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School Days to Pay Days

An Employment Planning Guide for Families of Young Adults with Intellectual Disabilities

This publication was written by staff from the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services and the Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts Boston. It is informed and enriched by the experiences of individuals with intellectual disabilities, family members, school personnel, employment providers and others, who are all committed to creating a workforce that includes individuals with intellectual disabilities. As part of Work Without Limits, this publication is one of many tools designed to provide individuals and family members with the information and resources they need to achieve their employment goals.  Read more »

As parents, we advocate passionately during our child's school years until we reach that critical turning point when the entitlement of school ends at age 22.

Our advocacy cannot end. As our children grow and become young adults, we must make sure they are prepared for the adult world that lies ahead. That preparation involves work experience. Schools are essential partners in the preparation for this next stage. Assessing and exploring interests, skill development and on-the-job work experience should be written into a young adult's transition plan at school.

Work provides important, ongoing benefits: it's a way to build skills, make friends, give purpose to life, provide a sense of identity and, of course, earn a paycheck. It's always challenging for young adults to find and keep jobs, and current economic conditions create additional hurdles. As you try to connect your child with work experiences, this booklet will assist you in understanding the roles of state and provider agencies, employment services, accommodations, benefits and much more.

As parents, we need to encourage work and internship experiences as well as explore our children's interests in extracurricular and weekend activities. Regular chores such as caring for the family pet, folding laundry and raking leaves are all practical ways of developing a strong work ethic. There are also plenty of ways to contribute to your local community. Food banks and animal rescue leagues are among the community sites often looking for volunteers to help out. There is no shortage of possibilities. Watch and listen for what your young adult responds to and use that information to help him or her experience a range of activities.

Expand your network and let people know your son or daughter is looking for work. Asking is the key to success: ask friends, family and neighbors about job leads. State and provider agencies are tasked with finding employment for hundreds of individuals. Our children are our priority. We need to actively advocate for them, sell their strengths and support their needs.

Finally, we must teach our young adults to talk about what they are good at. No one goes to a potential job site and declares what they cannot do. To succeed, we all must adopt a positive attitude and the ability to be flexible; we all must learn and grow. This will open the door to new possibilities.

Wonderful opportunities exist in your own community. Find them and your young adult will access a fulfilling path to this next phase of life.

Susan Nadworny


Massachusetts Families Organizing for Change