Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Making the Classroom-to-Workplace Shift a Little Bit Easier

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Making the Classroom-to-Workplace Shift a Little Bit Easier

Article excerpt

You're finally done with school and moving into the working world. You're eager, excited, nervous. How will you know which job is right? Will you like your boss? Will you be a good employee? Will you even find a job in this tough market? These are the thoughts and feelings of every young job hunter. But for young adults with disabilities (and their parents/guardians/caregivers), the questions are tenfold, and the emotions magnified.

As a parent of a son with Down syndrome, William Van Evera can relate. "Craig's attending vocational training right now. It's an exciting transition for our family, and has already altered our day-to-day routine. We expect that once he gets a job, the affect will be even greater."

No doubt, but the key word here is expect. With knowledge and planning, a family can improve their chances for a smooth transition and reduce surprises that could throw them off track.

Van Evera also knows about planning. He's a Special Care Planner with The Albany Agency, a General Agency of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company in Albany, NY. He's been helping families with special needs strategize their present and future financial security for 16 years.

"It varies with each family," he says, explaining that how a family copes with the transition from school to work depends on the person's disability, the education or training, the self-sufficiency, and how the person's new schedule fits into the family's ordinary routine. "But planning ahead, and knowing what the best-case and worst-case scenarios might be for your own family, will help tremendously."

What prevents a family from planning ahead--for school or for longer-term financial needs? Based on what Van Evera has experienced in his work, there are a thousand reasons, but it boils down to these three: families just don't know where to begin to get the information they need; parents tend to take a wait-and-see tactic, hoping their child will be high-functioning enough that special planning will be unnecessary; and people just don't want to spend money to get legal documents drafted, even though the long-term benefit far outweighs the upfront cost.

"I've been in the world of special care, professionally and personally, for many years, and I have connections. I know where to get answers. When a family comes to a Special Care Planner, it leads to avenues that offer solutions, not just financially, but in other matters that families with special needs face."

Relative to the transition from school to work, he offers these tips:

* Put together a strategy to finance college.

* Remember that vocational training may cost money, so plan for that.

* Earned income may affect public benefits received currently or as an eligible adult. A special needs trust offers protection and keeps money accessible for most needs.

He recommends that even families of moderate income investigate how to create a plan that will work for them. "No parent wants to have to use funds meant for their child to pay for their own unexpected health issues or retirement needs," he says. "Every parent wants to ensure their child's financial security when they're no longer able to provide care."

Strategies to get that job

Here are some suggestions regarding job hunting and landing a job.

Know the laws and your rights

There are five major federal laws that protect people with disabilities from discrimination during hiring and employment (see the sidebar for Web sites for each law). Knowing what protection these laws provide and what types of employers are held accountable to them helps you clearly understand when an unfair situation arises. And knowing the rules makes you more prepared to fight for your rights. You'll also be more aware of the benefits these laws provide. For example, federal agencies can hire people two ways, competitively and through the Schedule A process. …

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