I Can Do Anything: Learning Job Basics and Preparing for the Future

NOTE: October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Theo Brooks

By Theo Brooks


When I lost my job in the food industry, I didn’t know what to do. Without my job, I was feeling defeated. I was frustrated that the job I enjoyed and looked forward to was gone.

I stopped by INCLUDEnyc, which my mom found, that helps young people with disabilities like me and their families. One of their youth educators spoke to me and gave me an assessment. From that point, I started to feel more optimistic that I had opportunities.

I visited the youth educator a few times and after several conversations, I realized that I had valuable skills from the food industry and my experience in building maintenance. I could do anything I set my mind to.

I started applying to jobs again. INCLUDEnyc suggested a retail opportunity. The educator worked with me to fill out the job application and prepare me for the interview. I was worried about questions that I would be asked about my work experience, but the educator coached me to handle the questions. I knew how to answer the tough questions and focus on my strengths.

When I went to the interview, I was prepared, but still nervous. I was happy I did well and as INCLUDEnyc taught me, I wanted to send a thank you note. The youth educator helped me draft the note. Then, all I had to do was wait. Luckily, I didn’t have to wait too long. I received an offer the very next day! I also continued to work with the INCLUDEnyc educator to build my skills. We talked a lot about budgeting and time management. Both are so important for my life and my career.

Now, I have a retail job that I really enjoy. I work at a Marshall’s store in Manhattan. I’m a retail clerk, and I help out wherever I can. Sometimes, I’m organizing inventory and other times I’m helping customers. I like my co-workers, and it’s a great environment. I’m proud to say that everything is going well.

I used to worry about what my future would look like. I know now that I can’t always predict what will happen, but I’m prepared. For anyone like me who might have a hard time finding a job, connect with others. There are great people out there who want to help, and they believe in you.


Theo Brooks participated in INCLUDEnyc’s Project Possibility program, which provides intensive support for youth who are transitioning into adult life. As a member of NYS Transition Partners, INCLUDEnyc is a leading Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) Parent Training and Information Center (PTIC) organization providing young adults with disabilities and their families with postsecondary education and employment resources.


Blog articles provide insights on the activities of schools, programs, grantees, and other education stakeholders to promote continuing discussion of educational innovation and reform. Articles do not endorse any educational product, service, curriculum or pedagogy

Blue, Purple and Green: How I Color Coded my Child Into Middle School

Note: October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month

Zoe – my color coded sixth grader with mosaic Down syndrome

Zoe – my color coded sixth grader with mosaic Down syndrome

By Suzanne Wingard, Director of Training, Family Connection of SC


Color has always been a part of organization in my life – from taking notes in school to sorting training handouts at work. It has visually simplified even the most complex tasks mainly because I am a visual learner. Luckily, so is my daughter.

Zoe was born with mosaic Down syndrome, a rare form of Down syndrome where not all the cells have the third copy of the 21st chromosome. She has been fully included in general education classrooms with supports in a private school since Kindergarten. We’ve put several accommodations in place and provided an aide for support. We’ve also used color to help her learn new concepts such as separating parts of a math problem or identifying new vocabulary in her reading books.

Colored Math Problems

Colored Math Problems

Over this past summer though, our anxiety started increasing – mine more than hers – about the dreaded transition to sixth grade in middle school. New buildings, higher curriculum expectation, demands for independence, peer pressure and feelings – oh, so many feelings.

I decided to tackle our anxiety with the only thing that consistently works in our lives – Organization Through Color!

We wrote down our anticipated challenges with transition to middle school:

  • Remembering a schedule of which class to go to for each class period
  • Finding each classroom within the five different campus buildings
  • Keeping up with homework, classwork, handouts and notes for the five curriculum classes as well as the five rotation enrichment classes
  • Managing study time for an increased number of tests and quizzes

All of these led to increased demands on organization and time management skills.

Middle school emphasizes a more independent way of learning with the ability to improve executive functioning skills such as organizing and prioritizing, staying on task and self-monitoring.

The Summer Scavenger Hunt Begins!

To start the color organization process, Zoe selected one color for each curriculum course: math, science, reading, writing and history.

We then found a solid color binder with dividers for each class.

Once we had the binders, the real fun began — accessories to match! It’s amazing what you can find in the back to school section of your local mass merchandise store. Pencil holders, spiral notebooks, composition books, section dividers, spiral notecards, even mechanical pencils — all in the same color scheme for each curriculum subject.

Colored Curricula Folders

5 colors were selected for the 5 curriculum classes

But it didn’t stop there. Each curriculum class required a cover for their textbooks.  It took us two months and three states, but we finally found a solid color stretchy material book cover to match all five binder colors. Of course, online shopping would have been faster, but we decided to make it a summer scavenger hunt.

Colored School Accessories

All the accessories were kept in the same five-color scheme

Identifying what binder and book was needed for each subject was now easy, and she was able to keep a set of books at home and a set of binders in the classroom. But we still had the issue of remembering which class was in each period.

Color Blocked Schedules

Once Zoe’s class schedule came out, we created a new version using the colors that correlated to her curriculum classes. We added class time blocks, teacher names and building locations. This was printed, laminated and added to each binder as well as her locker. If she was marked tardy for class, it certainly wasn’t because Zoe didn’t know where she was going!

Color Blocked Schedules

Color blocking makes information easier to find

Following the Rainbow

With the school year underway, we continue the same color scheme at home to keep everything consistent. Homework is done in each binder with the corresponding color pens or mechanical pencils. Vocabulary notecards are completed in the same color card ring as its curriculum color. This allows Zoe’s brain to keep the information in separate “folders” when learning new concepts or studying for tests.

There are so many different ways color can be used for organization. Our process has not only calmed our anxiety, but it has also created a huge amount of independence for Zoe. No more frantically flipping through one binder to find the science homework that somehow ended up in the math section.  If it is science, for Zoe, it’s going to be blue.


Blog articles provide insights on the activities of schools, programs, grantees, and other education stakeholders to promote continuing discussion of educational innovation and reform. Articles do not endorse any educational product, service, curriculum or pedagogy

Creating Access to Successful Employment

Note: October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Logo: Project CASE

Manufacturing, healthcare and information technology are three promising career pathways for Kentuckians seeking training and employment in in-demand jobs that pay family-sustaining wages and have opportunities for advancement.

Project CASE was created to increase the numbers of individuals with disabilities training and working in these fields by finding and/or developing flexible and innovative training and postsecondary approaches to skill attainment.

Project CASE’s six Career Pathway Coordinators help increase the capacity of Kentucky’s Office of Vocational Rehabilitation and Office for the Blind in reaching employers who can provide work experiences such as job shadowing, internships, apprenticeships and, ultimately, job placement in these pathways.

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In Pursuit of a Dream

NOTE:  October is Learning Disabilities/ADHD/Dyslexia Awareness Month

Picture of Savannah

This blog is written by Savannah Treviño-Casias, a member of the Young Adult Leadership Council of the National Center for Learning Disabilities


My dream is to be a clinical mental health counselor!

I built my whole college experience around a plan to go to graduate school right after I completed my bachelor’s degree in psychology. Achieving that dream has been filled with challenges and many ups and downs.

You see, I have dyscalculia, a math learning disability. This disability requires me to be an advocate for myself in both school and life.

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The Power of Partnerships

NOTE: October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Ethan - Photo 2

By Chris Pope, OSERS RSA, and Kathy West-Evans, CSAVR


Partnerships between state vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies and the private sector have helped individuals with disabilities served by state VR agencies to meet their career goals.

Ethan, a young man with Autism, secured a paid internship with HP Inc. last spring thanks in part to a partnership between the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation’s (CSAVR) National Employment Team (NET), Michigan Rehabilitation Services (MRS), and Michigan Technological University (MTU).

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Vocational Rehabilitation Success Stories from the Sunshine State

Note: October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Florida’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation within the Florida Department of Education offers various vocational rehabilitation (VR) services to Florida customers.

This division has helped clients find jobs including services, technical and professional positions, self-employment, business start-up, and others positions across the state.

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Ruby’s Story: Inclusion, Self-Advocacy, and a Future that Could Include College

Note:  October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month

Ruby stands on stage with a microphone waving to the crowd during NW Buddy Fest 2018

Ruby stands on stage with a microphone waving to the crowd during NW Buddy Fest 2018

By Maria Rangel, Ruby’s mother


My daughter Ruby and I share a love for taking pictures on our phones and capturing memories. We have hundreds of photos of things we did this summer.

One morning as she was getting ready to go to her first day of eighth grade, she asked me to print some pictures on her phone, I said “no, later when you come back from school.”

She then insisted.

“Now for school. Share,” she said.

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Transitions and Transmissions: VR Services Help Teen Roadmap a Career Path

Note: October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Kenneth Singletary, working on a car.

By Way2Work Maryland

Way2Work Maryland, a five-year federal RSA research grant in Maryland, connects students with disabilities in local school systems across the state to community rehabilitation providers to participate in Work-Based Learning Experiences.


Way2Work student Kenneth Singletary was connected to TransCen, Inc. for services in his junior year thanks to a partnership between the University of Maryland, the Maryland Department of Education’s Division of Rehabilitation Services and its pre-employment transition services funding, and the Harford County, Maryland school system.

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Career Pathways Advancement Project — Individuals with Disabilities Find Work That Best Fits Them

Note: October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Nebraska VR logo in center of 4 photos. Top Left: A.J. (Andrew) Sigler, A1 United Heating, Air & Electrical Construction. Top Right: Sam Nelson, Environmental Services Associate. Bottom Left: Tanna Skarniak, Owner TS Preservation Specialist. Bottom Left: Amanda Carr, Hy-Vee Courtesy Clerk ]

The Career Pathways Advancement Project (CPAP) is designed for Nebraska vocational rehabilitation (VR) clients to explore and access opportunities to advance in their employment.

Through a combination of classroom and on-the-job training, clients earn the recognized postsecondary credentials required for advancement within a specific industry. CPAP provides employers access to a group of potential employees with the required and relevant skills.

This project is funded by a five-year grant awarded to Nebraska VR in 2015.

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Flipping the Script on my Limitations

NOTE:  October is Learning Disabilities/ADHD/Dyslexia Awareness Month

Julia Kaback

This blog is written by Julia Kaback, a member of the Young Adult Leadership Council of the National Center for Learning Disabilities


When I was a child, I dreamed of working at the National Park Service and when an entry-level position became available, I applied for it immediately. After my interview, I had to start thinking about the words I would use to describe my learning disability if given a job offer.

Good news, I got the job!

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Julia Kaback
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Member, Young Adult Leadership Council, National Center for Learning Disabilities