Show Your Strengths: Jobs for Students...

Show Your Strengths: Jobs for Students with Developmental Disabilities

by Anthony Teles
Jobs People Do | JobsPeopleDo.com

Developmental disabilities, both physical and mental, can be difficult to discuss when it comes to jobs. Parents and medical professionals provide plenty of aid, and schools are very accommodating. Yet the workforce is brimming with competition from highly-qualified candidates. A developmental disability may be viewed as a major disadvantage in this realm. However, there are many jobs to consider when pursuing one’s studies, including many in which a student’s condition plays an integral and positive role.

In Toronto, the Coffee Sheds are cafes part of the Common Ground Co-operative, with all three locations run by people with developmental disabilities. Their barista training program was created by job coach Gerald Patrick Fantone. He noted their skills to be “far superior to those of other people … who are ‘mainstream.’” Canadian Business SenseAbility has conducted research that finds 90% of people with development disabilities score average or better for job performance, and can often be more productive. Hard work and a friendly demeanour go a very long way as a barista, which is a very ideal role for a student.

The University of California at Los Angeles initiated a pilot program that employed two thousand workers with developmental disabilities in roles at hospital cafeterias and assisted living centres. These are jobs that require compassion, friendliness, and determination to help others, and having a developmental disability is in no way a negative for these skills. In fact, one’s experiences in receiving medical aid and managing a disability is an advantage, and one to be proud of.

Do those jobs not sound appealing? If the outdoors is preferable to indoors, working on gardens or plants is worth looking into. Lettuce Works in the state of Ohio hires teenagers who identify with disability to attend to weeds, water plants, and rake leaves. These tasks are not overly demanding while at the same time extremely important for the well-being of any farm or garden. Being outside all day long can be difficult, and in that case assembly line work is ideal for high school, college and university students. Once again, the task is a very important step in the process of production while at the same time simple and repetitive. Companies are required to make the environment ergonomically safe. Another indoor career path includes working in an office environment. Data entry, administrative work, and cleaning are the many tasks that may appear small, but are necessary for the office as a whole to function. Any of these jobs, combined with some training and support, are perfect on a part-time basis for a student making their way through their secondary or post-secondary education.

There are varied pathways to successful and fulfilling jobs or careers. As is the case for any student, it is important to assess one’s strengths and weaknesses honestly and objectively. A developmental disability comes with limitations, but it is of utmost importance to not only overestimate those limitations, but to also fully dive into the opportunities and strengths that are also present. Coping with a disability, seeking treatment, staying strong, and maintaining compassion for others are all amazing strengths that should never be underestimated. They come from a unique life experience that stands out in the competitive job market to build a path to success.


Broverman, Aaron. “Brewing up quality jobs for people with developmental disabilities.” Now. https://nowtoronto.com/news/brewing-up-jobs-for-people-with-developmental-disabiltiies/

Ray, Linda. “What Jobs Are Appropriate for Individuals With Developmental Disabilities?” Chron. http://work.chron.com/jobs-appropriate-individuals-developmental-disabilities-21306.html

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