Bridging Over to Life After K-12
Many states mandate that all middle schoolers formally explore career options. For students with special learning needs, maintaining high expectations is an important part of this process. Here are some tips on how to focus on strengths to achieve this end.
Conveying to middle school students the importance of career exploration is quite a trick to pull off successfully. Many states mandate that students, often in the 8th Grade, develop the first components of what will be a comprehensive career plan with implications for course selection. Making the realities many adults find daunting relevant to thirteen-year-olds is possible and this important milestone shouldn?t be overlooked as an integral part of the IEP process, particularly in light of transition requirements as teens on IEPs grow older.
An Eye on Transition
While not all states mandate career plans, all do have required transition plans for students being served under an IEP. With this in mind, combine any middle school exploration of careers into an integrated approach that will blend easily into the transition plan several years later.
Whatever the individual school standards, make sure that the student?s IEP includes the following items for career education activities and resources:
- Interest Inventory
- Occupational Outlook Handbook
- Sample Household Budgets by Occupation
- Shopping list with costs
- Rental Surveys
- Student Loans
- Childcare Costs
- Automobile Maintenance and Insurance Costs
- Post-Secondary Opportunities
- Degree Options
- Online Learning Options
- Shadow Experience (if available)
- Social Media Job Search Basics
Focus on the “I Can”
It?s somewhat natural to impose too much real life knowledge and insight into a new teen?s plans for his or her future. Most often this is expressed by an urge to tamp down expectations based upon an understanding the student can?t honestly have yet. While it is advisable to hold students accountable for their reasoning, the appropriate role for an adult is to allow discovery. Whatever the identified disability, the combined career exploration effort needs to center on those abilities, including potential, he or she can achieve.
Focusing on the “I Can” strengths and having a student with special needs become engaged in their own future plans presents a unique window of opportunity. Without the pressure of time that accompanies transition plans, written within a year or so of graduation, middle school career planning, while important, comes with a comfort zone. Seize this time to construct activities that allow the student to recognize their strengths. Let them use their strong suits as a bridge from what they didn?t know about the world of work to what they actually look forward to achieving.
A Double Bonus
The need to have students begin learning about careers at an early age is well recognized. That curriculum in middle school that has a specific focus on career exploration is a commendable advance. For special education, building in both formal IEP goals (tied to the transition plan if age-appropriate) as well as the chance for students to focus on what they do well as opposed to remediation, is a great opportunity not to be missed.