Disclaimer: This is an example of a student written essay.
Click here for sample essays written by our professional writers.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UKEssays.com.

Challenges for Students with Developmental Disabilities for Seeking Employment

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Employment
Wordcount: 2584 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

Reference this

Upon graduating high school, students with developmental disabilities face many

challenges when seeking employment. Often, there are minimal positions open to them and in

the rare case that they do get hired the position is unpaid. In their study on work experience

transition programs in 2010, Galambos and Leo discovered that only 20% of graduating

students with developmental disabilities find paid employment (Bennett and Gallagher, 101).

However, it is important to note that many of these barriers occur before the student even

leaves school. Rather, the student does not only experience barriers from employers or

stereotypes but can be restricted by the current transition programs in place. In order to better

understand the relationship between how transition programs can harm students’ progress and

lead to challenges with employment I will discuss current examples of where these programs

fall short and how this leads to a decrease in opportunities for students with disabilities to find

employment. In addition, the philosophy of transition programs and employers are important

to understand so that we can see why the statistics are so low. In the final section I will provide

ways in which transition programs can improve and how teachers play an instrumental role in

helping students seek future employment. If we understand the challenges students with

developmental disabilities face in seeking employment as affected by many complex factors,

we will begin to see how we can improve opportunities for these students. If employers are

willing to look at student’s strengths and goals first before perceived stereotypes then students

with disabilities will have equal opportunities because they will be understood as they should

be, as contributing employees.

To understand some of the current challenges students with developmental disabilities face in

seeking employment, it is important to look at some more abstract examples. Karen Rabren in

her essay titled, “Students with Learning Disabilities’ Satisfaction, Employment, and

Postsecondary Education Outcomes”, she argues that one challenge students often face is with

dissatisfaction. With the advent of the millennial stereotypes it is worth noting that this

dissatisfaction does not stem from a sense of pride but from a consensus that students

with disabilities aren’t engaging in occupations they are interested in. Unfortunately, it is not

only difficult for these students to get jobs, but it is even rarer for them to get jobs they are

interested in. However, Rabren believes that if we can provide students the opportunity to

pursue employment in a field that coincides with their passion’s students may be able to learn

skills such as self-assessment (p. 14). Often, many students with developmental disabilities

struggle with self-regulation, but I would argue this is largely because the opportunities open to

them do not coincide with their passions, resulting in a general disinterest. There is a direct

correlation here with how students are unable to learn in environments they don’t feel safe in.

If students are unsatisfied personally it is unlikely that they will perform to their full potential,

regardless of a developmental disability. Accommodation is another major challenge students

encounter when searching for employment. Many employers view accommodation as a burden

that their business cannot accept. The issue with this notion is that students with disabilities in

this sense are viewed as valuable only instrumentally, rather than intrinsically. In other words,

they are only seen as valuable because they lead to a more valuable end for employers. The

current fallacy surrounding accommodation is that employers feel that something must be

different in the hiring process when hiring students with developmental disabilities. However,

when you hire any person, you are hiring them because you think they will contribute to your


There needs to be a change in mindset that accommodation in the workplace is not a

burden but rather, it is a way to strengthen one’s business through promoting all employees’

strengths. For example, a student with a strong sense for aesthetic and layout could greatly

increase customer satisfaction and encourage a higher volume of traffic in the business.

If we neglect students with disabilities the opportunity to work, we are harming them in more

ways than just their economic and financial development. Poor experience with employment

can change a student’s perspective on their life. When students with disabilities leave school,

this is even more dangerous because they have access to a reduced amount of support for their

holistic progress. The next major barrier that I touched on already is concerned with

stereotypes around students with developmental disabilities. Some employers may write off

applicants simply because of myths they have heard. This not only restricts the access students

need for employment opportunities but encourages an overarching mindset in workplaces that

the first thing employers look at before an applicant’s strengths are stereotypes surrounding

them. These findings run parallel with research the National Disability Strategy (NDS) from

Australia conducted relating to the challenges students face when seeking employment. They

discovered that negative attitudes and misconceptions from employers were among the

leading barriers. Interestingly, we also see similarities between teachers and employers in that

many employers may not hire because they feel uncomfortable or unprepared to meet the

student’s needs. For teachers, it is important for us to understand that others may face similar

challenges to us in supporting students with developmental disabilities. As we look next at

transition programs, I will continue to point out barriers in new environments. It is in our

programs where we see half of the battle is preparing our students well before they graduate.

In their resource guide to creating effective transition programs the Learning Disabilities

Association of Ontario defines what transition programs are. They state that “transition refers

to entry into or exit from each educational level” (LDAO Transition Planning Resource Guide, p.

4). The LDAO goes on to define some aspects of effective transition programs such as

identifying the student’s needs, recognizing their strengths and goals, and understanding what

their preferences are. To ensure programs like these are created high schools can offer

“learning strategies” courses for students with developmental disabilities. These courses would

focus on the student’s understanding of their own abilities and self-advocacy training so that

students can diagnose where they are currently and where they want to be. Courses like this

would help to strengthen students’ social development which many employers designate as a

fear they have when hiring students with disabilities. Another important aspect of transition

programs is the role the IEP plays. These should be used when the student is seeking

employment and should continue to be adapted to fit the needs of the students if they wish to

pursue post-secondary studies. McGuirk in her essay titled, “Parent and Teacher Perceptions of

Employment Readiness of Students with Intellectual Disabilities”, discusses further uses of the

IEP that are helpful. She argues that an increase in vocational goals should be listed on the IEP.

This is because it would allow schools to monitor post-secondary outcomes for students with

developmental disabilities (p. 2). In other words, the IEP does not outlive its usefulness once

the student graduates but is an influential resource in providing employers knowledge for

employees they currently lack. Challenges students face in transition programs aren’t always

about the programs themselves but factors that contribute to how they are operated. Students

will face immense challenges if parents don’t agree with steps the school staff is taking in the

student’s transition. We see here that the first major step in improving transition programs is

found in collaboration amongst the student’s support team, including transition planners,

teachers, parents, administration and employers.

It is no wonder why students with developmental disabilities experience extreme challenges

and trepidation in seeking employment. It is not only through external factors such as

employers, but through how transition programs are laid out that can restrict the student’s

progress. Another important issue with transition programs is that many of them have adopted

a common theme that students should receive a heavy dose of daily living skills but receive only

a fraction of knowledge on vocational skills. This disproportionate approach ensures that

students understand how to care for themselves at home, but neglects preparing them

adequately for pursuing their passions. If transition programs are unable to prepare students to

pursue their goals, then they have fallen short in their mission. This becomes noticeable with

the disconnect between parents and administration once the student graduates. This presents

challenges for students entering the workforce as important aspects of their portfolio may not

be accessible. As have been listed, there is no shortage of challenges students with

developmental disabilities face in seeking employment. What’s more, the challenges are

multifaceted and complex to the point that we have much work to do to improve transition

programs. However, programs such as World of Work are good examples of how we can help

students complete applications and make resumes. McGuirk leaves us with a few key practices

to improve transition programs. The first is collaboration between community resources and

services. The second is education on available appropriate employment options. The third is

opportunities for students to have lucrative employment during high school (14). As

mentioned, by focusing on student’s strengths and passions, employers can create a positive

self-image for these students and ultimately alter the hiring landscape for the better.

To best assist these students, we must understand the role we as teachers, one of the key

players, take in supporting students with developmental disabilities. We can help students

identify their career goals by ensuring we talk to their family. We can invite local employers to

talk to students about fields they may be interested in and even facilitate field trips to

businesses. In addition to helping students discover what job may be right for them we can also

assist in the next stage of preparing for interviews. To do this, we can help students create a

task analysis so that they can see the work that goes in to searching for jobs. Starting a “job

club” for students can also be helpful for many reasons. The first is that they can explore where

their passions lead them and the second is that it encourages opportunities for peer-tutoring

with those who have jobs currently. Despite these approaches, we still have much work to do in

promoting a shift in mindset for employers as viewing these students as having intrinsic value

rather than instrumental. Additionally, our transition programs must move toward preparing

students vocationally and ensure that there is never a disconnect between school staff and

parents in discussions. While the transition programs demonstrate practical improvements we

must make, many of the barriers preventing students with developmental disabilities from

obtaining employment are rooted in the philosophy. It is our responsibility as teachers to enact

a positive perception of these students seeking jobs and support them holistically to pursue

their passions and further develop their God given strengths in the workplace.


  • Bennett, S., & Gallagher, T. (2013). “High School Students with Intellectual Disabilities in the School and Workplace: Multiple Perspectives on Inclusion”. Canadian Journal of Education / Revue Canadienne De L’éducation, 36(1), pp. 96-124.
  • Cartmell, Jennifer.; Randall, Christine.; Ruhindwa, Amos. (2016). “Exploring the challenges experienced by people with disabilities in the employment sector in Australia: Advocating for inclusive practice‐ a review of literature”. Journal of Social Inclusion, 7(1), pp. 5-14.
  • Eaves, Ronald C.; Darch, Craig.; Dunn, Caroline.; Rabren, Karen. (2013). “Students with Learning Disabilities’ Satisfaction, Employment, and Postsecondary Education Outcomes”. Journal of Education and Learning, v2 n2, pp. 14-22.
  • Johnson, Stephanie M. (2010). “The Relationship between High School Transition Services for Students with Significant Disabilities and Employment Effectiveness”. ProQuest LLC, Ed.D. Dissertation, Walden University, pp. 1-13.
  • Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario. (2003). Revision of a document developed for LDAO in May 1999 by: Nichols, Eva., et al. “Transition Planning Resource Guide for Students With Learning Disabilities”. pp. 4-9.
  • McGuirk, Lindsay A. (2016). “Parent and Teacher Perceptions of Employment Readiness of Students with Intellectual Disabilities”. ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, Duquesne University, pp. 1-15.


Cite This Work

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing stye below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.

Related Services

View all

DMCA / Removal Request

If you are the original writer of this essay and no longer wish to have your work published on UKEssays.com then please:

Related Services

Our academic writing and marking services can help you!

Prices from


Approximate costs for:

  • Undergraduate 2:2
  • 1000 words
  • 7 day delivery

Order an Essay

Related Lectures

Study for free with our range of university lectures!

Academic Knowledge Logo

Freelance Writing Jobs

Looking for a flexible role?
Do you have a 2:1 degree or higher?

Apply Today!