For an individual to have a good experience in the world of work, the amount and type of preparation that leads up to employment can make the difference between success and failure. Some students with learning disabilities decide to pursue employment immediately after high school. The changing nature of the job market is making employment more difficult to obtain without specific skills.

Steps to help a young person prepare for entering the workforce are:
  1. Consult as early as possible with a school counsellor about interests, goals, training needs and reasons for choosing to go to work.
  2. Develop self-advocacy skills, knowledge of learning strengths and weaknesses and how the learning disability can affect job performance
  3. Understand type of accommodations needed
  4. Visit a number of job sites, and/ or arrange for job shadowing
  5. To help establish a work record and possible references, find summer volunteer or paid opportunities during the student’s senior years of high school.
Other transition issues to be considered should involve independent living skills, managing money, transportation arrangements, interpersonal and communications skills and time management. Since inappropriate social skills and poor time management are often unmentioned causes for the loss of a job, it is important to address these issues with the student.

Transitioning from college to work is a process. Choosing a major or a career is a difficult task. A student can seek help with this process by:
  1. Meeting with the disability service provider and academic adviser to discuss how their learning disability might be an issue in the work setting of their chosen field.
  2. Investigating whether the student’s school has any job shadowing, co-op or mentoring programs.
  3. Looking for opportunities to gain work experience through campus leadership opportunities, student government, work-study position on campus, internships or summer jobs
Students strengthen the likelihood of successful, satisfying employment by developing their basic skills and learning strategies. They must take advantage of reading and writing laboratories or any other academic resources to enhance their skills. One of the most important areas to develop is an understanding of available technologies. Many facets of the employment world rely on technology. The new technologies also offer many advances that can be useful accommodations for individuals with learning disabilities.

Research has shown that an important variable in relation to job satisfaction and career choices is a clear understanding of one’s learning disability and how it impacts on day to day work performance and activities. Whether the student is a high school graduate or post-secondary education graduate, the student must begin this process early and transfer their knowledge of their learning disability into the world of employment. Students should consider the following:
  1. What are the essential functions of the job?
  2. What is the impact of my learning disability(ies) on those job functions?
  3. What are possible accommodations that will be effective to perform the essential functions of the job?
  4. Does the job ‘match’ or ‘fit’ with my abilities?
  5. How, to whom or when does one disclose a learning disability?
  6. What kinds of social demands and interactions are needed on the job?
It is important to match job functions with individual strengths and weaknesses to identify specific accommodations that will enhance job performance.

Every company or organization has its own unique culture. The culture consists of company rules, values and politics, which are widely held but often unspoken.
  1. Observe your co-workers
  2. Know what is expected of you
  3. Observe how others dress, communicate and interact.
Getting ready for the world of work also means becoming familiar with the laws that govern employment and to have a clear understanding of employers’ obligations to provide reasonable accommodations. It also means that accommodation is a shared process. Employees have a responsibility to ensure that they are part of the solution. Once the employee discloses the learning disability to the employer and provides details of what would be an appropriate accommodation in the particular job, then the employee must continue to cooperate with the employer to ensure appropriate change. Clear communication with the employer is one of the basic steps needed in successfully implementing accommodations. Remember, there is no set formula for accommodation – each person has unique needs.

To have a successful employment transition, it is important to identify and tap into your own support system by seeking the support of family, loved ones, friends and co-workers.

Whether it’s a high school student or a post-secondary student going into the world of work after graduation, or an individual making a career move, fear of the unknown is a natural emotion. For many, who are unprepared for this transition, extreme anxieties can interfere with employment satisfaction and success. Being well prepared is key to allaying fears and preparing to enter the workplace with self-confidence, anticipation and enthusiasm.

Adapted with permission from:
LDA of America – Fact Sheet ‘Transitioning from College to Work’ and the Roadmap On Learning Disabilities for Employers, Learning Disabilities Association of Canada
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