Category Archives: Student Development

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.

Thriving in Transition to Adulthood through Service Learning

Essential Educator, December 12, 2013

Transition to adulthood for students can be confusing and overwhelming. Having a disability on top of facing life after high school adds to the increased anxiety many students experience as they approach graduation. Educators may feel helpless and frustrated in terms of the best way to help students find their way to adulthood. There are options, however, that can make this time exciting as students plan their futures. Service learning is an option that provides numerous elements of transition.

Service learning is a concept that has helped many students identify the post-high school path they would like to follow. Service learning has helped students become more self-directed in their academics, and has contributed to the development of self-confidence in and awareness of their role in the community.

Making the transition to adulthood is a very complex time, and expectations for the acquisition of new skills and roles are high. The very characteristics reported as making service experiences positive are those that provide youths with tools for this transition. (Martin et al., 2006)

Service learning is much more than volunteering; it is another means of accomplishing “big learning”. Service learning combines service tasks with structured learning opportunities that link the task to self-reflection and self-discovery, and to the acquisition and comprehension of knowledge, ideas, values, and skills. Potential outcomes of successful service learning experiences include the development of an interest in lifelong learning; development of self-confidence; sense of self-worth by contributing to the strengthening of the community; development of leadership and social skills; increased academic skills; development of the ability to see different perspectives of issues in the community, thereby fostering more compassion and self awareness; defining career paths which facilitates goal-setting; and the development of employment skills. The service-learning component of the school community in which I work has yielded such positive outcomes for students.

Continue Reading here.

College-Based Transition Program

Siena College in New York has a program for students with disabilities who are in post high school special education programs.

During the 2013 Commencement ceremony, Siena College presented Certificates of Completion to four students with disabilities who have finished the Siena College Transition Program. The Transition Program was developed in partnership with the North Colonie Central School District to help students ages 18-21 move into adulthood. Rather than remaining in high school special education classes, students from North Colonie participated in initiatives that supported their Individualized Education Plans in an age-appropriate setting. Each student had a college mentor who helped with assignments and reinforced appropriate socialization skills.

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.


Challenging Transition to Adulthood for Marylanders With Disabilities

Capital News Service, December 4, 2013

FREDERICK – Like any mother of an active 20-year-old, Frederick County resident Michele Baisey has her hands full. But in addition to helping her son, Troy, balance school, work and home life, she faces a looming deadline that is unsettling for many parents in her position.

Troy Baisey, who was born prematurely, suffers from cerebral palsy and hearing loss. He is considered a “transitioning youth,” which means he will soon lose the guarantee of state assistance.

In Maryland, young adults with disabilities are entitled to public education until age 21. After that, families must apply for support through various programs and organizations. Services and financial assistance are contingent on eligibility requirements and the availability of funds.

It can be a frightening and overwhelming time for students with disabilities and their families, who are used to the structure and support of the public school system, said Mary Scott, a transition resource teacher for Baltimore County Public Schools.

“There’s no entitlement after you leave school,” Scott said. “It’s hard for parents to wrap their minds around that.”

Michele Baisey recalled the stress and pressure to complete multiple aid applications in a short amount of time starting when her son was a junior in high school.

“It was very overwhelming because it was so much all at once, and the applications are not short or by any means easy,” she said. “It’s looking back from birth and documenting and justifying everything medically … down to every doctor, every hospital, every medicine.”

As his mother navigates the state system, Troy Baisey is figuring out what he wants his future to look like. He had to modify his goals several times, like when he found out he would not be able to graduate high school with a diploma, or when he was told he may not be able to pursue his dream job of becoming a priest.

On transitioning a teen with special needs into adulthood

Love That Max Blog guest post (January 2013):  A parent’s experiences and perspectives on preparing a child with a disability for adulthood.

This guest post is from the awe-inspiring Laverne Bissky, mom to Kasenya, who has cerebral palsy. Laverne is an inspirational speaker, writer and coach who writes at No Ordinary Journey. Along with  her husband, son and Kasenya, the family has backpacked in North America, Australia, South East Asia, Africa, Europe and South America. She recently created a cookbook that benefits programs the couple run for kids with special needs in Vietnam. 

The transition from the old year to the new is a good time for reflection. As parents we usher our children through many transitions but as parents of a child with a disability trepidation is often part of that process. Perhaps the scariest is the transition to adulthood which will happen soon for us since my daughter will be turning 18 in 2013. As I reflect on that, I realize that whether we thought of it this way or not our preparation started from the day Kasenya was born.


The transition to adulthood involves many decisions. Decisions need to be made about guardianship and applications made for funding so that Kasenya can continue to have the services that she needs. Later we will need to think about where she will live as an adult. The least urgent but most important questions is what she do with her time once she is no longer in school. I have always hoped that as an adult she would be as independent as possible and I knew in my heart that she would contribute something positive to the world, but given the severity of her CP what would that be? That question is beginning to answer itself.

Continue reading the post here.

Read more about Kasenya and her family at their blog, No Ordinary Journey.



Woodbridge school serves homemade meals and workplace training

The Washington Post, November 25, 2013

Faculty and staff members are being treated to a more upscale lunch two days a week at Freedom High School’s new Bistro Cafe.

One of the Woodbridge school’s special education classrooms is transformed with dimmed lighting, flameless candles, tablecloths and Italian music. Six to eight students with autism or intellectual disabilities prepare and serve the meal.

Marilyn Austin, the special education department chairman for autism and intellectual disabilities, came up with the idea in the summer.

The students have been running a coffee cart with drinks and pastries in the morning for about five years, Austin said. This year, they added the lunch bistro, which includes a salad bar, homemade soup, bread with an olive oil dipping sauce, bottled water and dessert. Teachers make a reservation and pay $5 for the lunch. The students are also making walking tacos Tuesdays and Wednesdays for kids who stay after school for activities. The line often snakes out the door of the classroom and down the hall, Austin said.

“I think the social interaction alone has made them so different,” Austin said. “They learn the building; they’re not sequestered in a little space all day. They get out. . . . I just love this, and so do they.”

Continue reading here.

Graduation Requirements for Students with Disabilities

Post from “Achieve” website:

The call to ensure that every student, including students with disabilities, graduates from high school well prepared for college and careers is acknowledged by policymakers, professionals and business leaders.  All students deserve access to the academic skills they need so that they can make their own career decisions. They should not have those decisions made for them because they did not have the academic preparation they needed or, worse, left high school with a diploma believing they had been prepared. Yet, the extent to which states require students to complete a college- and career-ready course of study for a high school diploma varies a great deal across the nation. It is critical that state policies and practices encourage students with disabilities to meet the college- and career-ready standards needed to attain the state’s standard diploma – and that states align the standard diploma with college- and career-ready expectations.
This policy brief was developed through a partnership with the National Center on Educational Outcomes at the University of Minnesota and Achieve to provide guidance to state education policy leaders to support the goal of ensuring that students with disabilities leave school with meaningful diplomas by providing background on the diverse characteristics of students with disabilities and their high school and postsecondary attainment, by exploring the policy landscape across states and by providing recommendations to states about how to improve current approaches to high school graduation requirements for students with disabilities and promote the successful completion of these students with the knowledge and skills to be college and career ready.

Continue reading here.

Roses for Autism

Roses For Autism is a social enterprise that fosters the thoughtful transition of individuals with Autism to meaningful employment and personal success.

Through the Discover Learn Work career training service, individuals discover their unique strengths, learn the necessary technical skills and social competence, and gain valued work experience at the dynamic Roses For Autism business so that they can obtain employment and be successful in their chosen careers!

According to a September 2013 Huffington Post Article with Tom Fanning (President and CEO of Ability Beyond Disability, the parent organization of Roses for Autism),

“There have been amazing changes in the confidence levels of many of the adults that work at Roses For Autism. While here, they have learned how to be part of a team, utilize the transferable skills they have been taught, advocate for themselves and even mentor others who are just starting in their career paths. Each individual recognizes that their contribution is essential to the success of the entire operation.

We have also witnessed increased independence in other aspects of their lives which we believe is due to the personal growth and success that they have achieved here. Some of our employees have obtained driver’s licenses, moved into their own apartments, pursued college level education and obtained secure, permanent employment in careers of their choice.”

Continue reading here.

Training Program Helps Students With Autism Land Jobs: New research suggests schools should build on these students’ strengths

Wall Street Journal Article , October 8, 2013

Schools are typically tasked with ferreting out what students can’t do and teaching them how to do it.

But for students with autism, perhaps the focus should be on what they can do.

Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University recently published the first study of its kind to demonstrate that the strengths of youths with autism can be parlayed into gainful employment given the right educational program.

Read more here.