How to Prepare A Teen with Special Needs for a Part Time Job

With summer upon us, I wanted to share this wonderful guest post by Ron Stefanski, who is the founder of www.JobsForTeensHQ.com and has a passion for helping teenagers find jobs. Preparing a child with special needs for  a part time job can be challenging and Ron offers some good advice on this topic. Another great way to prepare your teen for a part time job is sharing stories of others who are successfully working. Many of these stories can be told through read alouds or recent experiences. Thank you Ron!

Preparing your teen with special needs for their first part-time job can be particularly daunting. Not only do you worry about them, their feelings, and their entry into the workplace, but you also may worry about how their potential bosses, coworkers, and customers will engage with them.

While most of the learning will inevitably be carried out “on the job”, there are things you can do at home to prepare your special needs teen for their first journey into the workforce.

From role-playing in the house to enrolling in vocational courses in your neighborhood, there are tons of different ways that you can prepare your teen for their first part-time job.

Working In The Home (a.k.a chores)

One great way to prepare your special needs teen for their first experience in the working world is to get them accustomed to doing work in the home. Chores are a great way to teach your teen about following directions, following through, accountability, and meeting a deadline.

While it’s important to keep the chores age-appropriate, you should make these preparatory chores different from the ones your teen (hopefully) already does around the house.

For example, rather than simply taking out the trash, ask them to help re-organize and clean the garage. If your teen doesn’t complete the task for whatever reason, that’s a great opportunity to sit them down and talk about the importance of completing jobs assigned to them and doing so to the best of their ability.

Successfully completing chores is also a great way to instill a sense of pride in ones work for your teen. Ask them how good they feel when the job is done, and then ask how much better it will feel when they’re getting paid to do it.

When you go this route, our recommendation is to start them early. It’s most common to assign chores to your special needs child when they’re about 14 years old and can legitimately help around the house, but you can start them when they’re younger if you feel like they can handle it.

Volunteer Work

Volunteering is also a fabulous way to introduce your teen to working outside the home. If you can choose volunteer work that is somehow related to the part-time job they ultimately want to get hired for, great!

If not, following their interests is a good way to get them enthusiastic about working, even on a volunteer basis, outside of the home.

Volunteer positions are usually readily available and there are often staff members on hand to train new volunteers. Some may even allow your teen to shadow a current employee for the day, which can be an amazing experience.

Vocational Programs

Many high schools, activity centers, and community colleges offer vocational programs for teens with special needs. Some of these institutions may even have career counseling programs which can help your teen identify their strengths, weaknesses, and interests in order to choose a part time job that best suits them.

It’s also possible to enroll your teen in vocational training courses, which may help them fine tune their skills and learn a bit about the working world before they even apply for their first part-time job.

Many of these programs are free or low cost, so definitely take advantage of them!

Practice

While it may seem obvious, practicing at home is a great way to prepare your special needs teen for their first part-time job.

And you need not limit this practice to the home! If your teen has their heart set on working at the local supermarket, bring them along on your next grocery run. Ask them to take a look at what the various employees are doing, how they help the customers, and take note of what they do (and don’t do).

You can even set up mini-role playing activities at home to get your teen used to the various social interactions they’ll undoubtedly encounter in their first part-time job. This is particularly useful if your teen struggles with social interactions.

Remind them that the public isn’t always pleasant, and role play a variety of situations (a difficult customer, a customer who needs a lot of assistance, etc.) and then discuss the various ways in which your teen can react.

Role playing can help prepare them for the fact that they’ll likely need to contend with people they don’t know, and that not everyone will always be in a good mood. It’s also a good way to discuss problem solving, strategies for stress management, and learning when to escalate issues to their higher-ups.

While the bulk of learning will take place on the job, it’s always a good idea to give your teen an idea of what to expect, teach them about accountability and the pride that comes with doing a job well, and how to interact with coworkers, associates, bosses, and customers.

About the author:

Ron Stefanski is the founder of www.JobsForTeensHQ.com and has a passion for helping teenagers find jobs. He created the website because he feels that teenagers need to focus on their professional passions much earlier in life and aims to teach them how they can do it, as well as provided them the information they need to succeed in the professional world as quickly as possible. When he’s not working on his website, Ron is a college professor and loves to travel the world.

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