Guideposts for Success for Youth with Learning Disabilities

The Guideposts for Success are a framework to assist the multiple organizations that need to be involved to meet the needs and improve the transition outcomes of all youth including youth with disabilities and to create necessary community webs of support.

The Guideposts for Success for Youth with Learning Disabilities provide guidance to caring adults and youth service professionals for improving services and outcomes for youth, ages 14 to 25, with diagnosed and undiagnosed learning disabilities.

Youth and young adults with learning disabilities are over-represented in a wide array of government-supported programs—adult education, vocational rehabilitation, welfare, corrections, and others. Many of these young people may not even be aware that they have a learning disability, although they may know that they have not done as well as many of their peers in traditional classrooms and in work and social settings.

The transition from adolescence to adulthood is not an easy one. Making decisions and dealing with challenges in academic, vocational, and social settings are difficult but essential parts of life. Young people need to nurture interpersonal relationships, to find their place in groups, and to establish their identity as adults. Support from caring adults can ease this transition. The Guideposts point the way to providing the necessary supports.

The five Guidepost areas of focus are:

School-Based Preparatory Experiences

In addition to the school-based preparatory experiences that all youth, including youth with disabilities, need, youth with learning disabilities have some specific needs.

Because of the strong correlation between school-based preparatory experiences and positive employment outcomes, youth with learning disabilities benefit from:

  • staff and experiences that help them understand how the strategies they use to learn in classroom settings can be applied to the workplace;
  • access to individualized assessments for school and work;
  • opportunities to practice requesting reasonable accommodations to ease the effects of the environment on their disability; and
  • opportunities to practice incorporating instructional strategies centered on “learning how to learn” outside of the classroom.

Career Preparation & Work-Based Learning Experiences

In addition to the Career Preparation and Work-based Learning experiences that all youth, including youth with disabilities, need, youth with learning disabilities have some specific needs.

Because experience gained from career preparation and work-based learning experiences often informs later decisions regarding employment options, youth with learning disabilities need:

  • exposure to work-based learning and vocational activities that focus on their individual interests, skills, and aptitudes;
  • a clear understanding of how their processing difficulties may impact their career options;
  • a clear understanding of how accommodations can minimize many barriers; and
  • a clear understanding of how disclosure of their disability to others can facilitate success in employment.

Youth Development & Leadership

In addition to the Youth Development and Leadership opportunities that all youth, including youth with disabilities, need, youth with learning disabilities have some specific needs.

Because youth development and leadership opportunities are effective and lead to successful outcomes for youth with disabilities, youth with disabilities need:

  • opportunities to learn how to effectively access accommodations needed in the workplace; access to activities that promote self-determination, self-advocacy, and goal setting;
  • instruction in and opportunities to practice interpersonal skills and to develop functional work capacities;
  • opportunities to meet and spend time with successful adults and peers who also have learning disabilities.

Connecting Activities

In addition to the Connecting Activities that all youth, including youth with disabilities, need, youth with learning disabilities have some specific needs.

Because having access to healthcare, housing, and transportation is fundamental to being a reliable member of the workforce, young people with learning disabilities, in part due to their processing difficulties, may need:

  • additional training and support in order to understand how to obtain healthcare, housing, and transportation services;
  • a clear understanding that their eligibility to receive certain services may terminate when they exit school or reach a specific age;
  • assistance in planning to avoid gaps in services as they transition from youth service systems to adult service systems.

Family Involvement & Supports

In addition to the Family Involvement and Supports that all youth, including youth with disabilities, need, youth with learning disabilities have some specific needs.

Because youth with learning disabilities need access to educational, vocational, technological, and social supports including accommodations in order to be able to navigate effectively in some environments, they need family members who:

  • are aware of and adept at accessing available resources;
  • able to share their knowledge of resources with the youth; and
  • demonstrate a great deal of understanding as the youth alternate between wanting a lot of support and wanting virtually no support.

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