This was a school year like no other. When schools and colleges transitioned from an in-school to a distance learning environment in mid-March, many of our lives were turned upside down. For some, like my son Connor, who is a college student on the autism spectrum, it was a challenge to adapt to the online environment. The good news: we made it. Let’s celebrate our students’ achievements and milestones during this unprecedented time and look forward to what’s next.
For youth with disabilities, the next steps might be unclear. With more time at home, we have an opportunity to prioritize discussions about how our young people will work and support themselves as adults. Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD) can provide services remotely to help them identify their strengths, weaknesses, interests, and career goals to help them build a foundation for future success. We can help provide a realistic understanding of the time, effort, and expense required to achieve their goals.
OOD can assist youth with disabilities, beginning at age 14, through career exploration, skill development, and strategies to get a job after graduation (www.OODWorks.com). In-person meetings may not be possible right now due to COVID-19; however, OOD Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors stand ready to serve and are eager to work together with you and your young person remotely. We can help students explore their options, whether they are in the beginning stages of career exploration, desire to work right away, or launch their career after the pandemic subsides.
If you have a college student with a disability, make sure you connect with us. Our Ohio College2Careers program, at 15 public colleges and universities in Ohio, ensures students with disabilities have the support they need to complete their degree and/or credential, earn higher wages, and meet the demands of tomorrow’s labor market. If your student isn’t attending one of the participating colleges, OOD may still be able to provide support for attaining and maintaining employment.
OOD professionals have been creatively supporting individuals with disabilities during this time. Staff have supported students remotely through mock interviews, coordination of virtual job interviews, and connection to essential employment opportunities. Our Division of Employer and Innovation Services’ Urgent Jobs List and process is in place to connect job seekers to essential businesses with urgent hiring needs. Despite these challenging times, in the first six weeks of coronavirus in Ohio, OOD placed a total of 319 Ohioans with disabilities into a broad range of jobs.
Parents, caregivers, teachers, and mentors all play an important role in setting the expectation of work. Have you had a conversation about employment with your young person? It’s a great time to start talking. I encourage you to reach out to get connected with OOD for support and assistance with these conversations.