12 steps for easing the transition to work

By Kate Kelly

A positive first job experience can be a big self-esteem booster for teens with learning and thinking differences. When kids are gearing up for a first job or vocational training, you can do a lot to prepare them for success. Encourage them to follow these steps to smooth the transition.

Keep in mind that when kids have an (IEP), transition planning services can help them prepare, too.

Practice the commute.

Practice the commute together, at the same time and day of the week as your child’s work schedule. Time how long it takes.

Figure out lunch.

Have your child check out the lunch options ahead of time, and assess whether there’s time to order and eat. Remind your child to ask where people who bring their lunches eat.

Know who to call or email.

Make sure your child has a point person (and their phone number and email) to contact if sick or running late.

Understand how work schedules are communicated.

If hours change each week, your child needs to know how to get access to the new schedule. Don’t assume someone will give it directly to the employees.

Determine the best way to keep track of the schedule.

Ask your child what might work best: Taking a picture of the schedule? Texting it? Noting it on a calendar?

Work on time management skills.

Have your child strategize about getting to work on time. For example, laying out clothes the night before may help.

Fill out the forms.

In some states, teens need working papers in order to get a job. Often these can be issued by your child’s school or by the State Department of Labor. And like any employee, your teen is required to fill out IRS forms like the W-4. These forms can be confusing, and your child might need your help.

Open a bank account.

People who are paid by direct deposit need a bank account to complete the first-day paperwork. (The bank can provide the routing information.) People who get an actual check need a way to cash it.

Plan for downtime.

Having a job may leave young adults less busy than they were at school. Talk about interests they can pursue, activities at faith-based and other organizations, or maybe joining a gym.

Look for social opportunities.

A job doesn’t necessarily provide a network of people one’s own age like school does. To avoid loneliness, young people may need to make friends outside of work.

Practice asking for help.

Self-advocacy is key for young people with learning and thinking differences in the workplace. If someone who is confused by instructions, for instance, it could impact their work. Help your child identify who to talk to and practice what to say.

Consider a job coach.

A job coach can help your child succeed at work. Try finding one through the school’s vocational program. If your child has an IEP, the case manager may have information, too.

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    About the author

    About the author

    Kate Kelly has been writing and editing for more than 20 years, with a focus on parenting.

    Reviewed by

    Reviewed by

    Jenn Osen-Foss, MAT is an instructional coach, supporting teachers in using differentiated instruction, interventions, and co-planning.