Category Archives: Community

Student Aims to “Climb High” to Raise Funds for Scholarship

A Utah State University student who is  enrolled in “Aggies Elevated”, a progam for students with intellectual disabilities, plans to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro this summer to raise funds that would allow a student to enroll in the program.

According to the Herald Journal,

Troy Shumway, 20, is set to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in June 2015, USU announced in a news release. The fundraising goal, $40,000, is the amount it costs to fund one Aggies Elevated student, covering academic and social supports including mentors, tutors and staff.

For his fundraiser, Troy has set several creative donation levels, including a $19 donation because Mt. Kilimanjaro is more than 19,000 feet high, or $98 because Mt. Kilimanjaro is more than 9,800 miles from his hometown of San Diego.

In a prepared statement, Troy explained that he wants to offer another student the opportunities he is getting through Aggies Elevated.

“It would be great to have other kids with disabilities be able to come to college and learn to be more independent, like I did,” Troy said.

Read more here.

See Troy’s donation page here.


Illinois Program Designs Disability Awareness Curricula for Students of All Ages

Students in some Illinois school districts receive early education on disability and independent living and employment, thanks to an initiative that incorporates three different curricula, implemented through the community partner “RAMP“, an Illinois non-residential Center for Independent Living. By working with school districts to incorporate these programs, barriers are being dismantled and attitudes changed about people with disabilities being successful in society.

RAMP created a continuum of services that help to strengthen and build the educational and economic success for people with disabilities.

The iBelong curriculum is designed for elementary students as young as pre-K while the Ignite curriculum is designed for middle school students. The teens in Transition curriculum (T’NT) is designed to work with teenagers as they transition to adulthood.

IBelong is taught pre-K thru through sixth grade to all students. The goal is to promote acceptance by teaching children early and consistently that we have more in common with each other than not.

Students in seventh and eighth grade who have disabilities can use the Ignite curriculum to learn more about themselves so they can become better self-advocates.

RAMP’s third curriculum is Teens in Transition. It is designed to help teenagers with disabilities prepare for their transition into adulthood. T’NT aims to increase students’ chances of becoming young adults prepared to further their education, gain employment, responsibly manage a budget and live independently in the community.

The approaches taken by RAMP have left a lasting impression on students. A Rockford teacher said: “I feel as though having RAMP and the community partners come in to teach the lessons helped the students learn about these topics better than just having the teacher teach about it.”

Read the article here.

Read more about RAMP here.

“Linking Learning to Life”: Strengthening Transition Skills

A Pennsylvania School District has implemented a program that helps students develop employment and independent living skills.  Partnered with local businesses, the district High School has created an on site classroom that provides simulated experiences and career coaching.

Learning to Life (LLtL) is a two-tier secondary transition designed to aid students in making the progression from the classroom to post-school life. Activities are based on the individual’s needs, ranging from those with mild disabilities to students with more significant needs who require extensive support, and consider his or her strengths, preferences and interests.

“The majority of our services were previously contracted with outside providers,” said DiMarino-Linnen. “They tended to be ‘one size fits all’ and students were oriented to a community that was not their own.”

To address the concerns, LLtL considers the various paths students will take in the months and years after high school. For some, the focus is on independent living; for others, post-secondary competitive employment, trade school or college. Planning begins no later than the first IEP when the student turns 14, with a team which can involve the individual, parents, general and special education personnel and an agency representative. Issues such as course selection and the extended school year (ESY) program are addressed.

Read the article here.

Alabama School Provides Transition to Adulthood Services

An Alabama school is providing postsecondary transition services for students with disabilities that bridge the gap between high school and college or independent living.

Horizons School was established in 1991 as an initiative of the UAB School of Education, the school is a non-degree transition program designed for students age 18 to 26 who have learning disabilities, autism and other mild handicapping conditions.

Based in Birmingham, it is the only program of its kind in the Southeast.

“When a student finishes their grade school education with either a high school diploma or a certificate of attendance but they don’t have the living skills they need for independence, there is nothing for them. That’s really frustrating because many of our students….are on the cusp of independence when they come but not quite ready to be on their own,” said assistant director Brian Geiger.

Classes taught at Horizons School range from social skills and money management to cooking, art and fitness. Advisors work closely with new students to help them set goals that will lead to greater independence as well as solve problems they encounter.

Over time, students begin to rely on others less and themselves more.

Read more here.

Horizons School website

Ohio Program Provides Bridge to Employment

An Ohio organization has created a 6 week program called “Bridges” that provides a sampling of employment experiences for young people with developmental disabilities.

The Scioto County Board of Developmental Disabilities (SCBDD) Bridges program held a graduation ceremony for 10 participants of the six-week program on July 25 at the Vocation Station.

Bridges assists under-served areas of the state in developing employment services for youth with developmental disabilities as they transition from school to employment. The students participate in job shadowing, job coaching and a variety of educational opportunities to help them achieve their employment goals.

The overall goal of the project is to enhance career exploration options and increase employment outcomes by developing a collaborative network of services that will assist students in achieving their employment goals.

Read the article here.

Aggies Elevated Program Accepts Students Into First Cohort

A new program for students with developmental and intellectual disabilities at Utah State University,  Aggies Elevated,  has accepted its first cohort for the Fall of 2014.

The Aggies Elevated program was created with young adult learners in mind by experts in the fields of disability and special education at USU’s Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services.

Our supportive and inclusive environment is close to home, yet far enough away to give young adults with intellectual or other disabilities the opportunity to learn and grow while participating in all the activities that a traditional residential campus has to offer.

Students in the new program will develop academic and independent living skills and will engage in career exploration, work internship, vocational electives, and personal growth through coursework tailored to each individual. Part of each student’s plan will also include  community-based work internships.

Employment Opportunities for Tennesseans with Cognitive Disabilities Looks Bleak

Young adults with cognitive disabilities are increasingly facing unemployment.  This article chronicles a young man on the Autism spectrum who remains unemployed despite having been trained for a job through services provided by public programs.(The Tennessean, March 16, 2014)

….after being notified in November that Tennessee’s Division of Rehabilitation Services “cannot provide ongoing job coaching” for [Seth] Howe, his parents don’t know what to do next.

A state Medicaid waiver could help, but Howe is one of more than 7,100 people on a waiting list for such services from the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.

As a result — after years of state-funded special education and vocational training — Howe sits at home, the skills he acquired diminishing with each passing day.

“It makes me extremely angry to know that all this time and money was spent for him to have a life, and he has no life,” said his mother, Lynn Howe.

Only 16.6 percent of Tennesseans who have a cognitive disability were employed in 2011 — down from 21.4 percent six years earlier. The employment rate is third worst in the country, behind only West Virginia and Alabama, and well below the national average of 22.2 percent, according to the American Community Survey.

Nearly 200,000 working-age Tennesseans with an intellectual disability are left without employment.

Read more here.


Detroit Bakery Provides Training Opportunities for Special Needs Adults

Work experience, social skills, fine motor skills are just some of the benefits young adults with special needs receive at the Friendship Bakery in Detroit. (CW50 TV Now, March 20, 2014)

A Metro Detroit community group is giving adults with special needs a chance to learn several skills needed to get a job. Classes at the Friendship Bakery, a 9-week program, are held Thursdays inside the Jewish Community Center in West Bloomfield Township.

As part of the Friendship Bakery, students make dozens upon dozens of loaves of Challah, a Jewish egg-based bread.

“It’s a very positive environment, there’s a lot of comradery, everyone’s working together. They usually work in teams,” said Rivka Mann, Manager of the Friendship Bakery.

“They really enjoy helping each other, so one who’s better at measuring with numbers with scale, will weigh the dough. And then they’ll have someone else take it to the roller and roll it out, and then someone else might braid it.”

Mann says the progress she sees in her students’ social skills is astounding. She adds that students also learns kitchen safety and hygiene, as well as fine motor skills.

Mann says she hopes the program helps special needs adults get the opportunity in life everyone deserves.

Read more here.

Michigan School Blends Instruction with Employment Experience

Posted on School News Network, March 6, 2014 by Tom Rademacher, this article highlights an initiative called ACE – “Achieving Competitive Employment”, funded by a grant from Michigan Transition Services Association and Michigan Rehabilitation Services.

Placing Students with Special Needs in Real-World Jobs

Kent ISD, MI —  You can learn only so much inside a classroom, especially if you’re a young adult with special challenges.

At some point, savvy educators say, you need to bust out and immerse yourself in the real workaday world.

Joe Carlon and Michael Taylor are discovering what it means to make that critical leap – from the nest a comfy school provides to the scary environments that can define some workplaces.

But with help from staff and others who administer transition programs for the Kent ISD, chances are that Joe and Michael will soon be working full time for pay. “I’m here every day, and I haven’t been late even once,” says Michael, 20, as he wipes sweat from his brow.

It’s hard-earned perspiration, and something he embraces, part and parcel of working part-time at the Meijer store on Alpine Avenue in Grand Rapids.

….[ACE] is an intensive course in “giving students experience with things they might like to do, and seeing the reality of what it takes,” says Kim Norman, who developed ACE for a consortium of high schools in northern Kent County where she serves as a transition coordinator.

ACE, which commenced in March 2013 and will serve some 30 students before it concludes in June 2014, is just one of many post-high school transition programs in place throughout Kent ISD.

Read more here.

Alternative College Provides Opportunities for Learning and Teaching

A New Hampshire organization, Global Campuses Foundation, has created a model of post-secondary education where people with disabilities have many opportunities to learn and to teach classes in the areas of their best knowledge.

As an alternative college, Global Campuses sees “what is called a disability as a unique and positive life experience,” said Jim Tewksbury, of Randolph Center, who founded Global Campuses with his wife, Sheryl Tewksbury.

“This is all based on, really, there is no such thing as a disability. It is a socially constructed reality,” Jim Tewksbury said Saturday in a telephone interview from Thailand, where he works part of the year. Global Campuses “is about a paradigm shift in, What is advanced education?”

Tewksbury laid out what he calls the “first foundational principle.”

“We are all 100 percent whole people,” he said. “We are all holders of knowledge.”

Global Campuses, he said, is simply “broadening the hallways” and letting in people with different learning styles and approaches to that “wonderful opportunity of what it means to feel smart, what it means to have somebody interested in what you hold for knowledge in the topics that you are passionate about.”

….Long-time educators, the Tewksburys are strong believers in the power of learning. After working with a variety of “disenfranchised people,” including people with disabilities, they began to wonder how to create opportunities “for people who do not have access to this transformative experience,” Jim Tewksbury said.

The couple had spent time in Thailand and saw it as a good place to start the program. “In this part of the world, a little bit of success really made significant difference,” he said.

….Unlike traditional college students, Shiremont students do not graduate or earn degrees. But some of the perks are the same. Participants receive an ID card, which can be used for student discounts and as a library card at Lebanon libraries. Global Campuses holds student conferences, and classes are sometimes broadcast from one site to another. “They love that because they can teach to another community, and they end up talking a lot about their campuses,” Eberhardt said.

Read more here (Valley News, January 26, 2014).

Read about Global Campuses here.