October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). This national campaign aims to raise awareness about disability employment issues and celebrate the contributions of employees with disabilities. 

This year’s theme is “America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion.” This theme reflects the importance of ensuring that people with disabilities have full access to employment and community involvement during the national recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

More than one million people with disabilities lost employment during the first six months of the pandemic, according to the New Hampshire University Institute on Disability. The pandemic has disproportionately affected people with disabilities, those who have historically faced significant barriers to employment. 

Federal employment statistics show that only 29% of individuals with disabilities are gainfully employed. Many are underemployed ,such as working in low-wage or part-time jobs without opportunities for career advancement. Data from 2020 by the U.S. Department of Labor shows that:

  • Across all age groups, persons with disabilities were much less likely to be employed than those with no disabilities.
  • Across all educational attainment groups, unemployment rates for persons with a disability were higher than those without a disability.
  • In 2020, 29 percent of workers with a disability were employed part-time, compared with 16 percent for those with no disability.

To celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month, here are five tips to help your child achieve successful employment after epilepsy surgery.

Transition planning starts with helping your child set goals for their adult lives. Planning ensures that they have the education, services, and training they need to meet those goals. Assessment is an essential part of this process. 

Transition and vocational assessments can help determine the student’s vision and direction. Assessments can also be used to measure progress along the way. Transition assessment must consider the student’s plans for postsecondary education, training, employment, and independent living. The school district uses these assessments to help develop appropriate postsecondary goals and interventions. Ultimately, the purpose of transition planning is to help the student become as independent as possible.

A Functional Vocational Evaluation (FVE) is generally only done “when needed.” Still, it is a critical evaluation that will serve as a roadmap for your student and answer essential questions about their interests, skills, and training needed.

If your child has not already had an age-appropriate transition assessment and a Functional Vocational Evaluation, request both of these assessments from your school district. Transition assessment is required by age 14 or 16, depending on your state. If your school refuses or the evaluation is not comprehensive or accurate, consider requesting an independent educational evaluation (IEE)

Note that even privately placed and homeschooled students are entitled to assessment!

Ensure that your child’s IEP contains measurable postsecondary goals and services to support those goals. Transition goals are required by age 14 or 16, depending on your state. 

Please see our guide Educational Transition After Epilepsy Surgery and our free online, self-paced course Transition for Youth with Neurological Conditions to learn more!

Connect with your state’s Vocational Rehabilitation Department. 

Your child may qualify for pre-employment transition services (pre-ETS) starting as young as age 14 (depending on your state).

Pre-ETS includes training in:

Your Vocational Rehabilitation Department can also help pay for college and provide textbooks, interpreters, devices, transcriptions of lectures, and other assistive technology. 

Once your child is out of college (or not planning to attend college), they can help with job training, placement, and even on-the-job coaching.

Essential work skills include communication, teamwork, collaboration, problem-solving skills, initiative, leadership, planning, organizing, self-management, willingness to learn, flexibility, and technology in the workplace. 

In the article “Why Work for Free? The Benefits of Internships for Young Adults with Autism and LD,” the College Internship Program wrote: “These areas of skill generally have to be specifically taught and reinforced many times for young adults with learning differences, both in theory, and practice. Most workplaces expect but do not train employees in these areas.”

Start helping your child develop these “soft” skills as early as possible. 

Your student should also be well versed in self-determination, workplace rights (such as reasonable accommodations granted to individuals by the ADA), and how and when to disclose a disability at work. They should also learn about the positive impact that an inclusive workplace has on employee engagement.

See the resources section below for ideas and training options in these areas.

Work is a critical aspect of transition planning. Help your child get work experience via a job or volunteer opportunity. Being employed during high school has proven to result in better adult outcomes, both in education and the workforce. 

Even unpaid work has its benefits. According to the College Internship Program, “Internships can provide better opportunities for transition-age students to learn skills that are transferable to the workplace environment.”

Upcoming events for NDEAM 2021

  • Celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month 2021 (by the Office of Disability Employment Policy): US Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh and Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy Taryn Williams celebrate NDEAM! This exciting event will feature insightful dialogues and a video showcase highlighting strategies in action for an equitable disability-inclusive recovery. Wednesday, October 20, 2021, 2 p.m. ET / 1 p.m. CT / 12 p.m. MT / 11 a.m. PT, register with this link.
  • Best Buddies Virtual DEI Summit: In celebration of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), Best Buddies New Jersey hosts its Inaugural DEI Summit. Wednesday, October 27, 2021, 1 p.m. ET / 12 p.m. CT / 11 a.m. MT / 10 a.m. PT, register with this link.
  • Federal Policy Priorities on Disability Employment: NDEAM 2021 and Beyond: 18 months into the COVID-19 pandemic and nine months into the Biden Administration, it is worth reflecting on how the employment landscape has been transformed for workers with disabilities. This webinar will feature a host of key high-level federal leaders reflecting on their work, priorities, and hopes for the months ahead. As we celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we look to these leaders for their reflections on linking greater inclusion, diversity, and equity to America’s economic recovery. Wednesday, November 10, 2021, 1 p.m. ET / 12 p.m. CT / 11 a.m. MT / 10 a.m. PT, register with this link.

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about the author

Audrey Vernick is our Director of Patient and Family Advocacy. She is the parent of a child who had hemispherectomy for seizures caused by stroke. She holds a level 2 certification in Special Education Advocacy Training from the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates and is certified by The ARC in future planning.

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