Learning Disabilities and Career Development

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Learning Disabilities and Career Development

The lifelong process of career development poses special challenges for people with learning disabilities (LD). Although the career development of individuals with disabilities is not widely discussed in the literature, key pieces of legislation enacted or reauthorized in the 1990s—Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Rehabilitation Act (now Title IV of the Workforce Investment Act)—have helped increase the numbers of individuals with LD in postsecondary education and the awareness of their needs in the workplace (Hitchings and Retish 2000). This Brief reviews research on the career development needs of persons with LD and describes practices to assist them with the process of gaining and maintaining employment.

Employment Issues

Learning disabilities are generally defined as significant difficulties in the acquisition and use of listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning, or mathematical abilities (Michaels 1997; Ohler, Levinson, and Barker 1996). There are a number of types as well as major individual differences in severity, impact, and age of onset (Cummings, Maddux, and Casey 2000; Hitchings and Retish 2000). “There is no single story to tell about outcomes of students with disabilities” (Blackorby and Wagner 1997, p. 58). Many people with LD have succeeded in the workplace, often as entrepreneurs, and recent legislation is intended to ease the process of disclosing a disability and obtaining on-the-job accommodations (Brown and Gerber 1994). Adults with LD are employed at the same rate as those without disabilities, but many are underemployed—in part-time, entry-level, minimum-wage jobs (Blackorby and Wa...

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...h Disabilities." Journal for Vocational Special Needs Education 23, no. 1 (Fall 2000): 24-33.

Michaels, C. A. "Preparation for Employment." In Learning Disabilities and Employment, edited by P. J. Gerber and D. S. Brown, pp. 187-212. Austin, TX: PRO-ED, Inc., 1997.

Ohler, D. L.; Levinson, E. M.; and Barker, W. F. "Career Maturity in College Students with Learning Disabilities." Career Development Quarterly 44, no. 3 (March 1996): 278-288.

Reiff, H. B. "Off the Beaten Path: A Model for Employment Success for Adults with Learning Disabilities." In Learning Disabilities, Literacy, and Adult Education, edited by S. A. Vogel and S. Reder, pp. 313-329. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes, 1998.

Rojewski, J. W. "Educational and Occupational Aspirations of High School Seniors with Learning Disabilities." Exceptional Children 62, no. 5 (March-April 1996): 463-476.
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