Vocational Skills Training For Children With Special Needs.
Realizing the Challenge.
What will these children with special needs depend on for independency and economic survival when their parents/guardians are no longer alive? Which communities will take them up when they are not productive? Which good Samaritan will accept them in his/her home to look after them without any contribution from them?-Occupation and independency are a key to life. Inclusive vocational skill training for children with special needs/disability is a strategy for us to implement.
While there are studies that prove that training in a vocational setting does have a positive influence on students with learning disabilities, there is still a big gap in this country as regards training children with special needs/disabilities in vocational skills.
With increased youth unemployment in Uganda and globally it worries us about the future of children with special needs/disabilities. Most children with special needs/disabilities have hidden abilities in various sectors which when empowered can produce amazing results one of which is ability to learn vocational skills. Unfortunately it’s very hard to get a vocational training Centre for children with special needs.
Individuals with learning disabilities have encountered many challenges in the struggle for survival, seeking employment following exit from high school. Jobless individuals with learning disabilities have often lived within the extremes of poverty and dependence. Often however, the communities and students are unaware of the problems and tribulations that are ahead.
Compared to their non-disabled peers, students with disabilities are more likely to experience unemployment or under employment, lower pay and job dissatisfaction. It’s our role to come up in supporting them and fight for their rights.
Many students with disabilities/learning difficulties drop out of school before graduating, leaving them even more unprepared for and less likely to obtain a job.
There is still stigma among most communities and discrimination by many individuals against children with special needs/disabilities. Majority believe that their conditions are contagious and that because of their disability, such children will eventually affect children without special needs which is not true. They deny them a chance to integrate with others and segregate them in many aspects. Most communities label these children many names which don’t suit them.
With the increased number of students with learning disabilities not being able to get access to skills training for independent living, concerned parents are living a miserable life with stress, depression, family breakdown, economic constraints among others.
Most of the parents interacted with at UMRC reveal that they don’t know of any Centre of its kind in the country that shows interest and care for children with special needs and more so making them independent in daily activities and brightening their future by promoting economic independency through vocational skills training.
It’s true that special needs or disability is very broad with individuals having physical, mental, psychosocial and multiple disabilities. With experience, children and youth with special needs/disability have varying challenges as well as abilities and at varying age groups. The most interesting part is that they can excel very well, learn various vocational skills when trained and when barriers to their performance are removed.
Children with special needs/disabilities are a great threat to most of our communities especially if they are not trained on how to be independent and vocational skills needed to earn a living most especially when their parents are no longer alive.
Empowering children with special needs/disability in vocational and life skills to be independent and productive to themselves, their families, the community and the nation is the only way to integrate them in most of our communities and overcome people’s negative attitudes on them.
UMRC is committed to discovering children’s potential and hidden talents thereby empowering them to live a happy life. Training in Vocational and life skills enables children with special needs/disability to earn a decent living.
VOCATIONAL SKILLS TRAINED
We aim at skilling children with special needs, youth without special needs, solving youth unemployment and brightening the future.
We train children with special needs/disability and youth without special needs Basic vocational skills like;
- Making of:
- paper bags,
- table cloths,
- door mats,
- floor mats,
- ear rings,
- craft bags,
We take some of our children with special needs and youth to learn advanced vocational skills like;
- brick laying,
- mechanics and repairs,
- hair cutting,
- hair dressing,
- motor vehicle cleaning (washing bays) and
- Laundry skills to other learning centers.
This skills training follows child assessment in identifying child’s abilities, interests and parents expectations that form a vocational skills training program that is child or client-centered. We supervise these children and offer necessary guidance while learning. We are in the process of expanding our vocational skills unit to include more of these skills at our Centre for better results. It’s only due to lack of finance and other resources that we have not yet implemented all this but we hope we shall be there.
SOME CHILDREN AND YOUTH AT UMRC IN BASIC VOCATIONAL SKILLS TRAINING
Vocational skills training should provide students with a curriculum that prepares them for the job that they intend to take up. Broad-based knowledge and skills are good, but for some students with disabilities, specific skills are necessary for survival in the workplace and in the community and need to be explicitly taught.
VOCATIONAL AND LIFE SKILLS FOR INDEPENDENCY
Some of the life and vocational skills needed include;
- Reading and writing (e.g., sight-word vocabulary, spelling, handwriting, typing, etc.)
- Math (e.g., basic computation, money, measurement)
- Problem solving
- Listening comprehension
- Art or music
- English speaking
- Following and giving directions accurately
- Communicating information
- Understanding and processing information
- Requesting or offering assistance
- Foreign language
SOCIAL AND INTERPERSONAL SKILLS
- Answering the phone and taking a message
- Making necessary phone calls to employers and other professionals as part of a job requirement
- Displaying appropriate workplace behavior and etiquette
- Knowing appropriate topics for discussion in the workplace
- Knowing when and when not to socialize on the job
- Learning how to protect themselves from victimization
- Learning social problem-solving techniques
OCCUPATIONAL AND VOCATIONAL SKILLS
There are a number of skills and behaviors that most, if not all jobs require. It is important to help students who lack these skills to acquire them. Examples of these activities include the following:
- Using a time card and punch clock
- Arriving to work on time
- Calling when sick
- Requesting vacation time or going for leave
- Using the appropriate voice tone and volume
- Accepting instructions and corrections
- Knowing appropriate interaction with co-workers (i.e., getting along; social problem solving; making friends and recognizing personal, professional and sexual boundaries)
OTHER SKILLS FOR INDEPENDENCY
There are also a number of skills that students should have to be as independent as possible in their future job searches; these skills include the following:
- Looking for jobs (advertisements in the newspaper and online, neighborhood help-wanted signs and local resources)
- Filling in job applications
- Writing résumés and cover letters
- Obtaining necessary identification (photo ID, birth certificate)
- Filling out paperwork /employer paperwork
- Having interviewing skills
As you can now see that children with special needs/disabilities require a lot of skills but not all of them have the ability to learn and master them. Therefore vocational trainers for these children should carry out a vocational assessment to identify children’s interest, ability, which skills to teach them and which skill comes after the other or would lead to the other. Occupational therapists can play a big role in this task and where necessary can advise on activity analysis and grading skills to promote learning.
Vocational skills training should be based on the principle of equal opportunity for all and whenever possible, disabled persons should receive training with and under the same conditions as non-disabled persons. There is need to promote access to education, training and lifelong learning for people with nationally identified special needs, such as children, youth, people with disabilities, migrants, older workers, indigenous people, ethnic minority groups and the socially excluded.
We should all advocate for Inclusive Vocational skills Training to reduce on Low employment and underemployment rates for students with disabilities and to promote economic independence.