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How to help kids with developmental differences learn job skills

Job skills for neurodivergents: Tips for learning

Updated: September 22, 2023 · 6 Minute Read

Leigh Monichon, Special Education Advocate

Reviewed by:

Leigh Monichon, Special Education Advocate

Highlights

  • Robotics, math, debate, FLA, 4H, Boys and Girls Club, and all sorts of other clubs exist to bring kids together to learn skills in areas they’re interested in and make friends.
  • Your local ARC, Easterseals, YMCA, or autism society will likely have resources or training programs your child can utilize to learn job skills.

Job skills for neurodivergents can take time to develop. Neurodivergents are often underemployed or unemployed, not because they aren’t smart or can’t do the work, but because they’re not prepared for the additional social, emotional, and mental work it takes to participate in the workforce or live independently. For example, learning to make it through a work day without burning out, interacting with coworkers, handling the mental load of emails/phone calls, prioritizing tasks, shopping for groceries, or balancing a budget.

 

How to help your child learn skills for a job or career

 

1. Create opportunities for ownership.

Give your child chores around the house to teach responsibility. Vacuuming the house, cleaning the bathroom, picking up toys, helping with yard work, doing the dishes, helping cook meals, doing laundry — all good starter options. Even small children can help with things like putting their dirty clothes in the hamper or throwing trash into the trash can.

  • Keep your child accountable for completing chores. There should be rewards for completion (money, point system, or praise) and consequences for not completing assigned duties (not getting money, points, or praise).
  • It may be helpful for your child to have each step of a chore written out or shown in pictures. (You can also try the Goally app for help with chores and tasks).
  • A “chore chart” that shows each task and allows your child to check it off or get a sticker when completed, can be really helpful.

 

2. Find your child a mentor, club, or program.

There are a lot of programs that exist today to connect kids with professionals and experts in the fields they’re interested in. For example, Girls Who Code is an organization that offers three different programs across the course of a girl’s life to equip her to enter the tech industry. Robotics, math, debate, FLA, 4H, Boys and Girls Club, and all sorts of other clubs exist to bring kids together to learn skills in areas they’re interested in, make friends, and more. Whether you find your child a mentor in the community or through a non-profit program, see what’s out there that fits with your child’s possible career paths.

  • Career preparation programs, vocational training, or life-skills classes can be beneficial for some kids. Find a program in your area that can help your child with things like interviewing, searching for jobs, and learning how to use computer programs they’ll find in the workplace.
  • Volunteering is also a great way for your child to learn responsibility and develop job skills.
  • Shadowing you or a loved one at work is an option that works well for visual learners. They can observe you or a family friend on-the-job and get a feel for different career paths as well as develop real-time job skills.

 

3. Work with your child’s abilities.

Sometimes we may underestimate our children, but other times, we can have unrealistic expectations. If your child says a task is too hard or they can’t do something, it could be an excuse, or it could really just be too hard! For example, your child may genuinely feel overwhelmed trying to fill out an application or paperwork by themselves. Pushing them to do something that causes them great distress is counterproductive. Instead, figure out ways to streamline the most difficult tasks and reduce the load on your child, so they can live the life they want. For example, if your child finds grocery shopping overwhelming, teach them how to order online and pick up groceries.

 

4. Tailor skills to your child’s interests.

If your child wants to be a mechanic, pestering them about language arts is probably a misuse of time. Learning about science, time management, engineering, and organization, however, would be useful in that career. Most traditional education models and career paths will require your child to learn and pass a variety of subjects, some of which your child will not be interested in and will likely need extra help in. So use your child’s interests as the roadmap for what skills to hone in on. For example, if your child loves video games but hates math, try using a math game to help them learn. Then they can get math out of the way and have more time to learn about what they like.

 

More resources for neurodivergent individuals

  • Mentra is a cool new tool that offers internship and job-search help for neurodivergent people. Bookmark this page for when your child is ready to job hunt!
  • If your child has difficulty with organization and planning, time management, focus, or following directions, help them with their executive functioning skills.
  • Your local ARC, Easterseals, YMCA, or autism society will likely have resources or training programs your child can utilize to learn job skills.
  • If you need more support and resources, set up a personalized step-by-step guide for free. The Beaming Health Action Plans were created with the help of over 100 parents, clinical professionals, special education advocates, and social workers to help families like yours.