Category Archives: Life Skills

Best Kept Secret (PBS Documentary)

“Best Kept Secret” is a documentary film (PBS, fall 2013) that chronicles a teacher’s journey in transition her students with autism to adulthood.

At a public school in Newark, N.J., the staff answers the phone by saying, “You’ve reached John F. Kennedy High School, Newark’s best-kept secret.” JFK provides an exceptional environment for students with special-education needs. In Best Kept Secret, Janet Mino, who has taught a class of young men for four years, is on an urgent mission. She races against the clock as graduation approaches for her severely autistic minority students. Once they graduate and leave the security of this nurturing place, their options for living independently will be few. Mino must help them find the means to support themselves before they “age out” of the system.

Since the film’s release, filmmakers scheduled a congressional showing to further the progress of the Age In Act and teacher Janet Mino continues to develop programs to improve transition services for youth with autism.

Read more about the film here.

Download the film on iTunes here.


A New Leaf helps developmentally disabled get jobs

Tulsa World news post, December 15, 2013

Hannah Scott loves to sing.

When snow caused her job to close for a few days, she stayed at home in Inola, listening to music and singing along.

“She’d love to sing in a gospel group,” said the 21-year-old’s mother, Mary Jane Scott. “She loves the Gaithers.”

Specifically, she loves Mark Lowry, the Gaither Vocal Band’s baritone and an award-winning vocalist and humorist.

Perhaps more simply put, Hannah just loves. Period.

That includes the students and staff at Inola Elementary and Middle schools, between which she splits her work week, making copies for teachers at the former, doing janitorial jobs at the latter.

Hannah is one of many success stories that began with A New Leaf Inc., a Tulsa Area United Way agency that provides individuals with developmental disabilities marketable job training through horticultural therapy, community-based vocational placement, and residential services to increase their independence and individual choices.

About 24,000 people in the Tulsa metro area have a developmental disability, according to information from A New Leaf. Of those, 1,000 are employed, leaving approximately 23,000 at home, isolated from the community, from society.

As the name suggests, A New Leaf works to change those statistics.

Continue reading here.

Student’s acceptance to Clemson goes viral

KCTV5 News, December 20, 2013

CLEMSON, SC (FOX Carolina) –

A video of a Dorman High School student with Down syndrome getting his acceptance letter into Clemson is going viral.

The parents of 20-year-old Rion Holcombe turned on their camera when they got the letter in the mail and uploaded his stunned reaction to YouTube.

“My heart started to jump out of my chest so this is what happened when I got this envelope,” Rion said in an interview on Thursday.

Continue reading here.

Ten Minutes with Temple Grandin

This interview is from June, 2010 with Temple Grandin.  She discusses what needs to be done for students with autism to get them prepared for their future.

In the world of Autism, Temple Grandin is a legend. She has singularly contributed more to science’s knowledge of autism than any other one individual. There’s a reason she’s #23 on Time’s list of 100 Most Influential People… and that Hollywood is producing movies about her.

After her speaking engagement at a Future Horizon’s conference here in Minneapolis today, Temple and I had an intense, 10 minutes conversation. We touched on a number of her favorite subjects including autism as a gift, preparing future autists for successful careers, her movie, key learnings about autism and more.

Confessions of an Asperger’s Mom: Transition to Adulthood

Blog Post on a mother’s experience with a Transition meeting in her home with the IEP team, December 17, 2013.

Last night we had a Person Centered Planning meeting here at our house for Red.  The purpose of the meeting is to do personal goal setting alongside the mentors in Red’s life.  He decides who to invite to these meetings.  He actually schedules it with his facilitator and sends out the electronic invitations to everyone.  He also follows up with them days prior to the meeting to confirm if they will attend.

We have also made him responsible for shopping for and preparing a snack for his guests.  The snack last night was fresh grapes, oranges, apples and brownie bites.

Our crowd last night consisted of myself, Red, his Vocational Training teacher from the high school, his Pastor, and our facilitator, who just happens to be the head Transition Coordinator for our school district, and the Vice Principle of the 18 plus Transition Program, which he will be entering into as of January.

Yes.  Red will complete his high school credits at the end of this week! As of now, he will walk the stage with his peers in the graduation in June of 2014.  We will decide between now and then whether or not to give him his diploma at that time, and then transition him to the Department of Rehabilitative Services.  DARS will assist him and hopefully help pay for, career training/college or a certification program.  Otherwise, he can continue to receive adult transition services through the school district up until the age of 22.

Continue reading here.

Learning life lessons one class at a time

Quad-City Times – Davenport, Iowa – December 9, 2013

Asking a teenager to take out the garbage or help cook dinner isn’t always the most pleasant experience for parents.

In Tara Rommel’s Life Skills class at Davenport West High School, the students are more than willing to pitch in around the house. Thursday was no exception.

The group of seven students and their teachers gathered at the Life Skills house on 36th Street to prepare a traditional holiday dinner complete with a turkey, fluffy mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, corn, rolls and juice.

West’s Life Skills program teaches special education students practical, daily living skills. The Davenport Community School District has similar Life Skills programs in each of the high schools and at the elementary and intermediate school levels.

Continue reading here.