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If you support a young person with a learning disability, learning difficulty or autism, you may have spent much of their life supporting them with problems or even dealing with the problem yourself on their behalf.

On Engage to Change, we worked with young people to become independent in the workplace.  We believe that with the correct support, the young people we work with can be fully independent in their roles. This included troubleshooting problems and having the confidence to raise them in the workplace.

If you need to support a young person with a work-related problem, the following tips may help:

1. Clarify what the problem is.

Talk to the young person and try to get to the root of the problem.  The young person may feel overwhelmed with the situation, and find it difficult to focus on what the real issue is.  You can help by acknowledging their feelings and keeping the conversation solution-focused.

2. Remain calm

Try and remain calm and conceal your own feelings about the situation in front of the young person.  They may have a very real issue that makes you feel angry, but your anger or upset may only heighten their own feelings about the situation.

3. Ask exploratory questions to guide the young person in finding a solution. You could ask questions like:

  • “Who can you speak to in work about this?”
  • “Do you know why this has happened?”
  • “Is there anything that we can do now to make the situation better?”
  • “Can you think of anything you can do when you’re next in work to make the situation better?”
  • “What can you say to your manager about this when you see them next?”

If the young person is able to figure things out by you guiding them to the answer, rather than you giving them the answers, they are more likely to feel empowered and confident to approach the situation at work.

4. Be positive about them being able to deal with the problem

Reaffirm to the young person that you believe they can handle this.  Encourage them by praising their ability to talk the problem through, and reassure them that they have the skills to find a solution. Your belief in them will help promote their own self-belief.

5. Provide distraction at home

Problems are often magnified the more you think about them.  Once you have talked about the problem and helped the young person to find a solution, or a way forward, try to take their mind off it.  Often, there is little that can be done until the next working day, so encourage them to do something enjoyable that will allow them to think of something else and help to lift their mood.

Remember that work-related problems are often a part of working life.  By helping the young person to navigate work problems with your support initially, you should see their confidence increase as time goes by – one day they may come home from work and tell you about a problem that they had, and solved without any support from you at all!