Youth with all types of disabilities and their families should envision a future that includes fulfilling paid competitive employment.  Several research studies have proven youth who have involved families are more likely to experience better transition outcomes.  Families can be involved by utilizing knowledge of their child to find work experiences and paid work opportunities. 

*High expectations* continue to be important throughout the transition planning process.  Maintaining high expectations should be held when creating a vision and goals for the future -- including positive employment experiences!

It is not easy for some parents to embrace the idea of meaningful employment as a long-term goal for their youth but ALL youth have the ability to learn and work in some capacity.

ALL youth need help to prepare for working and learning.  Parents play a key role in this preparation! :)

WORK IS an IMPORTANT part of adult life!


We can all remember one job we enjoyed, where we made friends and learned new skills.  There are also those that either didn’t last long or that we knew were NOT a good fit for our interests or skill set.  Think how frequently the question “What do you do for a living?” is part of the conversation when people meet.  Employment is a way to achieve self-sufficiency but it provides many more benefits, especially for employees with disabilities.  Think of your own employment history and see if you agree with the benefits listed supporting work as a valuable life activity and worth pursuing for ALL.   

  • Provides connections and social opportunities
  • Gives a sense of purpose and accomplishment
  • Helps build social skills and responsibility
  • Provides income

Read about Ticket to Work Benefits Planning

PREPARING for WORK as an Adult 

  • Exploring careers and developing work skills are among the main themes research suggests all youth, including those with disabilities need to make a successful transition to adulthood.

  • Youth need experience with many types of careers so they can make an informed choice about their future employment. Career exploration also includes researching postsecondary education, necessary job skills and job accommodations. 

  • Youth who understand the impact of their disability can explore ways to accommodate tasks or jobs in which they are interested.

  • There are many different career and interest assessments. Assessments are designed to be an effective way for youth to identify vocational interests, skills and needs.

  • Parents can take an active role by familiarizing themselves with career assessment tools, advocating for work experiences and helping youth explore jobs matching their interests.

We know that maintaining high expectations is important but also understand the need to balance goals with skills and needs. 

Identifying student's interests, strengths, work skills and skills in need instruction and/or practice is necessary when developing a plan or goals.  Identifying these important factors happens through assessments. It is important to remember that just like when IEP teams evaluate educational skills, different information sources should be considered when planning for work. 

The Iowa Transition Assessment offers multiple tools to help identify students’ work interests, preferences, strengths and needs.

Click here to view the Iowa Transition Assessment

Soft Skills are tasks used daily or regularly that contribute to successful employment, such as being on time, keeping track of assigned work and neat appearance.   Soft Skills  are an area of need for many young adults, both with and without disabilities!   These skills can be identified through assessments as a goal area that could be addressed with instruction. 

The The Office of Disability Employment Policy within the U.S. Department of Labor has created a training specifically for developing soft skills.  It is called "Skills to Pay the Bills".  In addition to reading materials there are videos available for the youth themselves to watch. The short videos are divided into different sections, corresponding with different skills and were designed for youth to watch and then practice.  Some of the lessons could even be used by IEP teams for goal ideas!!

Look at Skills to Pay the Bills here!

Youth do not have to wait until graduation to begin to prepare for the workforce! 

Develop work experiences while in high school to increase adult work success.

“Work experiences” are any activities, paid or volunteer work, job shadowing or informational interviews that help youth practice required work tasks.

Read "What Parents can do NOW" from National Parent Center for Transition and Employment 

Use the student’s IEP to focus on building work skills

Practice disability self-awareness and disclosure in high school. 

START preparing for work while in High School.

National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability is your source for information about employment and youth with disabilities. Experts in disability, education, employment, and workforce development — strive to ensure the highest quality and most relevant information available.


Give YOUTH a VOICE in their own future planning!





Tip sheet for becoming a better Self Advocate for yourself!


Check out the 411 on Disability Disclosure  There is a written document, audio and visual information available.

This can give youth, families and other IEP team members goal ideas for transition plans!