A young girl with cerebral palsy is wearing glasses, blue t-shirt and dark shorts w-sits on a floor rug folding laundry.

Whether you are an adult with cerebral palsy or a CP parent thinking about your child’s future employment or career, you will want to equip yourself with all the resources available to you. More employers are waking up to the importance and benefits of diversity in the workplace. Yet there’s still a long way to go to ensure that all people with cerebral palsy, or other disabilities, get the opportunities that support their talents and potential.

Cerebral Palsy and Employment

Gaining and keeping employment is hard for anyone, but more so with a disability.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 19.3% of persons with a disability were employed in 2019. By contrast, the employment-population ratio for people without a disability was 66.3%. There are many factors that likely contribute to these disparities and for people with cerebral palsy and other disabilities there are often problems with reliable, accessible transportation, discrimination in hiring practices, problems with accommodations, and feelings of discouragement.

As we strive for fewer barriers to employment, better hiring practices, and a more inclusive working world, there is also much we can do to set ourselves,or loved ones, up for success.

For children who haven’t experienced disabilities, we start really young by asking, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” but we don’t very often do that with our children with disabilities. I encourage you to think about those kinds of things with your child.
Dr. Ronna Linroth – Owner of RLinroth Consulting

Cerebral Palsy and Employment: Early Preparation

Just like other children, children with CP benefit from exploring and setting vocational goals early. You can help your child to think about their vocational goals and start preparing them for adult life early.

Here are some areas you can focus on:

  1. Encourage independence

Teaching social coping skills and personal hygiene, and healthy boundaries will equip children for adult life and employment.

“Many adults with disabilities will tell you that going to camp was the first time they realized they could function separately from their parents,” says Linroth. “It’s tough for parents, and it’s tough for kids for those first days, but take the time to prepare and get ready for that.”

  1. Give children chores

A young girl with cerebral palsy is wearing glasses, blue t-shirt and dark shorts w-sits on a floor rug folding laundry.
For any child, household chores can also lead to adult success by fostering responsibility. Have your child participate in chores to the best of their ability. You may have them wipe down surfaces or run the hose to rinse the dishes, and use techniques like switch technology to run the blender. Some of the most powerful and cheap inexpensive opportunities are around the house!

  1. Mix up social interactions
  • Introduce children to a wide spectrum of people, personalities, and cultures. One of the predictors of success in transition is having a broad social network.
Children who only know their parents as caregivers, who only socialize with their siblings or their first ring cousins are not going to do as well as those who have been exposed to children from other cultures from other experiences and across the spectrum of capabilities as well.
Dr. Ronna Linroth – Owner of RLinroth Consulting
  1. Early work experience/shadowing

Strive early for work-based learning experiences that give children opportunities to practice problem-solving skills and self-awareness. You may try setting your child up with a job shadowing opportunity or internship to build their confidence and give them practical experience in the working world. These kinds of opportunities will allow them to learn the importance of showing up on time, being presentable, and allows your child to practice boundaries.

  1. Gearing up for higher education

Unfortunately, deficits in education are a factor impacting access to employment for adults with cerebral palsy. According to the 2018 Annual Report On People With Disabilities in America, 18.3 percent of people with disabilities (ages 25-34) have not attained a high school diploma (including GED or alternative certificate), compared to 8.5 percent of their peers without disabilities. The numbers continue to dwindle into post-secondary education.

Seeking Employment when you have Cerebral Palsy

  1. Know Your Rights
    • Five important federal laws protect individuals with disabilities from discrimination in employment and the job application process.
    • The National Disability Rights Network is a nonprofit membership organization providing free legal assistance to people with disabilities.
    • The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) is committed to ensuring that all people with disabilities have the right to equal opportunity and have a wealth of resources.
  1. Ask Employers for What You Need
    • As employees with cerebral palsy prepare to work in workplaces that are predominantly set up for those who do not have a disability, they must advocate for their needs.
    • Title one of the Americans With Disabilities Act requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations, and it is important to articulate what works for you.
    • This could be anything from a tilted keyboard stand, wheelchair-accessible desk, or chair-level filing system to a multi-level workstation where an employee can vary positions from sitting to standing.

“It is up to the individual to identify what their disability is and what kinds of accommodations they need,” says Linroth. “I have managed a clinic for adults with disabilities for 15 years and hired people with disabilities, and it’s beneficial for me for those individuals to say something specific about their needs, “I need this kind of headset. I know that this will work for me.”

  1. Focus on Self-Care
    • As employees with cerebral palsy age, they are susceptible to early-onset arthritis and repetitive strain injuries. Chronic pain, fatigue, and increasing spasticity can affect mobility, the ability to concentrate, and energy levels.
    • Keeping active with exercise, physical therapy, and adaptive fitness can all help.
    • The good news is that reasonable workplace accommodations from employers include flexible hours, extended breaks, work from home procedures, and in some circumstances, a leave of absence.
    • If you are unable to work due to a serious medical condition, The Family and Medical Leave Act applies to workplaces with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius.
    • Once an employee in an eligible workplace has worked for a company for at least a year, they are entitled to 12 weeks of job-protected and unpaid leave in a 52-week period with the continuation of group health insurance.
    • Just like anyone working several hours a day, you should take regular screen breaks, avoid being sedentary if you can, and make time for self-care outside of work in whatever form best serves you.

Career and Employment Resources

Resources for Job Coaching and Finding Employment

  • Disability.gov, the federal government’s website, includes helpful information about getting ready for work, finding a job, and sustaining employment. And every state has a Vocational Rehabilitation Agency with the purpose of helping persons with disabilities to prepare for and find employment and reach their career goals.
  • TransCen, Inc. is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving education and employment and assisting with placement services to youth and adults with disabilities.
  • Ticket to Work is another service providing access to employment support services for Social Security disability beneficiaries who want to work.
  • DiversityFIRST Jobs is an online resource for people seeking jobs and employers in need of creating a diverse workforce. Employers and recruiters post open positions in real-time to start finding quality employees. Job seekers can post resumes and sign up for email alerts about new job postings for free.
  • GettingHired.com allows people with disabilities to search for a job right for them.
  • American Job Centers can assist with work experiences in the form of summer and year-round employment, pre-apprenticeship, on-the-job training, or internships and job shadowing.
  • Resumebuilder.com provides a ‘Resume and Employment Guide for People with Disabilities’, written by Jeff Arseneaux, an adult with cerebral palsy, which offers information related to building a resume, job-related resources, workplace laws, and more.

The content in this section was adapted with permission from a presentation by Dr. Ronna Linroth. OT, PhD, CCCP, Transition Consultant. You may view the original presentation here.

As stated in other parts of our website, this information is provided as a resource and for educational purposes only. We strive for accuracy etc., but laws change with time and individual needs and circumstances vary.

For more information, download our free cerebral palsy tool kit.