Getting students with cognitive disabilities ready for the workforce.

Try imagining the scenarios that these students will face at work. The process of preparing for life after high school is not linear. A report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that at least 30% of the student population is not on the college track, despite the fact that secondary schools frequently focus on Advanced Placement scores and high-stakes testing.

A technical school will be chosen by some students. Others, on the other hand, will need to be ready to work right away after high school. Students in special education are allowed to attend school until they are 21 years old, as stipulated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act’s regulations. Each of these student populations has a very different experience with the career preparation process.

Getting students with cognitive disabilities ready for the workforce.

Preparation for postsecondary education for students with cognitive impairments.

Students who are less able to think for themselves take a completely different class. Career readiness should be the attainable objective for this group of students, which entails finding a job that pays well and is likely to be satisfying once they graduate from high school. As a result, as soon as these students enter high school, it is essential for schools to develop a vertical articulation of coursework that addresses the transition to the workplace. From the first year of school, teachers of students on this path should establish a classroom culture that is both challenging and engaging.

Students will use the skills they learn in simulations to practice in the real world. Inventory is one example. Employees are frequently required to conduct inventory, which may involve comparing what comes in with what leaves. Along with a school-employed paraprofessional who serves as a job coach, several of our students in grades 12 and up frequent our local athletic store. Under the guidance of the job coach, the students are given the task of stocking shelves, checking off items on purchase orders, and opening clothing boxes. In our nearby health food store, our students in grades 12 and up check the expiration dates of foodstuffs. This is another current job for them.

On a high school campus, a variety of scenarios can be used to simulate these skills. Maintaining books for the English Department at the New Jersey high school where I teach is one method that I use. Students and staff use this learning plan as a guide to follow this four-pronged strategy:

-First, this checklist is given to students, and they are asked to check off each task as they finish it.

-After that, the activity’s teacher, peer mentor, or paraprofessional will prompt the students with Bloom’s Taxonomy-based questions. The questions, which get harder and harder, can be scaffolded: Students may only be able to respond to comprehension questions if this is their first assignment. The student may be able to successfully navigate application questions with more practice and confidence.

-After the task is finished, the student can think back on their work and possibly repeat what they did that day.

The fourth requirement requires the instructor to consider the student’s performance and what they might do differently the next time. The ultimate objective is to concentrate on specific skills for which students require remediation.

Many career-ready skills are practiced in this activity; a student is put through their paces by solving problems as they work. The students gain a sense of independence, ownership, accomplishment, and completion from the checklist. As the student works, the instructor can personalize and evaluate their skills. As with any new job, students learning a new job may require a lot of verbal and nonverbal prompting at first. However, these prompts can be reduced or eliminated as the student gains confidence and knowledge as he or she practices the skills.

The teacher, peer mentor, or paraprofessional assessing the student needs to maintain positivity and patience at all times. Support must be felt by the student; This means that each job task must be planned with enough time to wait. The first time around, additional prompting may be required, which may be frustrating for everyone, but the student will be able to complete the task with patience and gentle prodding.

Even for students with cognitive impairments, the transition to the workplace is not easy. As part of the career preparation process, educators need to take the initiative to create simulations that replicate real-world job skills.