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The role of families

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What families can do

Families play an important role in helping young people find and keep jobs.

Supports to find work are often hard to access and restricted by time, resources and low expectations. People with intellectual disability have a much higher chance of success in open employment when their families support them to find work.

Young people without disability often get advice about getting work experience and finding a job from family, friends and other people in the community. So, it makes sense to use family networks to get this kind of help for young people with intellectual disability.

However, families of school-aged children with intellectual disability often feel they have limited networks they can use. People can find it difficult to know where to start when it comes to helping their son or daughter find employment.

Using your networks

You can start by thinking about the people you have contact with in your everyday life and local community. This is sometimes called ‘social capital’. This handy term means the relationships in your life and the resources you can use through these relationships. Resources can be things like:

  • information and advice
  • help and favours
  • money and things you can borrow
  • help linking with other people and organisations.

A practical way to help think about your family’s social capital is to write a list of people you know. This could include:

  • neighbours
  • friends
  • work colleagues
  • shopkeepers and café owners you see regularly
  • people you meet through sport, church and other community and social activities.

Writing this list together as a family, including your son or daughter with intellectual disability and your other children, brings in ideas that parents alone may not think of.

Then think about the resources each person or organisation on your list might offer. They may have information or advice or know someone who would be good to talk to. Or they may be able to offer some work experience or a part-time job. Writing this down helps to show that you do have connections that may be able to help.

The next step is to start talking to the people on your list. This can sound daunting, but most people are happy to share their ideas, expertise and useful contacts. You can also get National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) support to do this. Think about what you will talk about with each person and the resources you think they might be able to offer. It’s a good idea to write a basic script of what you will say before you talk to them.

Another tip is to be positive and not apologetic. You’re seeking their advice and giving them an opportunity to be involved. Be positive about what your son or daughter is aiming for and what they can offer to a workplace, such as skills and personal qualities. This is good information to include in a script or your notes. Tell people about any support your son or daughter would have with them when they’re working.

While families often do these things themselves, think about supports you could draw on to make the tasks easier. A Circle of Support or other kind of network like a Microboard, can be a great way to help you think about and look for connections and employment opportunities. If you’re planning ahead, you might like to look into these kinds of networks, both for work and for other supports.  

NDIS support

NDIS participants 15 years or over can ask for employment support in their plan. You can use this support to explore your networks and find work opportunities, as well as to support the participant at work. It’s a good idea to talk with your Local Area Coordinator (LAC) or NDIS Planner about employment goals.

A project by Inclusion Australia

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