Raising aspirations of young people with learning disabilities

Earlier this week, Ofsted released a report which indicated that councils are failing to prepare young people with learning disabilities for adult life after they leave school.

From the Foundation’s own experiences working with schools and colleges, we know that opportunities for young people with learning disabilities are limited once they leave school.

We have worked particularly hard to change this outcome through raising the aspirations of young people with learning disabilities, their families and teaching staff to focus on finding a job after leaving school. Our Learning for Leadership programme prepares young people with learning disabilities for adulthood by helping them to develop their own leadership skills in a practical and active learning environment.

We work with colleges, self-advocacy groups and local employment advisors to deliver workshops that focus on inclusion, person centred planning, health, understanding what leadership is and what type of a leader you are, and options for employment. Our leadership programme in Cornwall was particularly successful, with 8 of the 10 students going on to find employment.

Our work with the government’s Getting a Life programme focused on helping young people with learning disabilities to achieve paid employment when they leave education. By bringing young people and their families together, we were able to explore inclusion and the barriers that prevented young people with learning disabilities from getting work experience or a job.

As part of the programme, Oliver and his family set up a circle of support and realised that a friend of the family who owned a hair dressing salon could offer him some work experience. So, for one hour a week he swept the floors, sorted out the curlers and even practiced washing someone’s hair. 18 year old Clare took part in individual planning with her family as part of the programme and we discovered that she loved animals and was already looking after the chickens that her family kept. With her mum’s help, Clare gained more experience working with animals, grooming horses at a stable, and working with a cat breeder helping to feed their cats.

Work needs to be explored as a realistic option for school leavers with learning disabilities and one of the best ways to achieve this is for others to act as role models. We involve young people with learning disabilities who have jobs, self-advocacy groups and local employment advisors in our leadership projects to make this possible.