What Do They Know?

As part of class, we needed to interview two adults. One adult could be from the general public and the other needed to be a supervisor. The assignment objective was to assess their knowledge about adults with learning disabilities, behavioral disabilities, and ADD.  We came up with the interview questions as a class, which were the same for each interviewee. In class last night, each student presented their responses. The majority of the interviewees were employed in education fields (both secondary and higher ed). We all concluded that most higher education professionals are highly aware of necessary accommodations available to students who disclose a learning disability. Most in education are also aware of the laws that protect those rights for students. However, those in education find it difficult to decipher sometimes vague Disability Support Services letters. In other words, more training about adults with disabilities still needs to be provided to employers and instructors in order to best serve that population.

Both the class discussions and the readings got me thinking about ADA implementation efforts since 1992 and how much professionals are not widely trained on types of learning disabilities and the kinds of modifications needed. I think most professionals and supervisors want to help and are willing to hire employees with learning disabilities; however, employers are still confused on what that type of service may look like depending upon the individual and disability. I feel as though it comes down to both proper employee training and self-advocacy from employees with learning disabilities.

The concept of “marketing yourself” as a learning disabled adult is probably the most important aspect I’ve learned in this class. After school age years are over, most employees don’t know the specifics about each learning disability. In addition to the lack of knowledge or awareness about learning disabilities, employers generally don’t know learning disabilities manifest themselves in different ways for different individuals. Due to the complexity of the topic, it’s hard to say that employees need to become experts on the subject if they ever encounter a person with a disability; however, I do agree with the notion that some educational training on learning disabilities is appropriate in order to implement better programs and professional development initiatives (Position paper of the NJCLD).  The ADA and Section 504 do not outline who is responsible for carrying out the responsibility to prepare businesses and industries for the “many dimensions of learning disabilities in the workplace.” (ADA Response paper). Therefore, there is still a lot that needs to be done to better improve implementation efforts.

Lastly, I feel it’s the job of the employee with a learning disability to self-advocate. They have to have a certain amount of self-awareness (or move through certain stages of reframing) to know what modifications are necessary in the workplace that allow for maximum productivity and efficiency. Both employee training programs and self-aware adults with disabilities is the perfect combination for successful adjustment in any adult context, but especially in an employment or post-secondary setting.


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