Adjustments to the Job Setting
Considerations for Students with Disabilities as They Enter the Employment World
The transition from education into the employment world is difficult
for most young adults and a comparison of the two environments reveals
the reasons for problems.
| Academic Environments
|| Employment environments
| Success has been defined and a certain
comfort level maintained.
|| Still contains many unknowns.
| Support networks are firmly established.
|| New support networks will have to be
| Lacking structure. Students determine
where and when they complete various tasks.
|| Structure is generally imposed
within a more confined time frame.
| Strategies to compensate for weaknesses
have been mastered.
|| The importance of many basic skills remains
but strategies may have to be redefined to meet new needs.
| A very social environment and social
events mainly occur with peers who have similar interests and activities.
|| Socializing may be mainly within the
work environment and include more varied age groups with differing interests.
During college, students experienced growth as they began accepting
responsibility for individual decisions. As a result, they began to understand
that a key component to success is establishing a feeling of control. Entering
a different situation may generate feelings of lack of control but students
should realize the building blocks for success are in place and with time
and minor adjustments, control can be reestablished.
Let's take a look at the strengths college students with disabilities
bring to the employment world.
A realistic self-knowledge leading to the ability to persist
As students with disabilities progressed through academic rigors, by
necessity they became goal oriented and realized that desire relates directly
to outcome. They know they will have to work longer and harder than others
and they have developed a certain comfort level with this knowledge. They
have shown that persistence can lead to success.
The self knowledge necessary to advocate appropriately and the ability
to do so.
As students addressed issues in college, they became more comfortable
with articulating their needs, and the appropriate ways to seek accommodations.
The ability to develop a support network.
An active support network can be as crucial to success in employment
as it was in academics. Knowing who to ask as well the proper timing of
requests is important. Students should not hesitate to identify and ask
the appropriate person.
A creative approach to tasks.
Many times, to achieve their goals, students with disabilities approached
tasks creatively. If they had problems taking good lecture notes, they
experimented with tape recording or finding others to share their notes.
If they had problems remembering specific material, they would create a
format suitable to hold information in their memory. The ability to develop
creative approaches will continue to help within employment situations.
A realization of the importance of a good fit within the environment.
Not only did students carefully choose their school with an eye to
one that could assist them but they continued to look carefully at course
and professor selection. Just because the class began at a convenient hour
was only one reason to sign up for it. Knowing the style of presentation
and whether the professor was receptive to students with learning disabilities
was equally important.
- An ability to use available technology as an assistance.
Technology today can dramatically assist students to meet their needs.
This knowledge can be transferred into future environments.
The ability to work with several problems at one time.
Those with attentional problems will be able to juggle multiple responsibilities
and quickly move into new areas without losing effectiveness.
Students should be aware of areas associated with a disability that
may continue to cause problems. They should continue to explore for ways
to offset weaknesses. Examples are:
There will still be a need to address problems with basic skill deficits.
Reading disorders will affect reading training manuals, instructions,
and email. Memos are an important facet of every work environment. Our
major mode of communication involves writing and reading. Individuals must
recognize the need to augment weak skills.
Problems with auditory/visual figure-ground may impact efficiency.
A situation in which employees are required to work in cubicles may
lend itself to the inability to filter out noises and direct attention
to an immediate task. The constant ringing of a telephone and the need
to attend to it may be very distracting. Visual figure-ground difficulties
may affect the ability to read job advertisements or complete applications.
- Time management difficulties may become increasingly complicated.
Employees will be asked to juggle multiple responsibilities. Being
able to prioritize may become crucial.
- Disorganization and the inability to plan may give erroneous impressions.
Lack of organization may affect basics, such as arriving on time and
completing tasks as scheduled. Lack of planning can also be linked to inaccuracy
and inefficiency causing employees to take longer to finish jobs with a
desired level of accuracy. A lack a sense of time could appear as a lack
of motivation or disinterest in a job.
- A need for immediacy in resolving problems may need to be tempered.
Many with attentional difficulties may have the tendency to begin a
task with enthusiasm but lose interest when no resolution is quickly found.
Employment tasks may become long-term and multifaceted therefore, not lending
themselves to immediate resolution. Impulsive decisions regarding resolution
may be later regretted.
- Social skill deficits may come into greater play than in academics.
Office politics are important. The inability to judge social innuendoes
or relate well with co-workers may become a factor. One who doesn't engage
in small talk may be resented as well as ostracized.
- The abilities to anticipate, predict, determine cause and effect, and
synthesize various elements into a "big picture" becomes very important.
Deficits in these abilities are commonly exhibited by those with learning
disabilities and while they were important in college, they can be vital
in an employment situation. Employees should be aware to identify situations
where they need assistance.
- Problems with anger modulation may affect relationships with co-workers.
Those who are trying hard but become increasingly frustrated may not
be tolerated when they begin to frequently "boil over" or become overly
- As the working hours increase so will fatigue.
For individuals who are putting an extreme amount of effort into tasks
in order to perform at respected levels, fatigue may enter in and affect
- The ups and downs common to students with learning disabilities and
attentional problems may still have to be wrestled with as job responsibilities
There will be good and bad days in any job. Dealing with extreme highs
and lows may continue to be difficult.