CW Schools’ programs enrich education of special needs students

By Linda Dillman
Staff Writer

Education is not static for special needs students at Canal Winchester Schools where you might find older students volunteering in the community or working in food service, while younger kids learn prevocational skills as early as elementary school.

Special Education Director Brooke Hippler and members of her staff reported on the department’s prevocational program during the Nov. 20 Canal Winchester Board of Education meeting. The program includes personal and interpersonal skill training for elementary through high school students.

“We have found prevocational planning even helps in the development of employment related skills and helps bridge the gap between the capabilities of our students with special needs and the demands of the job market,” said Hippler. “We’re starting very young to get some of those skills in there. It also helps reduce some of the unemployment within the special needs community.”

At Indian Trail Elementary, intervention specialist Amy Irwin said students are taught foundational skills for whichever vocational path they may choose.

“One of the things we’re focusing on right now is talking and communicating,” Irwin said.
Students partner with therapists in learning skills through working with recipes. They work on service projects and volunteer as well. All of which helps with independence and functional skills.

At the middle school, kids work in the cafeteria stocking milk and chips and wrapping fruit. In workshops students practice food orders utilizing fake food, use math skills measuring beans and rice, identifying correct change and use tools to fix simple objects.
Employment skills focus on aptitudes students will need to become paid employees, such as memorizing personal data, filling out applications and practicing social skills.

“We role play what we would do when we go into a store,” reported middle school Intervention Specialist Diana Scott, who said students also independently or with minimal assistance prepare and make lunch boxes or coffee once a week for staff. “They’ll take a clipboard and take orders verbally, then they have to write up the orders and come back. They’re suppose to have their own set of customers all throughout the building.”

High School Intervention Specialist Hayley Richardson discussed the school’s Café on the Canal program where twice a week her students deliver drink orders to staff on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Once a month a snack is incorporated into the program.

“We also make lunch twice a month,” said Richardson. “We take a group of students to ALDIs and we go grocery shopping. We prep on Tuesday, prepare on Wednesday and deliver on Thursday.”

Students at the high school also collaborate with the Chartwells team in the cafeteria to wash and put dishes away, prepare pizzas and cookies, and stock drink coolers.

“They’re actually getting real work experience working in a cafeteria,” said Richardson. “Another big thing we just started is making shirts.”

Special needs students produced over 100 t-shirts for the Canal Winchester Schools staff for Spread the Word Day and volunteer at Goodwill and with the Columbus Metropolitan Library system.

“Outside of school, we like to give our students work opportunities,” said Richardson.

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