Parent Corner: Strategies for Supporting Your Adult-Child with Career Exploration & Placement

Kelly Blakeslee MA, CRC is a Vocational Rehabilitation Manager with Upbound at Work. She works to facilitate successful placement while building a positive neurodiverse work environment for both employee and employer.

Dear Parents, 

Whether you’re prepared for it or not, your child will grow up! Their eighteenth birthday rolls around and all of a sudden the government considers them an adult requiring them to take on new responsibilities that come along with this age change. The transition years (14-18) may have been used to develop independent living skills and begin career exploration before they exited high school. While school does their best to prepare our young people for transitioning to the workplace, there are often items overlooked or inevitable last minute changes. This article will focus on post-high school adults with disabilities (18 years old and up), and provide strategies for parents to utilize to facilitate independence with entering the workforce and developing independence with their daily living skills. 

Post-secondary Track: 

Once your young adult turns 18 years old, they’re considered their own legal guardian. They’re required to begin making decisions regarding their medical care, career interests, and personal goals. Should your student decide on college/universities or trade school, they’ll realize that IEPs and 504 plans do not transfer. Accommodations provided at the college/university level will be different than those provided in high school. Students with disabilities are responsible for completing the same course work, assignments, tests, learning objectives, and policies as other students. 

Let’s review some strategies parents can utilize to support their student in a post-secondary setting: 

  • Summary of Performance (SOP): If you received services in High School, request a SOP document from your school administration.
  • Disability service center: Speak with a disability counselor to understand what services are available and what requirements are needed from the student. 
  • Career exploration: Encourage volunteering, shadowing, independent research of career paths (Academic journals, YouTube)
  • Align with State Vocational Rehabilitation (VR): The state VR can support with facilitating career exploration while your student is in school, and guide them to any additional resources. 
  • Internships: Request support through your school with locating an internship site to develop critical skills and experience. Link back up with your state VR if you think on-the-job support would be helpful. 

Work-force ready: 

Whether your adult-child is 18 or 30+ years old, it’s never too late to support them with building confidence, decision making, critical thinking, and independent living skills. Sometimes the career path chosen isn’t appropriate or additional skills need to be developed before proceeding. You’ll play a key role in helping them make informed decisions while empowering independent decision making. 

Let’s review some strategies: 

  • Avoid dominating conversations: Parent input is critical especially when collecting medical history or reviewing IEP documentation. When the conversation turns to career paths and areas of interests, allow the adult to lead these conversations, no matter how slow the dialogue may be! If the adult turns to the parent when asked a question, resist the urge to answer for them. Cue them with either a head nod or hand gesture that they can do this! 
  • Career decisions: Career decisions should ultimately be made by the adult, but parent input can be helpful. Allow the child to explore options by engaging in job shadowing, research, and volunteering to see if it appears to be a good fit.
  • Follow-through: Support your adult with being accountable for follow up on important emails or phone calls. This can be done through phone scripting or proof reading an email.
  • Encourage routine: Having personal routines will support transitioning to a work schedule routine when the time comes. Personal routines can be supported through visual schedules, phone reminders/alarms for appointments (personal or professional), appropriate sleep hygiene, independent medication management, etc. 

The above strategies can be used as building blocks as you and your adult-child learn what works best for them. AAoM’s MiNavigator program can assist parents with locating parent support groups to network with and learn from others’ experiences. Please connect with us for additional information and resources.