Plainville Community Schools, 47 Robert Holcomb Way, Plainville CT 06062, (860)793-3200

Special Needs Students Look To Expand Vocational Skills

Federal Special Education law requires school districts to consider specially designed instruction for certain students with disabilities through age 21. After age 15, schools are required to provide not only academic instruction, but also instruction about independent living skills, employment skills, and post-secondary training opportunities for students with Intellectual Disabilities. Providing early and frequent real-world experiences in these areas outside of the school setting is essential to prepare these students to be productive members of the community by helping them to realize as much independence as possible in their adult lives.

This year, Plainville High School has been working hard to further develop opportunities for these students that will immerse them into their home community to practice these skills. The goal is to benefit both the special needs graduates as well as the Plainville community. Since these students live in the community, the ultimate goal would be for them to work locally and participate in community life as adults.

During their four years at the high school, these students have been busy attending classes as well as practicing functional skills including cooking, money and time skills, and community activities such as shopping, movies, and dining in restaurants. This year, during their senior year, their program has expanded into work experiences outside of school. On Fridays, three senior students in the Adaptive Learning Program have been spending time working at the public library, Cheryl's Salon, the Plainville Senior Center, and Gnazzo's Food Center. "This has been a rewarding experience for both the girls and I hope the businesses," said faculty member Marilyn Badner. "The girls have been able to practice cleaning, organizing, facing shelves, and washing dishes. But more importantly, they have been learning how to work with customers and supervisors other than their teachers. All of the participating businesses have provided wonderful, positive experiences for the students."

For next year, the school district is developing a program that would allow the students to work three days a week outside of school, and is looking for local businesses to provide these work experiences. The students will be working on a volunteer basis and will have at least one job coach with them at all times. They are hoping to schedule four hours a day on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays with work experiences with local businesses. In addition to working in the community, the students will spend Monday and Friday doing other daily living activities such as banking, grocery shopping, and recreational excursions. They will also prepare their own lunches for work and make breakfast for themselves on working days.

Badner hopes Plainville businesses are willing to join efforts to provide a meaningful and productive experience and benefit from the skills and work ethic that the special needs students can offer their home town.

"Plainville Community Schools remain committed to ensuring fulfilling, productive lives for all students in Plainville. With the expansion of our community vocational programs for students with Intellectual Disabilities, we hope that both the students and the community will benefit from the opportunities to learn from one another," said Director of Special Education and Pupil Services, Vicki Trzcinski.

-Posted on April 25, 2012 at 01:31 PM

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