Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Waging a Living: Career Development and Long- Term Employment Outcomes for Young Adults with Disabilities

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Waging a Living: Career Development and Long- Term Employment Outcomes for Young Adults with Disabilities

Article excerpt

Employment is one important marker of adult success in our society. In addition to providing financial security, stable employment allows individuals to be self-sufficient and contributes to an overall sense of self-esteem and personal satisfaction (Szymanski, Enright, Hershenson, & Ettinger, 2003). However, the literature suggests that the benefits accrued from securing fulfilling employment have gone largely unrealized by people with disabilities (National Organization on Disability, 2004; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2010). Overall employment rates for individuals with disabilities continue to fall behind those without disabilities, contributing to the persistently high poverty rates for this population (Foley, Marrone, & Simon, 2002; O'Day & Foley, 2008).

Limited employment opportunities and lack of financial stability are also a reality for many young adults with disabilities. Although overall employment rates have risen over time, occupational outcomes for young adults with disabilities still lag behind those without disabilities (Newman, Wagner, Cameto, & Knokey, 2009). National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2, 2010) data indicate that during the first 1 to 4 years after high school, 57% of youth with disabilities are employed compared to 66% of similar age youth in the general population. In addition, NLTS2 revealed several significant differences in employment outcomes based on type of disability, gender, household income, and race/ethnicity (Newman et al., 2009). Thus, many young adults with disabilities graduate from high school and enter adulthood unable to be financially self-sufficient or free from dependence on public assistance (Lustig & Strauser, 2004; Newman et al., 2009).

Career development is the process of developing and refining career goals over time (Lindstrom, 2008). For individuals with disabilities, career development is often complex, nonlinear, and chaotic. Career decision making and employment opportunities unfold over time and are influenced by multiple variables including individual, family, school, and community factors (Szymanski et al., 2003). At the individual level, certain variables such as self-esteem, self-efficacy, and career expectations contribute to higher wage employment and career satisfaction over time (Wehmeyer & Schwartz, 1997). In their study of successfully employed adults with learning disabilities, Gerber, Ginsberg, and Reiff (1992) found that the ability to take control and make conscious decisions was critical to coping with workplace obstacles and barriers. Self-esteem and self-confidence seem to be particularly important for females. Young women with learning disabilities who demonstrate high levels of personal determination and motivation are more likely to achieve self-identified career goals (Lindstrom & Benz, 2002). In addition, family support, advocacy, and intentional career-related activities play a role in shaping career goals and employment outcomes for all youth (Blustein et al., 2002). Family expectations for positive postschool outcomes have also been linked to self-efficacy and achievement for young adults with disabilities (Newman, 2004)

High school and postschool services also affect postschool employment options for youth with disabilities. Several previous studies have found that transition planning that actively engages students and promotes a broad range of career options is critical for obtaining positive career outcomes (Hogansen, Powers, Geenen, Gil-Kashiwabara, & Powers, 2008; Izzo & Lamb, 2003). Students with disabilities who participate in vocational coursework and community-based work experiences are also more likely to obtain and maintain employment after high school (Rabren, Dunn, & Chambers, 2002). Finally, participation in adult services such as vocational rehabilitation or postsecondary education and training programs can lead to higher wage employment opportunities. …

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