Volunteering: why it’s good for teenagers with additional needs
As your child with disability, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or other additional needs moves through the teenage years, you and your child might start to think about future work.
Volunteering can be a great way for your child to prepare for work. It can help your child:
- learn what’s expected in the workplace
- find out what sort of work interests him
- build workplace skills like teamwork and punctuality
- gain confidence in the workplace and his own abilities
- build a resumé – your child could ask for a certificate of involvement to put in his work folder
- meet new people, who might be contacts for future job opportunities
- learn about the workplace support he needs to do a job well.
When your child volunteers, it also gives organisations the chance to get to know your child and her interests, strengths and needs. This might help your child if she wants to apply for paid positions at any of the places she volunteers.
The more experience your child can get in the workplace, the better prepared he’ll be to find work and stay in work when he finishes education.
Finding the right volunteer job for your child with additional needs
You can find the right volunteer job for your child by thinking about what she likes to do and what she’s good at.
For example, your child might be really keen on computer games, being outdoors, sport, working with numbers, meeting people, cooking or spending time with animals. You can look for volunteer opportunities that tap into these interests. These might include:
- conservation or gardening
- animal care and welfare
- aged and disability visitor programs
- food programs
- sports coaching
- English as a second language programs.
It might also be worth finding an organisation that has a history of or reputation for supporting volunteers or employees with additional needs. This might include not-for-profit companies or peak disability organisations.
It’s also important to consider the workplace environment – for example, whether the physical environment is accessible, whether the organisation will make adjustments for additional needs and how it treats volunteers.
Volunteering ideas and websites
Here are some ways to find volunteering work:
- Ask around family and friends to find out about opportunities in your local area. Your local council will have information on volunteering opportunities too.
- Websites like Go Volunteer or Seek Volunteer have databases that you can use to search for volunteer jobs based on interest and location.
- Try looking at the websites of organisations that work on specific causes – for example, conservation volunteers or the RSPCA.
- Ask your child’s school about helping your child to find a volunteering or work experience placement.
You can also check out state-based volunteering websites, which help to match volunteers with volunteering groups and opportunities: