Life after School Ends
Life after School Ends tips to promote future employment
How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December before it’s June. My goodness, how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?” – Dr. Seuss
Once kids begin school, the years after kindergarten seem to pass so swiftly that before we know it, we’re sitting at graduation. Then what? If you are not planning on higher education, it’s time to start planning for employment options. Thankfully, most schools have done a lot to help prepare for a transition from high school toward the next move. Competitive and meaningful employment is often seen as the most important outcome for our loved ones once school ends. For many of us, advocating for our child seems like a responsibility that will never end, and that can be daunting. However, as our children age toward adulthood, there are disability support coordinators who can help us navigate this journey.
Most families hope that there will be a meaningful job for their young adult after graduation and government policies have been created to encourage and support employment of adults with disabilities. In continuing our series on using research to guide decision making, we checked out a study by researchers who used a kind of artificial intelligence called machine learning to examine the most important elements in someone’s life to predict future employment or meaningful day programs. The machine learning strategy examined information gathered from over 20,000 adults with intellectual disability who were over 18 years old. Participants came from across the nation and were surveyed in 2017-2018. Then, using the survey information, the data were sorted out to determine what variables were the best predictors of employment and meaningful daytime activity programs.
The findings revealed several variables that encouraged employment which seemed unusually straightforward to implement if the person with IDD has an individualized service plan.
Write it down. Make it happen.
The most important predictor of employment of someone with IDD was simply to have a goal written about community employment in the person’s individual service plan. Of course, once it’s written, it would require collaborating with coordinating service providers who are committed to helping reach the goal. Goal creation also usually requires meaningful conversations, explanations and examples of what is meant by community employment and why it might fit with the person’s plans for their lives. This requires high expectations on the part of everyone involved.
Make the world a better place.
The second most important predictor of employment was volunteerism. Volunteering has been found to benefit empowerment, social skills, and communication. Volunteering increases the likelihood of future employment and provides a safe environment to gain confidence that being employed is a realistic possibility.
Make choices every day.
Making everyday choices and meaningful choices about what to do during the day, how to spend money, and voting in elections were also powerful elements in determining future employment.
Hold the keys to the future.
Literally, owning a key to their own residence also may serve to empower adults in taking steps toward an independent future.
Hop on the bus.
Having accessible transportation is another important factor in getting people back and forth to a job. This provides those living in urban areas with ample transportation options with an advantage over less populated areas where public transportation is not available or difficult to navigate.
Learn a job skill.
Not surprising, but taking part in classes or participating in training to help get a job or improve job performance also contributes to the likelihood of a meaningful job.
It was notable that a lot of the factors considered to be deal breakers for employment were not listed as predictors. Despite the huge number of people who participated in the survey, there was no mention of people’s level of support needs, communication skills, behavioral challenges, race or gender as being important factors for consideration for purposeful daytime activities or work.
According to this important research, the most critical step when planning services should be making employment a priority and employment learning opportunities should be included as a standard in service plans.
For families, these are strategies that can be incorporated at any time in the child’s life, but providing children with opportunities for choice and independence at a young age, can be helpful later on as we try to steer a path into adult life. Choice-making is a muscle. When people have opportunities to make choices they become more confident and self-determined and will likely want to increase the choices they make….like the choice to have an employment goal.
To read the entire research study, here is the original article from the American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.
Broda, M.D., Bogenschutz, M, Dinora, P., Prohn, S., Lineberry, S., & Ross, E. Using machine learning to predict patterns of employment and day program participation. American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 2021, Vol. 126, 477-491.
About the Authors:
Molly Dellinger-Wray, MS Ed., Seb Phron, Ph.D. and Parthy Dinora Ph.D, are part of The Partnership for People with Disabilities at Virginia Commonwealth University, a University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities. Molly and Parthy are both parents of wonderful boys who benefitted from special education services. Seb and Parthy were part of a team that studied the outcomes of machine learning to predict patterns of employment and day program participation.