Competitive, integrated employment is really the next frontier for people with disabilities, particularly those with autism, multiple disabilities, and intellectual disabilities. Competitive, integrated employment means that people with disabilities earn at least minimum wage and work in the community like everyone else. Competitive, integrated employment also means they have opportunities for benefits and growth like people without disabilities.
However, sometimes it can get discouraging when the data show that the employment rates for people with disabilities are so much lower than they are for people without disabilities. This is especially true for people with autism, multiple disabilities, and intellectual disabilities. I remember being so sad about those numbers when I first found out and really felt like the decked was stacked against us, but I also realized that we were going to need to make sure we utilized all the resources available to us. We talked to education and employment professionals, mentors, and Andy’s peer mentors to make plans and start applying for work.
It’s normal to be disappointed about these data, but there are steps we can take to improve those numbers and make sure that we end up being the success stories. Those low rates mean we need to work together for change!
Here are the top ways families can combat those low employment rates!
- Set expectations high in the beginning for competitive, integrated employment. Talk about the value of work at a young age and throughout the school years. Take our family engagement course to find out more!
- Teach your youth a work ethic through chores and leadership opportunities. Research shows that “having more independence in self-care, higher social skills, more household responsibilities during adolescence” helps improve chances for future work (Carter, 2011).
- Get your youth involved in extracurricular activities that help discover strengths and interests.
- Connect with mentors who are living your dream and share your same vision of the future.
- Help your youth create a vision statement to share a vision of the future based on strengths and interests.
- Make sure your transition plan goals really reflect what your student likes to do and their strengths.
- Make sure your student is as included as possible at school and in the community because those are the friends who will eventually become co-workers, bosses, and employees.
- Know about the resources available to you, like the Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS) and Individualized Transition Services (ITS). Learn more from the KDE Transition Overview Document.
- Connect with the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation as soon as possible in high school to understand what supports and services they can offer.
- Look for paid work experiences in high school. Research shows that having a paid, community-based job while still in high school is one of the best predictors for future employment (Carter, 2011).