the expectation was that “everyone would have a job.”
You can begin working at this when your child is still very young, in very subtle yet powerful ways. Simply say things like, “Look at you, coming up with a new way to solve that problem! That will be a fantastic skill to have when you get a job one day.” Of course, as the child grows, the conversation will grow as well.
Look for a Fit
Ellen also cautioned parents about steering their children into employment or training opportunities that were fantastic in every way except for one—the prospective employee didn’t like it. The panelists felt that parents often set their children up to fail by trying to make them fit into a role that really “isn’t them.”
Do they have the physical stamina to stay on their feet for several hours as required by a food service industry job? Do they thrive when interacting with others? Perhaps retail is meant for them. Do they enjoy working with their hands and being outdoors? Think landscaping, or building. Do they like predictability? Maybe spreadsheets and data are their bent. The panel’s encouragement was, “Your son and daughter will be more likely to succeed if it’s something they like doing.”
Some Practical Applications
Hear Faith Berens, HSLDA Special Needs Consultant and Andrew Pudewa at the Midwest Struggling Learners Conference, sponsored by Joy Quest and HSLDA, taking place in Indianapolis, IN on August 13, 2016!
For further information and to register, click here.