Recognizing that work activities may have a therapeutic effect, we include specific activities and tasks in a child’s treatment plan, with input from the student, clinical team, and family members. When appropriate, our vocational program can help older students develop essential work skills that may enable them to obtain paying jobs and achieve as much independence as possible.
When a student turns 14, our vocational staff work with teachers and parents to develop specific vocational goals, and with students to identify their interests and job goals. Oftentimes we are able to match students with existing internal job openings. If that is not possible, we create positions that will best utilize students’ abilities. Guided by a job coach, they successfully accomplish a variety of tasks at the school such as working in the school store or cafeteria, delivering mail, or recycling. In this way, we create a working environment that is a stepping stone to the real world of work.
For the first year, students are “paid” with material reinforcers that are meaningful to each child, such as CDs, video games, or special foods. When students turn 15, they can receive financial reimbursement for their work. Many students are able to obtain volunteer or paid employment in the community.
Students work under the direction of a job coach at community businesses, social service agencies, “Meals on Wheels” and other service-oriented programs, as well as at our school. These work and volunteer experiences give students opportunities to develop and strengthen skills that will help them live more independently and give them a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.