A Website to Connect Employers and Individuals with Autism

As the speech-language pathologist for the Transition team at League School, I have had opportunity to work with families and discuss options for post-graduation plans for the past six years. Many families inquire about competitive employment opportunities, and after our students turn 22, these families are left with little assistance in finding these openings. Autism Speaks, in partnership with Rangam Consultants Inc. and WebTeam Corporation, has developed thespectrumcareers.com, a promising and groundbreaking website to facilitate the employment of individuals with autism. The website was designed and built by a Rangam employee who is diagnosed with autism. Job seekers (persons with autism) can search for potential jobs by job title, skills required, or location. The website also offers an opportunity for service providers to register and search for opportunities for their students or clients. Individuals can upload resumes and cover letters, and employers may post videos of the job descriptions in addition to written responsibilities. A video overview of the website as well as informative webinars are available on the home page to explain the mission of The Spectrum Careers. To learn more about the valuable resource, please visit thespectrumcareers.com.   Chrissy Bunnell, MS,...

LEAGUE SCHOOL STUDENTS GO FISHING WITH THE NORTH WALPOLE FISH AND GAME CLUB

This past June, a group of our Transition Program students, ages 16 to 21, were invited to go fishing at New Pond with members from the North Walpole Fish and Game Club. This has been an annual event sponsored by a club member Frank (Duke) Duquette, who is also an employee of the League School. Frank provides the bait, tackle, and lunch. Frank also organizes a group of his club members to volunteer with the students. Each of our students were paired with a club member, who helped the student fish from shore. A few of the students, and one of our teachers, had never been fishing before. We had fantastic weather, and the students had a great time fishing. Everyone caught two or more fish, and the students (and some of the teachers) were really happy they didn’t have to handle the worms or take the fish off the hooks. After a few hours of successful fishing, the students and staff retired to the clubhouse to enjoy a lunch prepared by the club members. Comments by the students included: “ thank you for teaching me how to fish”; “ I love catching huge fish, and I hope I can catch an even bigger one next time”; “ my dad was very proud of me”; “ I really enjoyed catching a pickerel and a sunfish, and spending time with my classmates “; “ I named my fish Smiley “; “ I did fantastic, fantabulous, outstanding ”; “ I really liked the hot dogs with ketchup ”; and, “ I hope I go again next year ”. The students’ parents...

Texting: A Virtual Life Skill

Most of us carry a cell phone, using it not only to call but manage busy schedules, order take-out and send texts. Studies are showing that upwards of half of all teenagers send text messages daily, some average 100 texts per day. Virtual life continues to increase for teens and young adults and is just part of their social life. Whether we like it or not, this is clearly an important life skill. Because of this, facilitating development of texting skills and knowledge can promote independence and social pride in those with autism spectrum disorders. Teens and young adults with disabilities strive to be accepted by peers and benefit from connections with others, especially those in the same age range. Unfortunately, social and self-regulatory challenges impact the ability to fulfill these needs. Texting can help those with autism connect and feel a sense of social belonging which can lead to better well-being. The benefit being that engagement can occur without the potentially stressful face-to-face that often leads to social failure. Texting is also important to community safety skills. Texting is an easy way to allow some independence to teens and young adults who, because of the stage of life they are in, naturally crave independence. Texting provides a sort of safety net and virtual support that our children still need. Technology allows automatic accommodations as well. Built in spell-check and word prediction as well as use of emojis can be extremely helpful for those who have difficulty spelling. The tendency of text messages to be more relaxed takes some stress off of those who have difficulty creating grammatically correct...

Celebrating the Individual

A student recently transferred into our Transition Program from one of our other programs. The Transition Program at League School educates students between the ages of 16 and 22 with a focus on functional academics, vocational training, social pragmatic skills, independent living skills, community experiences, and safety awareness. This student had many challenges; both academics and emotional. We pride ourselves on celebrating the individual in every student, and when necessary, treat them like they’re your only student. Prior to the student arriving, we took the time to find out the student’s strengths and challenges. We also found about his likes and dislikes (i.e., food and music), as well as what situations make him happy or sad. Once we have this information, we can easily achieve one of our goals: to make the student as comfortable as possible. Another goal is to put the student in vocational placements that he/she will succeed in. From the previous information we gathered, we were able to determine what vocational jobs were the best match. One job the student excelled at was working at a Local Service Garage. The tasks included doing oil changes, cleaning up the garage, and going to pick up auto supplies for the garage. Another job the student enjoyed was working at a Local Animal Farm. Some of the responsibilities included light landscaping as well as setting up the food and feeding the animals. Overall, these vocational jobs kept the student calm, focused, and productive. In an effort to set up these jobs sites, a teacher was instrumental in using his connections with the staff at the sites. Going forward,...

STUDENTS TRAINING TO RECYCLE

Upon walking into League School and looking into a classroom in the Transition Program you will find an emphasis on functional academics, communication, emotional regulation, and vocational preparation. As a head teacher in this program, I strive to help my students reach their greatest independence and prepare them for life after graduation. When choosing lessons and vocational opportunities for my students, I make every effort to find activities that will target multiple skills at a time. Once a week the class works as a team to collect the recycling from the classroom and offices throughout the school building. This provides the students not only the opportunity to learn a vocational skill, but also to work on their communication and social interactions. It also prepares them for the potential to work with one of our community recycling sites. To start the class off, students each receive a visual checklist identifying how many rooms they are responsible for, ranging from 4-7 rooms each. Students will then take turns knocking on a classroom door and looking for a staff member to greet and request for their recycling bin. Students utilize various AAC supports to assist them in this interaction (i.e. augmentative communication devices, visual social scripts, etc.). Once they have gathered their bin they return to the hallway where the rest of their classmates are waiting, holding a bag for them to empty it in. Many students with autism find it challenging transitioning, as well as socializing with both peers and staff. Collecting the recycling allows students to learn supports and regulating strategies that will benefit and assist them with these skills....

My Experience at League School

Over the past several years I have had the pleasure to work at the League School of Greater Boston. The past three years have been unique as a result of having the opportunity to work with students across the different programs. I started in July 2007 working with Carole-Jean Smith. It was a wonderful learning experience. Not only was she a great mentor, but she also became a most valued friend. I completed my master’s degree with her as my mentor and colleague. In 2012 I was presented with a rare opportunity to work with students from all the various programs as a floating teacher. At first I was very intimidated at the thought of being thrown in a different room every day not knowing all the students very well.   It was challenging at first. I felt I had to gain my colleagues’ trust again. Now I was in their classrooms with their students whereas before I was working with one head teacher. It was a wonderful experience for me due to the level of confidence I had acquired working with the different programs. I learned the true meaning of why it is called Autism Spectrum Disorder. All these students are so different on so many levels. They all have something special within themselves and we just have to find a way to let it shine. In spring 2013 I was approached to accept a position as a vocational teacher in the Hawks’ Nest. It didn’t take me long to accept. As a floating teacher I gained more confidence working in the different programs. I accepted the position with...