After leaving school, young people need to discover and navigate new environments, and become familiar with a different set of social and institutional rules. They also need to know how to disclose a difficulty or disability, manage daily living activities independently, and be confident in their social and self-advocacy skills, organization, and time management. If these skills have not been acquired during the senior school years, personal circumstances can change from managing, to not managing, very quickly. Students can become lost in the college or university system, or become anxious and lose confidence in an overwhelming work environment.
Moving into third level education
Leaving school means moving from a familiar and highly structured environment. This is difficult for most young people and can be especially difficult for some young people with additional needs, challenges or difficulties. Being self-aware, discovering options, researching choices, gathering all of the information to make comparisons, and discussing advantages and disadvantages, are essential to enjoying the first year in college and to staying in college. Students need to be confident about strengths and challenges and how these fit with their chosen course. Identifying support services, arranging for a needs assessment and disclosing special needs or disability is very important. Choosing not to disclose may lead to a delay in receiving human and technological support, and may make the first few weeks very difficult.
There is enormous pressure and significant value placed upon ‘going to college’ or uni, and rarely is sufficient time or thought given over to the appropriateness of the setting or environment, relevance of the course to future aspirations, and availability of person-centred supports. These issues can be complex and time consuming, and need to be investigated before the final year in school, which is inevitably taken up with intensive study and examinations. Chapter 5 Planning Transitions for Young People with Special Needs and Disabilities looks at discovering options and making choices early in the senior cycle of education, and Chapter 8 – Managing the Transition Bridge – contains checklists and forms that can assist with managing the move from school to further / higher education or employment. For example, Transition Tasks for Students and Parents, and College Offers Checklist.
Moving into employment
The shift from school to the workplace can be confusing and disorientating especially in the first few weeks. At school everyone is completing the same work at the same time in the same way. At work everyone has a particular job to do and it isn’t always easy to remember all of the steps and tasks that are assigned to your role. A short induction or on-the-job teaching might take place, but often there is a lot of information to remember in a short space of time. Young people need to be confident about asking for information to be provided in a format that they can re-visit and re-check. Having a part-time job and getting some work experience are really useful actions for preparing for the move from school. Knowing how and when to disclose a special need or disability is very important and needs to be discussed and practiced before a job interview and / or the first day at work. Choosing not to disclose may lead to potentially losing a job, creating a lack of trust or uncertainty, or a delay in receiving human and technological supports. Creating and practicing a disclosure script is incredibly useful, and a template for creating a disclosure script can be downloaded here.
The Association for Higher Education Access and Disability (AHEAD) has an excellent guide to disclosure which you can download here and which includes a self-assessment of reasonable accommodation requirements.
You can find more job seeking tips from AHEAD at https://www.ahead.ie/graduate
The National Autistic Society has also published an excellent interactive workbook on finding employment called Finding Work.