Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Take This Job and Shove It

Do you remember career days from elementary and middle school? I believe in high school similar events are called career fairs. People with all different types of jobs are brought in to share their experiences with the students with the hope of exposing those students to the many options for their employment futures. I think it is a great idea to encourage the students to explore career choices and hopefully find the one(s) that interest them the most. That’s what most adults want for children – happy, fulfilling careers. Unless the child has significant disabilities.

My children with significant disabilities are not included in career days or career fairs. Sure, they have “transition” meetings when they reach their late teens – meetings at which a group of adults discuss what the future holds for the child with disabilities. But even at those meetings, the children are not asked what they would like to do as adults. (Yes, yes, I know IDEA 2004 requires that children participate in their transition meetings and that they be asked what their interests are – but let’s get real. How often does that really happen?).

During the elementary school years, children with significant disabilities begin learning functional skills – that translates into hand washing, toileting, and eating. Along comes middle and high school, and those functional skills begin to include things designed to prepare the child for employment. The problem is the children are not asked along the way what type of employment interests them. They are not exposed to options as are children without disabilities. They are merely taught to sort, collate and assemble things like toothbrush holders. I don’t know about you, but if I had had to spend my entire adult life putting the two ends of toothbrush holders together, “going postal” would take on new meaning.

Would it be so difficult to discuss with the child that has significant disabilities what really interests them? If the child’s communication system is lacking (and yes, I am assuming that the children have some sort of formal communication system BECAUSE IF THE SCHOOL SYSTEM IS DOING THEIR JOB, the children will), how about observing what activities make them the happiest, and then translating that into possible employment opportunities? For example, my Ashley loves plants and flowers. Why not turn that love into a career option by teaching her to care for plants? She could then work in a greenhouse or florist.

Yes, I think the next soapbox onto which I step will involve career choices for people with significant disabilities. I need to work on this before Ashley enters the job force. Otherwise, she will rip up and burn all those papers you had her collate for stuffing into envelopes, or she will tell you just where to stick all those toothbrush holders you have had her assembling.


  1. Hi Deborah,
    Thanks for the post. I've been reading your blog for awhile and enjoy it. Thank you so much for sharing about your lovely family.
    Don't know if you know about this blog: I think you might find it interesting w/ regard to your topic today.
    Take care,

  2. Christa, thanks! I can't get the url you listed to work though...

  3. Sorry! Try this: