By Jamie Leboe, Career Coach
For youth with special needs and their families, preparing for the transition from school to “the real world” can be a scary time. But, with proper guidance, it can be much less daunting. In Maryland we have an abundance of services available, the key is knowing where to find them. There are some good planning guides online, e.g. www.mdtransition.org, www.marylandpublicschools.org (Transition Planning Guide), and www.marylandlearninglinks.org, among others.
While online resources are valuable, nothing compares to talking to a “real live person.” So ASK QUESTIONS! Ask questions at your child’s IEP meetings if he/she has one through a public school system. If your child attends a private school, talk to the transition counselor or school counselor. Be as informed as possible.
Here’s a plan for other things you should know and do:
- 14 is the magic age when the transitioning process begins. However, I suggest that you start talking with people who are knowledgeable about the process earlier if you feel ready. Talk to teachers, school counselors, transition coordinators, principals, assistant principals, and other parents who’ve “been there.”
- Apply for support services with the Division of Rehabilitation Services (DORS). DORS provides short-term services to help your child get ready to enter the world of work, find a job, and transition into the job. Since long-term services are going to be a wonderful resource going forward, also apply now for support from the Developmental Disabilities Association (DDA). DDA services continue on to help your child after the DORS services have ended. Both of these applications are available online at dors.maryland.gov and dda.dhmh.maryland.gov, or school staff may be able to help you complete them. If your child is found ineligible for either of these services, there are advocates available to help your family find alternative DON’T GIVE UP! Keeping asking until you find resources. They’re out there.
- Ask your child’s DORS Counselor about career assessment. A career assessment is a great first step to create a career plan. The results can help drive decision making for short and long-term career goals.
- Call a team meeting. Once the career assessment is complete discuss the results with the DORS Counselor and see how the plan can be worked into the school curriculum. Ask if your family can have a team meeting with your child’s DORS Counselor and school staff to set up a plan for how to put the assessments recommendations into place.
- Explore a variety of jobs. Getting involved in work-study or internship opportunities is a good way to have multiple experiences in real work settings. Real work experience is the best way to figure out which tasks your child enjoys or doesn’t enjoy, what settings are comfortable, whether he/she prefers to work in the background or with the public, if he/she enjoys working with their hands with tools or using a computer, etc…
- Consider job shadowing. Job shadowing is another really good way to get real feel for what a job is like. Use any resources that you have. Think of where family or friends work, and ask if your child can spend a little time at their job. Volunteering is also, a really good way to gain transferable skills, increase confidence in a job, and build contacts. At JCS we have relationships with many employers in the community and can work with your child to set-up job shadowing.
Working with good providers is key in your child’s transition from school-to-work. Caring people who know the system can help you and your family to navigate this seemingly complicated process. Start early, take the process slowly, do one thing at a time, and the process will come together. Your child will find a job that he/she enjoys and feels good about.
By Jamie Leboe, Career Coach, JCS Career Center
The JCS Career Center offers comprehensive employment assistance that helps job seekers of all abilities and skill levels find and maintain employment. Services include career coaching, career assessments, resume and cover letter services, interview preparation, job readiness training, vocational rehabilitation and job placement assistance.