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Kansas City area job seekers get help from coaches to overcome barriers

Gerald Mitchell, an 18-year-old who is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, stands outside
Michelle Mitchell
Gerald Mitchell, an 18-year-old who is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, stands outside his workplace.

Disabled people face nearly double the rate of unemployment compared to those without a disability, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Job coaches can be difficult to come by, but these direct support services can help people with disabilities navigate employment challenges.

A job coach helps people who face barriers to employment by setting up interviews and accompanying clients at work until they are able to independently do their jobs.

Gerald Mitchell is an 18-year-old who is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Mitchell was connected with a job coach after attending The Transition Academy’s DiversAbility College and Career Fair.

Gerald’s job coach helped him get acclimated to a summer job at Pizza Ranch. Gerald’s mother, Michelle Mitchell, said the coaching helped Gerald understand skills like money management as well as how to build natural support systems at work.

“As a parent, it’s kind of disheartening when you feel like you have to beg someone to just give your child an opportunity when you know your child is fully capable but he just may need a little additional assistance,” she said.

Michelle noted that gaining employment for a person with disabilities comes with more challenges than normal, especially if the individual doesn’t have a job coach. Her goal—and the goal of the job coach—is to ensure that Gerald is as independent as possible.

“It was really emotional for me as a parent because our journey is a little different, but you get to those moments where you’re like ‘Wow, we made it,’” Michelle said.

The third annual KC DiversAbility College & Career Fair will take place April 4, 2024 from 3 to 7 p.m. at the Metropolitan Community College’s Penn Valley campus. The event will be held in the Education Center at 3201 Southwest Trafficway, Kansas City, MO 64111.

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