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How to prepare your neurodivergent child for a career

Preparing neurodivergents for a career

Updated: November 3, 2023 · 5 Minute Read

Leigh Monichon, Special Education Advocate

Reviewed by:

Leigh Monichon, Special Education Advocate

Highlights

  • Some people with neurodevelopmental disabilities won’t be able to work a “traditional” job, but that doesn’t mean they can’t find meaningful work, enjoy an income-producing hobby, or create their own work.
  • If your child wants to be a video game developer or an artist, discuss what paths there are to those jobs. If you need help, find a potential mentor or ask a free virtual assistant like ChatGPT.
  • Share examples of other neurodivergent people working with your child to get their ideas flowing. 

Preparing neurodivergents for a career is a hike, not a race. Our world isn’t built for neurodivergent kids or those with disabilities. Those with disabilities are often underemployed (even when college educated) or land in jobs they don’t really like or aren’t good at, because it’s all they can get hired for. Your child will be measured according to a flawed measuring stick.

 

6 ways to prepare your neurodivergent child for a career:

  1. Think outside the box. It’s important to equip your child and seek out a path that is fulfilling and makes sense for them — not the rest of the world. Some people with neurodevelopmental disabilities won’t be able to work a “traditional” job, but that doesn’t mean they can’t find meaningful work, enjoy an income-producing hobby, or create their own work.
  2. Explore your child’s interests. Take time to talk with your child about career interests, but consider that as only part of the whole picture — what do they like? How do they enjoy spending their time? What do they not like doing?
  3. Set your child up for a hike, not a race. As your child develops new interests and passions, his or her desires for the future will become clearer. The important part now is to simply get the conversation started and to start exploring these interests.
  4. Support after-school activities. Encourage your child to get involved in activities outside of school. By trying different interests and hobbies, it’s easier for your child to get a sense of what they like and dislike. Additionally, these activities can help your child develop “soft skills” such as teamwork and problem solving.
  5. Talk about the steps it’ll take to accomplish their goals. When you and your child are discussing career options, help them set realistic goals by researching and talking about what it’ll take to get the job they want. For example, if your child says they want to be a doctor or a teacher, that requires a college degree, training, licensing, and more. If they want to be a video game developer or an artist, discuss what paths there are to those jobs. What should they expect? What would an average day be like? Go through the pros and cons of every potential path, so your child gets a realistic view of things. If you don’t know yourself, ask potential mentors in your life or online through sites like Linkedin. You could even ask a free virtual assistant like ChatGPT.
  6. Talk about and consider higher education options. Whether it’s trade school, college (community or privately funded), or university, it’s important to begin thinking about college options, if that’s something your child wants to do. There is a growing call to expand higher education offerings for special needs youth, since historically, many have been excluded from or face extra challenges when seeking a degree. In fact, disabled youth tend to pursue college less often, not because they can’t do it, but because colleges aren’t equipped to support them.

 

 

Other neurodiversity-friendly resources

Plenty of people with developmental differences can find meaningful work. Check out these encouraging stories of a young autistic man who turned his passion for video games into a job + a college graduate with Down Syndrome who created a profitable business out of her baking hobby. You can even share these examples with your child to get their ideas flowing.

 

Once your child is ready to find a job, ask your network (most job listings are not posted publically)! Your child can also join neurodiversity-friendly employment networks like Mentra. 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.