Special Needs Youth Volunteer at Businesses in Ocean Beach

by on May 2, 2017 · 0 comments

in Ocean Beach

By Brett Warnke

Everyday Chad Tye, a Teaching Assistant at Community High School of San Diego, a Pioneer vocational transition program, takes his six students to volunteer around Ocean Beach. It is a program Pioneer hopes to expand that helps students with special needs gain independence, skills and trades for potential employment.

“Many of our students have communication issues so even being able to say ‘I’m here’ and complete jobs—to have a some place to go when they wake up in the morning and someone to talk to—has improved their quality of life,” Tye said.

The Individual Education Plan (IEP), which is developed by a team consisting of teachers, speech, music, and occupational therapists, and family, helps students reach their specialized goals built around student needs.

“It meets them where they are at and support our students to develop and establish skills, build and maintain relationships that are meaningful, and apply skills that can be utilized throughout their lives.” Pioneer’s speech therapist Brittany Warnke said.

Keil Storum working hard shredding documents for Pam Komo of Tony’s, Sunshine Company, and Arizona Cafe.

The program grew out of a recycling program that began five years ago but expanded after a random encounter in OB’s local CVS. Aide and student supervisor Kirby Siemens was working on a purchasing goal with a student in January and struck up a conversation with local businesswoman Pam Komo. This began a process that has led to Chad’s students, ranging from 17-22 years of age who are on a non-diploma track that requires 90-120 minutes of work with a break, to begin volunteering in Tower Two, Sunshine Company, Tony’s, The Arizona, Raglands, and Sweet Beach candy shop.

The students work on organization, cleaning, general maintenance, following sequentially stepped  instructions. They bus tables, manage tableware, wipe chairs, and perform tasks waitresses can’t always get to. Tye said:

“Districts have done this but vocational programs are difficult. We’ve had more success because of Ocean Beach. Our school is tantalizing because we are allowed a freedom, the proximity to OB—I’m so grateful to the community, people care about and know one another here. They recognize us walking in the alleyways and on the sidewalks. We feel welcomed.”

Students with transportation goals in their IEP’s can use their electronic devices such as ipads or tablets for efficient time management, video modeling, social stories, scheduling, task analysis and even to log into MTS and even plan their own bus trips. More independent students can use these devices to create and complete a visual schedule. Students of all educational levels are able to complete these tasks and success, as some are supported by Pioneer’s staff members in ratios.

“These goals are developed for community and public safety, to orient them to their local environment for leisure activities, and community access. As much as we are learning from being in the community, I believe the community is also learning a lot about specialized educational instruction that is student focused from us” said BCBA and program director at Community High Adam Lemmuchi “.

In a speech therapy session, a student might work on mock interviews, social language skills such as body language, perspective taking, awareness of expected and unexpected behaviors, answering abstract questions, and demonstrating self-advocacy skills. Kari Rutledge, one of the very busy speech therapy assistants at Pioneer said:

“Its important to carryover goals and work with students in and out of the classroom in order for skills to be demonstrated across environments! Communication happens everywhere. We do our very best to make our students programs as functional and meaningful as possible. We want to set them up for success”

Usually two to three students work with a staff member at a business.

“We make sure they are safe, accountable, while allowing for an opportunity to gain valuable work experience. Because of the social impact of their disabilities is often difficult to transition into the work force so our program was designed to help ease them in. We provide the support needed, but the goals are designed to make each student as successful and independent as possible,” Tye said.

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