Students in Special Ed Gain Real-Life Experience

Students in Special Ed Gain Real-Life Experience
Posted on 01/13/2020
This is the image for the news article titled Students in Special Ed Gain Real-Life ExperienceStudents with special needs are offered the opportunity to receive hands-on training that will allow them to flourish in the real world through work-based learning programs at various schools across the district.

Alternative Academics students are assigned certain duties to complete in a job setting under the supervision of a Vocational teacher. Because the abilities of the students can change from year to year, the nature of tasks can be modified or adjusted accordingly.

“This is about what the students’ needs are,” said Kim Rodgers. She is a Transition Specialist who provides support on the district level for the Transition teachers who advise their students.

At the elementary level, the focus falls more on pre-vocational skill development and community-based instruction. Some of these skills include sorting, packaging, improving fine motor development and working within a structured routine. According to Rodgers, students practice these skills through projects involving seasonal craft sales which can include selling Christmas cookies or ornaments made in class, with campus approval.

At the secondary level, the focus is on honing vocational skills that older students will eventually use when they work in the community. These tasks can range from collecting materials for recycling throughout the school or maintaining a campus garden to creating wooden crafts for sale or participating in an on-campus enterprise like the coffee carts found at multiple high schools.

In CCISD, the on-campus enterprises that operate using a small business model began in 2007 with the Wildcat Wake Up coffee cart at Clear Creek High School. Today, Advisor Wafa Lotf supervises students who sell packaged pastries, sodas, sweet tea, cold and hot coffee, fruit, candy, and chips, among others.

According to Clear Brook High School Transition Teacher Vincent McNeill, their Starbrooks coffee cart started five years ago and the number of students who participate changes depending on the number of Alternative Academics students in a class on any given year.

“This year, all the freshman students and two seniors help with the coffee cart during first and second period every day,” McNeill said. “Each student gets rotated throughout the week to explore which job they enjoy the most.”

Duties related to these carts include preparation, opening and closing, purchasing stock, restocking, cleaning and keeping financial records of sales.

Rodgers says this on-campus enterprise is good for the seller and for the buyer: The workers hone their job skills, the general education students purchase the snacks they crave, and the gap between both populations closes through their interaction.

“There was a distance between the special education and general education kids, but the coffee cart has really helped to build unity across the campuses,” she said.

Other coffee cart/breakfast enterprises can be found at other schools including Goforth Elementary, League City Intermediate, Space Center Intermediate, Clear Lake High School and Clear Falls High School.

On-campus enterprises like these are one form of work-based learning that actually makes a profit and becomes its own small business.

“All funds go back into the enterprise and students run it with direct staff support,” Rodgers said.

The adaptive print shop at Clear Lake High School is another example of a business enterprise run by Alternative Academics students.

Though it has been housed at Clear Lake for five years, it will be relocating to the Learner Support Center to be accessible to students from multiple campuses.

Instructional opportunities available include learning to make posters, award certificates, how to laminate items, and how to make lanyards and parking stickers.

Through actively participating in the running and maintenance of these business enterprises, students gain real-world experience while in the classroom, which prepares them for working in the community once they graduate.

“Work-based learning systematically promotes positive employment outcomes for students with disabilities for whom employment would not otherwise be immediately attainable or for whom intensive and ongoing support will be needed in the work setting,” said Rodgers.

Below is a short clip of the Clear Falls High School portable coffee cart as special education students visit classrooms to serve teachers and students.

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