Summer Jobs for Exceptional Teenagers

Yes, it's possible!
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I bet I can guess — your teenager has filled out more employment applications and pre-assessments than he or she did during the school year. Only to be told, Thank you, we will be in touch if we have any openings.” Hey wait, didn’t the sign on the door say “NOW HIRING”?

It’s a thankless and discouraging effort. Parents are at the stage where we desperately want our children in the workforce, and not for any other reason than to prepare them for this big, real world. Of course, having their own money would relieve us of any movie or shopping debts in the meantime.

If my kid doesn’t work, then I end up making ridiculous “allowance loans.” I think most parents understand where I am going with this. We are not banks or employers, but against our better judgment, we nose-dive straight into that category. I just want my kid to meet people and learn some life skills.

If that seems easier said than done, here are a few ideas to consider.


If your child cannot get a job no matter the effort, try to find a place for him or her to volunteer their time. Libraries, pet shelters, police stations, summer schools, hospitals, and even parks always seem to need extra help. Parents are encouraged to check out Carolina Parent's list of volunteer and community service opportunities in the Triangle.

While helping out, children with disabilities are introduced to the standard work ethic and added life skills; a great opportunity to add this to their resume.


At a certain skill level, some teenagers might need government interventions. For example, the NC Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) assists with gaining employment and transitioning services. Teenagers who qualify are able to earn their own money and gain experience at the same time.

Goodwill Industries also offers career services and might be a good place to start.  

Call the corporate office

There are however, some employers who help disabled workers or applicants. For example, Kroger, Home Depot, Target, and Wal-Mart mention diversity or inclusion on their corporate websites. Instead of completing a basic online application, parents or teenagers could try calling the diversity department to speak with someone directly, and who might provide enough feedback for an employment opportunity. Prospective employees should mention ahead of time that they need reasonable accommodations for employment.

However, if your child does secure a job independently, he or she should understand that some employers ask the applicant to “disclose a disability.” Not the easiest question on the application because it is an obvious proclamation. It has a way of calling attention to the one person who really doesn’t need that type of attention. But parents should discuss with their teenager the benefit of disclosing or not disclosing a disability to the prospective employer.

Good news and bad news

While your teenager looks for employment, he or she will ultimately need some type of funding from you in order to enjoy their summer. Consequently, parents will not necessarily enjoy this same option. That’s the bad news. Depending on his or her level of functioning, if your child doesn’t have any income, you will need to subsidize his or her fun.

The good news is that parents are in control of how much is paid out. First, parents can set up a “work contract” in which their young adult is able to earn money around the house; complete with an understanding of the expectations on both sides

Second—and I say this with a straight face, “Pay very little money.” In other words, we don’t want our teenagers to become too comfortable with working for us or they may never want to get a real job; nor would they have to. We tend to be pushovers while struggling to make a point so save yourself some cash and clarify any payments immediately. Having barely enough income should help keep your young one motivated to find an outside job.


Whether or not your child works for you or an outside business, he or she will gain the skills needed for a lifetime. Whatever the understanding or whoever is signing their paycheck, the value in the learning experience will be priceless.

C.C. Malloy lives in Greensboro and is a steadfast supporter of children with disabilities. Any information here should not be considered legal advice and counsel should be sought for personal educational guidance. For additional support, please visit her website, Bizigal’s Exceptional Blooms.


Categories: A ‘Special’ World