Competitive employment simply means the way most Americans work—we are hired, supervised and paid by employers to work in businesses and organizations along with others. Our skills and talents benefit the organization, so it’s a win/win for all. We make friends at work and become part of a community. This, of course, is what we want for our young adults as well.
To get there, young adults with disabilities may need help from employment specialists, who essentially help them market their skills to potential employers. Depending on their clients’ needs, employment specialists can do a lot to help them get them ready for the actual interview—polish resumes, practice interviewing and research the employer.
But competitive jobs can also be found through what is called customized employment. This means creating jobs that fit both the employers’ needs and clients’ strengths and needs. This can involve carving, or creating, a job out of a larger job, self-employment and business ownership. To be considered competitive, the job must pay minimum wage or higher, be in an integrated work setting (a business or organization where people with disabilities work alongside those without disabilities), and meet the needs of the business.
Supported employment provides a job coach (assistant) to employees with severe disability during training and early employment.Supported employment can also provide assistance such as job coaches, transportation, assistive technology, specialized job training and individualized supervision.
For many with disabilities and health problems, self-employment is the best option. As a small business owner, your young adult can still receive Social Security Administration benefits if they are needed as well as health care coverage. Self-employment is the only way people receiving federal benefits can build any kind of savings that doesn’t put at risk their Social Security status. Through self-employment, people are able to do meaningful work, manage their health care needs more effectively and create a place for themselves in their town or county’s business community. If the business is home-based, which many are, it cuts down on the need for regular transportation.
The Kansas Council on Developmental Disabilities is piloting a self-employment project with the Kansas Small Business Development Centers and Griffin-Hammis, LLC. The project will help establish the kind of assistance small business owners with disabilities need to start and operate their business.
Most jobs require on-the-job training for new employees as well as ongoing training for everyone. For people with disabilities, that training might be with an employment specialist or job coach as well as with other employees.
Whatever the case, this training is an important part of the new job and your young adult will need to master it to be successful at work. If they live at home, you may want to talk with them about what they are learning on the job and have them demonstrate that as a way to reinforce the skills. It would also help for your young adult to have a mentor, someone – other than you – they can talk with and learn from, especially while learning a new job. Select a mentor who has similar interests as your son or daughter, because those interests, whether they’re scientific, musical, or media related, will be a big draw for them.