Getting Started

For any young job seeker and their families, employment represents the movement to adulthood and a fulfilled, self-directed life. Youth and young adults with disabilities and their families should feel hopeful about employment prospects as well.

Opportunities for employment for persons with all types of disabilities are expanding and success stories show that great things are possible. All you have to do now is get started!

Father And Teenage Son Having Discussion With Female Teacher At High School Parents Evening

This section of the YES! Center website is for job seekers and their families looking for information on what to consider during the employment planning and search process. It provides information and resources on everything from youth learning to be their own best advocate to understanding the impact of Social Security benefits on employment. Families play a crucial role in Systems Change. Learn more about ways you can support your young adult in should feel hopeful about employment prospects. The hope is that most of the main topics are covered, but if something is missing or if you have a specific question, please feel free to contact us directly. Good luck on your employment journey!

The Power of High Expectactions

Historically, people with disabilities have a tougher time finding quality employment than their peers without disabilities. Part of the reason for this is society’s tendency to have low expectations for what people with disabilities can achieve. The good news is that this is changing. However, youth with disabilities and their families still need to have high expectations for employment success and communicate those expectations to educators, employment providers, and employers.

Additional Resources

Promoting High Expectations for Post-School Success by Family Members: A “To Do” List for Professionals
Parent advocates for students with disabilities across the nation were asked for their ideas. The following provides a “to-do” list of 7 strategies and 13 activities special education professionals can use in partnership with families to promote high expectations for post-school success for young adults with disabilities.

High Expectations: A Most Valuable Tool
Highlights the importance of parents having high expectations for their youth and offers strategies for advocating for those expectations.

Holding High Expectations from an Early Age
This article is located within TASH Connections Volume 40 Issue 1 (Pathways to Meaningful Employment for Youth and Young Adults with Significant Disabilities)published in Spring 2014.

TennesseeWorks: Raising Expectations
Contains useful resources that promote high expectations for youth with significant disabilities.

Wilson Family: Holding High Expectations
Youth with disabilities discuss how the decisions to disclose their disabilities have affected them at school, at work, and in social situations. Produced by TennesseeWorks.

Meet Brandon Ziemke
Meet Brandon Ziemke, a college student, employee and young man with an intellectual disability. Brandon talks about overcoming obstacles, the impact of caring adults in his life, and his hopes and dreams for the future.

Know Your Rights

We are fortunate to have civil rights laws in this country that protect people with disabilities from discrimination in a variety of ways and settings, including employment. It is important that job seekers and their families know these protections are in place, who to call with questions, and available options if discrimination is experienced firsthand.

Additional Resources

ADA National Network
Website for national network that provides information, guidance, and training on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Disability Discrimination information from the EEOC
Defines disability discrimination in the workplace and offers resources. Provided by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

PACER Center
Information on disability advocacy, rights, and education written for families. Includes resources on a wide variety of topics, including special education, bullying prevention, and assistive technology.

Your Special Education Rights
Website that seeks to empower parents with the knowledge and understanding they need to advocate for their child’s education through engaging video programs.

Bullying and Disability Harassment in the Workplace: What Youth Should Know
Helps youth with disabilities recognize bullying in the workplace and offers strategies to address the issue.

Laws and Rights section of PACER’s National Parent Center on Transition and Employment
Contains information on the main laws that govern transition planning and employment.

Telling Your Story iPad App
“Telling Your Story” is a tool that persons with disabilities, family members, and other advocates can use to compose and practice the personal story they’ll present to elected public officials or other policymakers at all levels of government when seeking policy changes or increasing awareness about disability issues.

Think College
Contains a variety of useful resources related to postsecondary education opportunities for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

How the IEP Can Help

Many youth with disabilities have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) that helps guide their education and transition to adulthood. The IEP should include the classes a student will take to prepare for education after high school or the type of job they want. It can also help youth plan for transportation, exploring social relationships, and identifying other supports in the community. Job seekers and families should fully harness the power of the IEP and make sure it includes high expectations for employment and specific goals for preparing to get there.

Additional Resources

The IEP as a Living Document
The information within this issue of TASH Connections may reignite the commitment to free appropriate public education by its encouragement of an inclusive community and authentic partnership and programming, rather than mere compliance. There are more than six million students and families who can benefit from this information.

Career Planning

How does a person go about getting their dream job? The process of exploring and preparing for a job in a given field is often called “Career Planning.” Career planning for youth with disabilities involves a few steps, including learning about strengths, interests, and the impact of disability, identifying a few jobs to explore, taking action to learn more about those jobs, and setting a course to build the needed skills to do those jobs. The process is easily built into education planning and helps youth see a path to their employment goals.

Additional Resources

Understanding the New Vision for Career Development: The Role of Family
Introduces families to a new way of looking at career development for youth.

Soft Skills to Pay the Bills – Master Soft Skills for Workplace Success (video series)
Features videos for youth on understanding needed workplace soft skills such as communication, teamwork, and professionalism. Created by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP).

Career Exploration and Skill Development
Features numerous resources to help youth get a sense of their interest and skills as well as gain employment experience and learn about employment opportunities.

Positive Personal Profiles
In this webinar, developed by the Utah School to Work Project, a template to create a positive personal profile for students is shared. The profiles are completed prior to the discover process with the student at school or with input from family members.

Work Experiences are Important

Research confirms that youth with disabilities who have meaningful work experiences in high school are more likely to find success in employment as adults. Work experiences can include paid work (a job), volunteering, or career exploration activities, such as job shadowing or informational interviews. These experiences are an opportunity for a youth to learn more about a job they are interested in and about the skills needed to do that job. Work experiences make for a great goal on the IEP and are something families can help find. The message is clear – helping youth find quality work experiences is crucial for future job success.

Additional Resources

By Youth for Youth: Employment
By Youth, for Youth: Employment was written by youth for youth who want to know more.

A #JobCreators Family Interview – The Perez Family
The Perez Family discusses the powerful impact self-employment has had on their daughter Zofia.

Understanding Volunteering
Describes the benefits of using volunteering as work experiences for youth with disabilities.

Work Early, Work Often (video series)
Highlights the importance of work and work-based experiences, particularly for young adults with disabilities.

Education & Training After High School

Sometimes certain jobs require skills and training that you get by continuing education beyond high school. Youth may also be interested in continuing their education after high school (often referred to as “postsecondary education”) if there is a certain topic they are interested in. Opportunities for youth with disabilities to go to college or training programs are expanding, including programs for youth who traditionally would not have the option. Youth and their families should consider postsecondary education as a way to build skills for work and to build relationships for life in the community.

Additional Resources

Student College Resource Guide
This free practical guide offers user-friendly resources, including hands-on activities that can be easily implemented in the classroom and in the community.

Inclusive Higher Education is Reaping Benefits for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities
This issue brief features the Integrative Community Studies program at University of North Carolina Greensboro. Learn more about this four-year certificate program of study that was founded in 2007.

College Accessibility for Students with Disabilities: Scholarships & Financial Aid

This webpage contains a handy data set meant to help people with disabilities find the financial help that can take them through college to graduation.

Scholarships for Students with Disabilities
This guide focuses on financial aid opportunities and discusses how to take advantage of them.

College Resources for Students with Disabilities
With the advances of adaptive technologies and trend toward progressive legislation, prospective college students with disabilities now have countless resources available to make their transition to postsecondary education less stressful. On this webpage you can find specific information and resources on a variety of different disabilities, learn how to make the transition into the workforce easier, and find out what your legal rights on campus are.

Job Supports in the Community (Who Helps?)

Some job seekers with disabilities may need some extra support preparing for work, finding a job, learning new tasks, or understanding how employment impacts benefits. Luckily, there are a variety of agencies and programs designed to help people with disabilities prepare for, find, and maintain employment.

Additional Resources

Supported Employment
This video highlights supported employment employees who found work positions created at a veterinary clinic with assistance from the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services.

Making a Smooth Transition from High School to Adult Living: Successful Collaboration
This webinar for parents of youth with disabilities explores how to use the concept of collaboration to ensure their son or daughter’s transition to adulthood is as smooth as possible. Presented by PACER.  

Information on the Federal Vocational Rehabilitation Program
Learn how Vocational Rehabilitation (might be named differently in your state) can help you find and maintain employment. Includes contact information for the program in your state. 

Introducing Vocational Rehabilitation Services: Simply Said
This video was made for Minnesota families, but contains info for anybody wanting to know more about how the Vocational Rehabilitation can help transition-age youth.

The Essential Elements of Customized Employment for Universal Application

Fact sheet produced by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP).

Day Training & Supported Employment Programs: Information for Parents of Students with IDD
Provides information to families of youth with disabilities on various program options. 

Day Training and Supported Employment Programs: Information for Parents (Questionnaire Worksheet)
Helpful set of questions parents can ask providers when exploring appropriate programs for the son or daughter.

VCU Work Support (Resources Section)
Features a robust set of fact sheets related to employment for persons with disabilities.

Exploring Self-Employment Opportunities for Persons with Developmental Disabilities
The video describes the value of being self-employed for people with developmental disabilities and their caregivers. It highlights 3 successful businesses and how they got started.

Get the Facts – Decision-Making Supports

How Families Support Finding/Keeping a Job

Families play a vital role in helping their youth with disabilities build skills, explore careers, and succeed in their career. This can include advocating for strong employment goals during the school years, helping to inform education and job support plans, and holding high expectations of their youth and those who work with them that paid, competitive employment is the preferred goal.

Additional Resources

PACER’s National Parent Center on Transition and Employment
Offers parents, youth, and professionals, easy to use information on a variety of transition topics, including employment.

Parent Training and Information Centers
Every state has a Parent Training and Information Center. Use this website to find the one closest to you and to learn more about resources they provide.

Tapping into the Power of Families: How Families of Youth with Disabilities Can Assist in Job Search and Retention
This InfoBrief explores the important role families play in the job search and retention for youth with disabilities.

Helping Youth Develop Soft Skills for Job Success: Tips for Parents and Families
This InfoBrief discusses the importance of soft skills and offers strategies parents and families can use to help their child develop skills for employment success.

Youth and Disability Disclosure: The Role of Families and Advocates
Explores the role families and advocates play in helping youth understand the importance of appropriate disability disclosure.

Get the Facts – Employment First Doesn’t Mean Employment Only

The Impact of Social Security Benefits

Some youth with disabilities may be receiving benefits from Social Security such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and have questions on how working impacts those benefits. There tends to be a lot of misinformation shared about benefits and working, so job seekers and families are strongly encouraged to seek accurate information. Fortunately, many states have trained staff that can help work through what will happen to benefits when a job is found, and advocates who can help youth and families when questions or concerns arise.

Additional Resources

Understanding Supplemental Security Income (Home Page)
SSI website from the Social Security Administration.

Choose Work
Website contains helpful information about the Social Security Administration’s Ticket to Work Program.

Benefits Planning for Youth with Disabilities
The guide helps those assisting youth with disabilities navigate the range of state and federal government programs and benefits for people with disabilities in the United States.

How to Make SSI Work for You: Simply Said
Youth and families can use the information they learn to plan ahead and apply for the benefits and supports they need after high school.