FIND is a project of ASK Resource Center

Obtaining employment for those with disabilities can be challenging. But with proper supports, education, and utilizing available resources individuals with disabilities are often the most reliable and productive employees. Although Iowa has a relatively low unemployment rate as compared to other states in the nation, the Iowa Workforce and Development estimates that approximately 40% of those with disabilities in Iowa are unemployed. This is unacceptable. Job preparedness and planning is essential while the student is in school. That is one of the the reasons that the "working" component is required to be addressed on the IEP at the age of 14 years old for transition planning. Soft skills are a basic element that is essential to obtaining employment. Skills such as proper behavior and introductions when meeting an employer, filling out applications, interviewing skills and observation of jobs in the community are just a few of the skills that are the basic skills that are needed.

When my daughter turned 14 years old she began volunteering. She volunteered at a daycare as well as a nursing home. A respite worker would accompany her which provided support for her to learn the responsibilities required and gave the business confidence that my daughter would have the support needed to help her be successful. At this same time she also began working one hour a week with a job developer to enhance those soft skills that the school was also working on. She also did a short internship that was a semester long that was a partnership between a community agency and the school. She worked at a drug store and sorted products to remove those that had expired. We found out that this is something that she did NOT want to do! However, the experience was still valuable in helping her to learn the responsibilities and expectations of an employee in a work environment. In her later years of high school she began working at a yogurt shop. Being the parent of a child with a disability, it is essential that the entire team works together; parents, school and outside community agencies. I began exploring my social contacts and circle of friends, through which I made a connection of the manager of the yogurt shop and offered a job to my daughter.

Begin exploring your network of social contacts and friendships to think of a connection where your child might begin volunteering or perhaps secure employment. Work with the school and community agencies to get your child the support to help them be successful.

Below are links to the ASK resource site which takes you to other website links, as well as the Transition guide from the Parent Educator Connection which provides some great resources and information as you begin this process. At the bottom is a you tube link for a man who owns his own restaurant, called "Tim's Place." It is so inspiring and is a must see!!!


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Comment by Joanna Schroeder on July 1, 2014 at 10:52am

The story about Tim is awesome. I wish more stories like this were featured in mainstream media and in social media networks. Each of these successes will help people stop defining a person by his or her disability and begin defining them as who they are as a person - funny, hardworking, creative, etc. I wrote about this in Disability is Not Who I am post. But in addition to the sources from ASK above, the Department of Education has a series of career planning and employment training tools that are a good start for an individual who hasn't found his or her passion yet.

Comment by Matt Bockert on June 30, 2014 at 11:48pm
You're right about disabled people often making good employees. In one of my blog posts, I mentioned a young woman with Down's syndrome who worked at a nearby McDonald's when I was a kid. She treated customers like they were in a fancy restaurant, even holding our coats open for us when we got up to leave. It's also good to start early like you said. My brother volunteered at the library in his teens, and started working at the Iowa Cubs during the summer too.

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