Special needs include a wide range of learning difficulties, physical disabilities, or emotional and behavioral difficulties. These difficulties can affect a person in numerous ways that are not limited only to childhood and school.
Before the implementation of special education programs, students with special needs were often overlooked and were not given the same opportunities that their peers had. Because of this, many students with special needs did not graduate high school or continue into further education, making it difficult for them to secure a job in adulthood and presenting many challenges for special needs adults in the workplace.
However, there are many advantages of hiring adults with special needs to perform jobs and there are some steps that these individuals can take to help manage the challenges they are met with in the workplace.
Employers benefit from a diverse group of employees with varied talents, strengths, and perspectives, and special needs adults can gain confidence and improve self-esteem when they thrive in a workplace environment. Additionally, other employees will benefit from gaining new perspectives and working alongside individuals with different abilities. Adults with special needs are often hardworking and eager to prove their abilities, making for excellent employees and teammates.
Adults with special needs are all unique and have individualized strengths and talents just like everyone else, but often they have developed specialized skills as a way of working around their physical disabilities or learning difficulties. They are often adept at solving problems in creative ways, working hard to reach goals, and seeing things from a new perspective. If there is an area that poses difficulty for them, they likely have other areas in which they are especially strong in. Their ability to think outside the box makes special needs adults capable of developing new ideas and products.
Employers who are able to see and recognize these strengths can use this to benefit the company as well as the individuals by placing them in a role in which they can exceed.
Those with special needs are accustomed to facing challenges and difficulties in most areas of their lives that others do not have to deal with, and unfortunately the same is true in the workplace. Special needs adults may find it more difficult to be hired, and when they are offered a job it may be low-paying. Many employers are unwilling to look beyond a person’s disability.
Other challenges that are often faced by special needs adults in the workplace include: lack of support and understanding from employers and coworkers, being overlooked for promotions and opportunities, lack of assistive technology and equipment, and the feeling of being inadequate or undeserving.
It is important for special needs adults to know their rights and advocate on their own behalf. Knowing where to turn for coaching and support, and understanding your rights is crucial.
Some things you can do:
- Learn your rights under the Americans With Disabilities Act, Equal Employment Opportunity laws, and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
- Contact your state or local office for vocational rehabilitation.
- Take advantage of area public service agencies that offer to tutor in the area of learning disabilities.
- Learn how to deal with discrimination in the workplace.
- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s website has a wealth of resources that you may find useful.
- Refer to our How to Get Services page for more information and resources.
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