Adult Transition Center helps students become more independent

Posted Monday, Jan. 21, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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FORT WORTH - The Adult Transition Center at Timber Creek High School helps special education students become as independent as possible.

Since it began in 2009, the program has helped more than 40 young adults ages 18 to 22 learn vocational and living skills. Participants have already achieved the academic goals in their Individual Education Plans but need help taking the next step, said Jill Ross, special education coordinator.

"Everything here is about the next step of independence, what gets them to the most independent life possible," Ross said.

Most students spend half a day at the center working on skills, and many of them have part-time jobs off campus.

Once a special education student has completed high school, his or her teachers come up with a transition plan that includes learning tasks to use at a job and at home.

Ursula Compton, a teacher at the Adult Transition Center, said some students complete their transition plans in a few months while others may take a few years.

Teachers and aides help the young adults acquire basic cooking and cleaning skills, including how to use the oven and microwave and how to do laundry. Students rotate assigned chores, such as making sure the classroom kitchen is clean at the end of each day.

In the job training portion, participants can learn to sort items by shape, size and color, run a paper shredder, stock shelves and assemble simple parts.

Students also have the opportunity for community-based instruction. Compton said that participants have trained at Kroger, Big Lots, Marshall's, various school cafeterias and the Keller Education Center. Before or after their time at the center, many of the participants go to part-time jobs.

"We want to get their day to start looking like it's supposed to look," Compton said.

Kyle Dyke smiles shyly when he talks about his job at Kroger.

The 19-year-old stocks shelves and bags groceries several days a week. "I like to stack the cans up," Dyke said.

The focus of the program is to show the participants, their families and community members how much the young adults can contribute.

Every day, students help in the Timber Creek cafeteria. They stack chairs in sets of four while custodians clean floors, and then place chairs back around tables.

Ross said the young adults perform the work to practice skills, not to replace paid workers.

Janette Hahn, director of special education, said the transition center is totally separate from high school. Before the district had a centralized location, students completed transition plans on their own high school campuses.

The young adults receive training in real-life situations such as going shopping or eating at restaurants. Teachers also help them learn how to make change and some basic money management.

"Teachers treat them like adults because they are treated like adults in the workplace," Hahn said. "Parents see the difference between the senior year and the transition year. The growth is amazing."

Hahn said that district officials would like to have more space for the transition center, perhaps a designated building. They also would like to develop relationships with local companies who might have simple tasks for students to complete, such as stuffing envelopes or folding boxes.

"We could do so much more if we had more space," she said.

Sandra Engelland,

(817) 431-2231

Twitter: @SandraEngelland

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