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When children with cerebral palsy reach their teen years, it’s time to start thinking about their future and the best way to maximize chances of success. One of the ways you can give them a head start is to assess their interests and strengths through vocational counseling.
Vocational Counseling Defined
Vocational counseling, sometimes referred to as vocational rehabilitation, is a type of program that helps prepare children with special needs, including cerebral palsy, for adulthood and work. The primary goals of vocational counseling are to give children the skills to become financially independent, maximize self-esteem, and to promote independence. 
Often a multidisciplinary approach, vocational counseling works closely with each person to assess the physical strengths and weaknesses, aptitude, talents, career interests, and more.
Office modifications are also taken into consideration for those who need accommodations when working, such as adaptive equipment. Additionally, vocational counseling helps children overcome obstacles in the workplace by providing:
- Job/career counseling services
- Communication and social skills training
- Assistance in making professional decisions
- Job skill development services
Vocational counseling is generally offered as a part of your child’s IEP program at school.
Benefits of Cerebral Palsy and Vocational Counseling
Children with cerebral palsy need extra support when it comes to life-challenging events such as choosing a career that’s right for them. Some parents may assume that future employment for their child is impossible, yet vocational training can help children and their families explore options and find a job or career that suits the child’s needs well and gives them a sense of purpose.
Vocational counseling can pinpoint your child’s unique capabilities while helping them achieve independence.
Once their assessment is complete, vocational coaches can help them find job training programs, job placement assistance, professional help with social and self-esteem issues, and can provide access to other coaches, such as career and job trainers.
Types of Training Involved in Vocational Counseling
The type of training involved in vocational counseling will depend on each student’s individualized assessments. In general, however, the following forms of training are typically offered:
- Headset and phone training
- Computer and applications training
- Task-mastering techniques
- Searching and applying for open positions
- Career training workshops
Vocational counseling can take place in a variety of settings, including schools, colleges, training centers, and community centers.
Professionals Who Provide Vocational Counseling
Vocational counseling is successful due to the professionals involved. Professional vocational counselors typically carry a master’s degree (sometimes a bachelor’s) in vocational rehab. Although most states don’t require the professionals to be certified, many will voluntarily obtain certification in their field for added credibility, as most employers look favorably on those who get certified.
Vocational counselors concentrate on numerous areas of studies while in school, including rehabilitation, biology, anatomy and physiology, clinical practice and observation, psychology, sociology, and more.
Another type of professional who helps out during vocational counseling is the vocational technician. Vocational technicians typically hold associate’s degrees and assist vocational counselors in helping the students learn skills that will help them succeed in employment.
Vocational Counseling Success Story
Karlee Hayes, of Florida, enrolled in vocational counseling, known as “Vocational Rehabilitation,” after learning about her “School to Work” program at her local high school. 
The Tallahassee Democrat reports that Hayes learned invaluable clerical skills while at counseling and her counselor Sherger Gray was so impressed that she was able to find Hayes a position at the Children’s Medical Services for the Florida Department of Health on the University of South Florida. Haye’s duties included stuffing envelopes and other clerical tasks that she was trained to do during vocational training.
Since Hayes suffers from seizures and vision problems, her vocational counseling job coach began immediately working to provide her with the accommodations needed for her to work. Items provided to Hayes include a larger computer monitor, foot pedal, grabber (if an item is dropped), a wheelchair arm pivot, a monitor stand, and a right-handed keyboard.
Hayes was so successful at her job that she was accepted into the STAGES (Successful Transition After Graduation for Exceptional Students) program at the University of Southern Florida (USF). The STAGES program allows Hayes to work at the school’s campus recreation center during her internship.
She continues to work at the Children’s Medical Services as well, and she’s gotten so proficient that she’s taken on additional tasks. The supervisor indicates that Hayes is one of her best workers and “it’s a pleasure having her around.”
- Vocational rehabilitation services and employment outcomes for adults with cerebral palsy in the United States. (2013, August 8). Wiley Online Library.
Retrieved from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/dmcn.12224
- Hayes rises above cerebral palsy. (2015, October 7). Tallahassee Democrat.
Retrieved from: https://www.tallahassee.com/story/life/2015/10/07/hayes-rises-above-cerebral-palsy/73449680/