ERIC Identifier: ED383152
Publication Date: 1995-06-00
Author: Schelly, Cathy - And Others
Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education Reston VA.
Vocational Support Strategies for Students with Emotional
Disorders. ERIC Digest E534.
Youths with emotional and behavioral disorders often face a range of
compounding factors that may include poor socioeconomic status, limited
education, single-parent households, dysfunctional family relationships, incest,
sexual abuse, teen pregnancy, violence in the home, and unemployment (Commission
on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, 1993). Their support needs are
dramatic, and, if not addressed, result in behaviors that lead to dropping out
or expulsion from school, termination from work, and, in many cases,
incarceration (Marder & D'Amico, 1992). Wagner (1993) notes that youths with
emotional disorders have the highest arrest rate 3 to 5 years out of school and
the highest dropout rate of all other disability groups.
To address these behaviors and facilitate vocational success, youth
empowerment, community-based services, and individualized help are necessary
support strategies. Most importantly, the process must give clear direction to
support providers as to the unique needs of youths with emotional disorders and
allow these youths to be in charge of their lives and futures.
OBSTACLES TO FINDING EMPLOYMENT
consistently encounters certain barriers in finding and maintaining employment.
Ineffective verbal and nonverbal communication and avoiding risk-taking
experiences present challenges. After obtaining a job, they may have
difficulties following instructions, staying on task, accepting feedback,
planning ahead, and demonstrating socially acceptable work behaviors.
Difficulty with Verbal and Nonverbal Communication. Struggles with making
phone calls and going through the interview process are common for youths with
emotional disorders because they may have difficulties in verbal expression.
Nonverbal communication skills may also be underdeveloped as evidenced through
poor posture; limited eye contact; voice tone; facial expressions; and
inappropriate dress, hairstyles, or jewelry. This nonconforming appearance
combined with limited communication skills often creates a negative first
impression for employers and thus becomes a barrier to obtaining employment.
Avoidance of Risk-Taking Situations. While youths with emotional disorders
may have a desire to obtain employment, they may also have a desire to avoid a
perceived risk-taking situation, as demonstrated by a lack of follow-through
with job search activities and "cold feet" as they near possible employment.
Further, the experience of success in any life area is often viewed as a
risk-taking situation because it may be unfamiliar territory with increased
responsibilities and pressures. Because of this fear of the unknown, potentially
successful opportunities are often sabotaged to avoid risky situations.
OBSTACLES TO MAINTAINING EMPLOYMENT
Upon securing a job,
youths with emotional disorders struggle with maintaining a job (Wagner, 1993).
Following instructions and staying on task are an ongoing challenge. There often
are difficulties taking instruction from someone considered to be an authority
figure. Therefore, when instructions are given, the outcome may be a power
struggle between youths and their employers, which may result in job loss. Many
youths from this population are also multiply diagnosed with attention deficit
disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and learning disabilities,
all of which may make staying on task and following instructions even more of a
challenge (Hughes, Deshler, Ruhl & Shumaker, 1993).
Accepting Feedback. A low sense of self-worth may contribute to an inability
to deal with criticism and accept constructive feedback. In addition, many
youths with emotional disorders have trouble managing their anger in a
confrontational situation. As a result, confrontation on the job may lead to an
explosive situation and end in job loss.
Planning Ahead. Reactive, impulsive behaviors often preclude planning ahead
and anticipating undesirable consequences. On the job, these youths often act
before they think, which may lead to negative consequences.
General Lack of Socially Acceptable Work Behaviors. The collective behaviors
of youths with emotional disorders tend to indicate an overall lack of work
ethic. Behaviors such as sticking with a job, taking initiative, coming to work
on time, working to the best of one's ability, ending a job appropriately, or
showing respect are often not apparent. One reason may be that many youths have
not had role models that demonstrate effective work skills.
STRATEGIES FOR SUPPORT
Support strategies for this
population might include the following:
* Functional Community Referenced-Assessment. A community-based assessment
process assists youths with emotional disorders (as well as individuals with
other types of disabilities) in choosing and getting a job. This highly
individualized process identifies strengths, interests, barriers, and support
strategies in the work, school, community, recreational, home, and
social-emotional domains. An ongoing approach, offering volunteer, short-term
work trials to youth, uses community-based resources for constant learning
opportunities. "Hands-on" experiences create a greater sense of personal
confidence and lower the risk associated with acquiring a job. Assessment
information targets specific behavior support needs for each youth, allowing for
the immediate and ongoing implementation of functional behavioral support
strategies. Assessment information provides direction for job development,
vocational support strategies, and training needs.
* Modified Supported Employment. Many youths with emotional disorders need
very little help with on-the-job skill acquisition and therefore typically will
not benefit from a traditional job coach model. These youths need support with
problem-solving, effective communication, and demonstration of appropriate
behaviors in the workplace. Members of this population may be very concerned
about fitting in with co-workers and peers and not being stigmatized in any way.
Therefore a modified version of supported employment uses an employment
consultant rather than a job coach. An employment consultant: (1) helps to
educate employers; (2) facilitates problem-solving and effective communication;
and (3) provides "behind the scenes" support.
* Career Skills Preparation. Many youths with emotional disorders respond
well to individualized support. Therefore, the employment consultant works with
youths individually to develop effective resumes, fill out applications, and
practice interview skills. This support combined with an experiential,
community-based career skills curriculum is particularly effective (Bullis &
Gaylord-Ross, 1991; Groisser & Pennington, 1991) in preparing youths with
emotional disorders for the job search process.
* Problem-Solving Implementation. At the time of job placement, the youth,
the employer, and the employment consultant sign a problem-solving agreement.
This agreement helps to facilitate open communication between all parties and
allows everyone to plan ahead for any future conflicts. If a problem arises, the
agreement specifies a list of problem-solving steps. If the problem persists,
the agreement provides for implementation of a behavioral contract. This tool
also helps employers recognize the needs of this population and learn how to
develop effective support strategies.
* Allowing Natural Consequences To Occur. As noted above, many youths with
emotional disorders are experiential learners. Some of the most meaningful
learning opportunities occur as the result of natural consequences. For example,
if youths continually act out on a job and refuse to take steps to correct their
disruptive behavior, the best option may be to experience the natural
consequences of losing their job. In this situation, the employment consultant
can turn an unfortunate circumstance into a learning opportunity by helping
youths process their experience and learn what to do differently in the future.
* Action Planning. Youths with emotional disorders can be empowered to be in
charge of every aspect of their lives through an action planning process. They
look at each domain of their lives and decide what priority areas must be
addressed to achieve successful employment outcomes. The employment consultant
is available to help establish a timeline and set realistic goals and
objectives. This action plan is reviewed repeatedly to guide support services,
check progress, and adjust goals. In this way, service provision is youth
Bullis, M., & Gaylord-Ross, R. (1991).
Transitions for youth with behavioral disorders. Reston, VA: Council for
Exceptional Children, ERIC Clearinghouse on Handicapped and Gifted Children.
Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. (1993). Losing
Generations: Adolescents in high risk settings. Washington, DC: National
Research Council on High-Risk Youth. ED 360 448.
Groisser, D. & Pennington, B. (1991). ADD research report: The
differences in cognitive function in ADHD and dyslexic boys. ADD-VANCE, 3(1), 6.
Hughes, C., Deshler, D., Ruhl, K., & Shumaker, J. (1993). Test-taking
strategy for adolescents with emotional disorders. Journal of Emotional and
Behavioral Disorders, 1, 189-200.
Marder, C. & D'Amico, R. (1992). How well are youth with disabilities
really doing? A comparison of youth with disabilities and youth in general.
Washington, DC: Office of Special Education Programs, US Department of
Wagner, M. (1993). Trends in postschool outcomes of youth with disabilities:
Findings from the national longitudinal transition study of special education
students. Menlo Park, CA: SRI International.
The Council for Exceptional Children, 1920 Association Drive, Reston, VA
National Transition Network, Institute on Community Integration, University
of Minnesota, 6 Pattee Hall, 150 Pillsbury Drive, SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455
Transition Research Institute at Illinois, University of Illinois, 113
Children's Research Center, 51 Gerty Drive, Champaign, IL 61820 217/333-2325
HEATH Resource Center, One Dupont Circle, Suite 800, Washington, DC
National Center for Research in Vocational Education, University of
California at Berkeley, Office of Special Populations, 345 Education Building,
1310 South Sixth Street, Champaign, IL 61820 217/333-0807
Developing Social Vocational Skills in Handicapped Individuals, Digest #447,
ERIC Clearinghouse on Handicapped and Gifted Children, Reston, VA