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Employment for Self Advocates

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MDSC's Your Next Star Employment Campaign
 Social/Recreational Resources
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 Transition Resources

Nate Simons working

In Massachusetts and throughout the country, young adults with intellectual disabilities are becoming increasingly more successful as they transition from school to work. They are finding new pathways to careers and maintaining gainful employment throughout their adult working years. Although employment outcomes for individuals with disabilities still lag behind those of persons without disabilities, it is clear that enormous barriers to employment are falling.

The stage for successful employment is set during a child’s school years. For all children, including children with Down syndrome, parental advocacy is critical during this time. As students become young adults, they need adequate preparation for the challenges of the adult world.

For children with disabilities, a key component of successful preparation is partnering with school officials to create, revise, and follow a comprehensive transition plan. Under the federal Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a transition plan must be developed as part of a child with disabilities’ Individual Education Program.

According to IDEA, transition services must do the following:

  • Work toward improving the academic and functional achievement of the child.
  • Facilitate the child’s movement from school to post-school activities, whether postsecondary education, vocational education, integrated employment (including supported employment), continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living, or community participation.
  • Be based on the individual child’s needs, taking into account strengths, preferences, and interests
  • Include instruction, community experiences, development of employment and other post-school adult living objectives, and if appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills and provision of a functional vocational evaluation.

Furthermore, under legislation signed by Governor Deval Patrick in 2008, transition services for students with disabilities must begin at age 14, two years earlier than federal law requires.

Families can also support the route to employment by:

  • Setting expectations that their young adult can work, can contribute, can find great satisfaction from working
  • Understanding the roles of state and employment service agencies who can help make the employment connection
  • Learning about the accommodations that help make employment successful
  • Becoming familiar with how employment affects benefits that the young adult might receive and the work incentive programs that can play a role.

Families can find in-depth information about these topics, resources and case studies, in the booklet “School Days to Pay Days: An Employment Planning Guide for Families of Young Adults with Intellectual Disabilities”, a publication of the Mass Department of Developmental Services and the Institute for Community Inclusion at UMass Boston.

UMass Medical School Transitions Research & Training Center Tip Sheets

Additional Employment-Related Resources in Massachusetts

MDSC's Your Next Star Employment Campaign -  Highlighting self-advocate success stories to open the eyes of employers in Massachusetts to the power of people with Down syndrome in the workforce, Your Next Star has resources for both employers and future employees

Work Without Limits - Putting abilities to work in Massachusetts; WWL has resource guides to help you understand how to work while also managing Social Security benefits; their free online job board, Jobs Without Limits, allows job seekers with disabilities to connect with employers in Massachusetts

Best Buddies Jobs - A program that matches skilled and qualified individuals with intellectual disabilities with businesses who are searching for enthusiastic and dedicated employees. 

The Arc of Massachusetts - The Arc's Employment Resources page links to local and national agencies and organizations specializing in employment

Easter Seals of Massachusetts - Offers employment and training services as well as youth transition services

Real People, Real Jobs - Highlights the employment successes of people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) who are working in paid jobs in their communities.