Saturday, November 23, 2013

TOP STORY >> Special CHS students find work

Leader staff writer

The special-education class at Cabot High School has a new program called Preparing for and Acquiring Community Employment for Students (PACES).

The program uses working environments along with therapy to help students with their development.

So far, four students are in the PACES program. They have been working two-hour shifts for four weeks at two nonprofits in Ward — Beyond Boundaries and Allied Therapy.

Beyond Boundaries is a therapy center that uses horses to help children and adults with disabilities develop their motor and sensory skills, speech and behavior. Allied Therapy works to enable, train or retrain an individual to perform the independent skills and activities necessary for daily living, according to its website. Beyond Boundaries spokeswoman Tiffany Mattzela explained how the nonprofits participate in the PACES program.

“Staff members at both Allied Therapy and Beyond Boundaries developed sessions that allow jobs to be broken into steps that can be learned, practiced and performed more independently through a skilled progression. The jobs can vary based on student interests and abilities as well as access to employment opportunities within the community,” Mattzela said.

The desired progression for a student in the program is to move from job training and job shadowing to a paid position somewhere.

Allied Therapy and Beyond Boundaries offers the students jobs that are based on what office assistants, childcare workers, housekeepers, maintenance personnel, supply inventory employees, animal caregivers and lawn care providers do. The students are developing a work schedule, time management skills, social skills and taking an initiative, program organizers say.

Mattzela said, “This is our environment. We’re used to working with these kids.”

She added that it is exciting to see the students transition from horse therapy to taking on an active role and being responsible. Mattzela said they feel like they are a part of the organization and enjoy a sense of accomplishment.

Occupational therapist Garrett Polk said the therapists apply physical and thinking skills to everyday activities for students to address the skills they need to improve.

Polk said the instructor walks a student through a chore list the first time. The next time, the student has to refer to the task list and follow the steps before seeking help. The goal is for students to remember a sequence of steps or be able to use resources to find help and perform it independently.

Aubrey Romines is an 11th grader who works twice each week at Allied Therapy. She vacuums, cleans, escorts children to their parents, gets their school bags ready for them and gives them a calendar of events.

Romines said she likes working at Allied Therapy “because they are nice people.”

She has learned how to fill out a timesheet and complete paperwork.

Romines said, after graduation, she would like to be a special-needs model.

Hannah Roe and Jesse Covington are 12th graders who work at Beyond Boundaries.

Covington said he likes to water the arena and sweep. Roe wants to work with animals after graduation.

PACES organizers are hoping more businesses will provide learning opportunities to the students. “We are looking for positions for our students. We provide job coaching and sample the job, before they hire (the students),” said Special education teacher Shelley Moore.