Careers advice and guidance activities to support students with SEND

Expert advice and best practice suggestions on how to support your students with SEND in their career development.

Despite the gradual reduction in the employment gap between people with and without disabilities over the past 20 years, supporting individuals with SEND into work is still proving to be an area that requires attention.

Gabriella Brooks, Media Manager at the organisation Ambitious about Autism points out that, according to their research:

99% of the UK’s 75,000 young people with autism want to work, but only 16% are actually in full and paid employment

 So, what can teachers, parents, and careers advisers do to help change this?

When to get involved

Students with SEND can face a range of difficulties when entering work — some may physically struggle to access the workplace, while those with learning disabilities may find it hard to understand abstract concepts like 'careers and the world of work.'

It's important for teachers and careers advisers to understand when to support their career needs from a pastoral sense, while following the 'Careers guidance and access for education and training providers' published in December 2017.


Here's when best to intervene with advice for students.

Key Stage 3 

  • Use informal careers education sessions to help students explore their thoughts about work and life.
  • Chris Targett, Senior Careers Adviser at CXK, suggests using props such as Lego to help students discuss their future options in a non-threatening setting. 

Year 10

  • Speak with parents, the SENCO and the well-being team in school to arrange priority one-to-one careers appointments for students with more pronounced SEND.
  • Use meetings to address possible career barriers and prepare students for changes in routine such as undertaking work experience or finishing school in Year 11.

Year 11

  • Discuss post-16 options with young people with or without an Education Health Care Plan (EHCP).
  • Highlight options for continuing in mainstream education with support such as; attending a specialist college or moving into supported or unsupported employment.

Whole school

  • Ensure SEND students are included and feel part of your school careers' events.

Top tips from careers advisers

1.  Keep it personal
Ambition and achievement are individual to each student, so whatever your students with SEND want to do in the future, make sure they are fully aware of all their options and have a clear plan for moving forward.

2.  Be prepared to go the extra mile with your support
Accompany students to a work experience placement on their first day or support them in their communications with a college they are interested in attending post-16.

3.  Try to invite a range of organisations that can support young people with SEND to your careers events
This could be specialist colleges or organisations, like Shaw Trust, which helps individuals with disabilities get work.

4.  Take into account some of the accessibility issues SEND students may have
When arranging careers appointments ensure that students can easily access the meeting place and have a clear idea of what the appointment is about beforehand.

5.  Use the expertise of others
The Career Development Institute (CDI) has a Learning Difficulties and Disabilities (LDD) Community of Interest on LinkedIn. It's an area where registered careers advisers can share best practice on supporting SEND students with their career development. 

6.  Keep it visual!
Visual resources can help students with learning disabilities understand and communicate what careers support they feel they need.

7.  Self-awareness sessions
Introduce these to help students work out what they are good at and what tasks they might enjoy doing at work. They can help young people with SEND feel valued and useful, whatever skills they have.

8.  Breaking barriers
Discussing case studies of individuals who have overcome adversity to achieve a goal can help SEND students feel more confident about achieving their own aspirations in the future.

Examples include paralympic gold medallist, Hannah Cockroft MBE, and successful dyslexic businessman, Richard Branson MBE, both of whom overcame barriers to achieve their goals.