The Time to Begin Looking for Community Rehabilitation Programs Offering Vocational Services Is ... Now!

Article excerpt

The school year has begun and students have returned to class, excited about new opportunities, friends, and experiences. And with each new school year comes a new graduating class, all looking forward to the future and what it holds. Some go to college, and others go to work. Parents and caregivers are often faced with the daunting task of assisting students with disabilities in selecting a work program to attend after graduation. Finding the right program to suit the unique needs of each individual can be trying and frustrating as parents and teachers attempt to prepare students for life after school by providing work experience programs, vocational evaluation and assessments, and job shadow opportunities. Educational staff do their best to prepare students for the working world, but often, upon graduation, students are overwhelmed and unprepared for what is in store for them. That is where Community Rehabilitation Programs can be helpful.

Community Rehabilitation service providers are organizations designed specifically to assist individuals with disabilities in preparing for work and finding and maintaining jobs in their communities. Often, they are the links between employers in the community and individuals with disabilities seeking employment. Employment specialists that work within Community Rehabilitation Programs often serve as vocational evaluators, employment counselors, job coaches, placement specialists, advocates, and mentors to people looking for work. At the same time, they help educate employers on issues like accommodation, accessibility, and technologies to help people with disabilities become more independent on the job. Programs all over the United States offer different types of training for this population, as well. From soft skills development (skills like basic math, reading, communications, behavior, and community safety) to interviewing, resume writing, internet usage, and job seeking skills, these programs offer many things that schools just can not delve into during the school year. Community Rehabilitation Programs also provide work adjustment training, for people who haven't worked before or who have been out of the work force for long periods of time. This type of training focuses on topics like punctuality, appropriate workplace behavior, and time management. A good Community Rehabilitation Program offering vocational services encompasses all of these things, and provides an all inclusive approach to the job seeker.

The League for People with Disabilities in Baltimore, Maryland, is one such program. Its Vocational Rehabilitation Services support a variety of individuals with disabilities like traumatic brain injuries, cerebral palsy, deafness, autism, and intellectual disabilities, to name a few. Their services cover most aspects of vocational rehabilitation, including vocational assessment and evaluation, placement and retention services, and a unique, intensive job readiness program. This program offers an individualized course of study that begins with soft skills development and discovery of employment interests as an initial step. Participants may participate up to six weeks, and upon successful completion of this portion, they move to the next step in employment readiness. This step provides individuals with an opportunity to utilize their skills to further explore their job interests through work experience with job coaching. Participants work within the facility in a variety of jobs, from custodial to landscaping, clerical and mailroom work, and even human service jobs. Off site work experience in the business community has been provided and is a direction that is being expanded. This provides an even more realistic work setting for service provision. The individual chooses their preferred job and will work in this area for 6 weeks. If interested, the individual may choose a number of work sites and/or job categories to explore. Once completed, the individual moves to the job seeking step which is a 6 week, intensive focus on the job seeking process. …

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