An inspiring transition from school to work (Last part)

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014


THE placement of an individual with special needs from school to work settings entails a lot of hard work. It involves careful planning and serious preparations. It requires a very close collaboration between the parents, the teachers, the employer and the co-workers. Our advocacy is to encourage parents to support their child towards training them to be independent and productive individuals but we also emphasize that we cannot demand for the “automatic hiring” of persons with special needs without going through a series of discussions of the role of the parents and the entire family, the evaluation of basic competencies of the individual with special needs and such other important considerations. There are so many pre-requisites before we bring the student to the workplace and the checklist of things to do before, during and after work placement is very long and dynamic.

The role of a teacher in the work placement of an individual with special needs is also very important. It is not a joke to be an educator, much more if your students require not just your academic preparation and experience but also one’s emotional maturity, physical endurance and spiritual well-being. A special education teacher must have the compassion and commitment to help students achieve their optimum potentials to be a productive person. A good SPED teacher goes beyond what is expected of them, even beyond the call of duty and outside the walls of the classroom.

In my previous article, we read about how Ms. Ann Angeles, a principal of ILLC Davao, implemented a work placement program for John (not his real name) who now works at a famous restaurant in Davao City. This time, we will share with you the response of the very supportive parents:
“A change in the life of John started in the summer of 2009 when a doctor who examined him handed the Independent Living Learning Centre (ILLC) flyer to us. We opened up to his doctor about our difficulty in the selection of schools as well as the course that suited him since we had to consider a lot of things. The doctor made an evaluation and gave suggestions and realistic recommendations. At home, we studied the flyer over and over again. Although we felt a bit hesitant, we decided to give it a try. For two years, he was with ILLC and even wanted to stay for some more years. He was very active and cooperative in school. He improved a lot in many aspects. A noticeable one was that he learned to commute alone from our house to his school and vice versa. Weeks and months were spent weaning him until the time came when he was able to do it independently. At ILLC, he showed his leadership skills. His hidden talents in singing, dancing and acting were discovered. All of these boosted his self-confidence. Through the help of this institution, he was able to get a job at Emerald restaurant and he has been working there for two years already. From time to time, his ILLC teacher monitors him. John enjoys working and at the same time, earning his weekly allowance. He saves and spends some of it for his personal needs. He bought his dream cellphone from his savings. He is friendly and able to adjust with his co-workers. Some work related problems have been encountered along the way but it was given quick attention and solution. Welcoming guests, serving orders, attending to customers' needs, table setting and preparing utensils to be used are among his tasks. He is cheerful in making himself busy all the time. He is now little by little immersed into the real setting of life. It may take some time for him to learn to be more independent, but we are hopeful. We thank the ILLC teachers and staff for the continued support and guidance. Based on John's experiences, we see possible results of the program as envisioned. We also thank the restaurant’s management for giving John the opportunity to be a part of their team.”

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A successful work placement program does not simply end when the student is already hired by the employer. It is a continuous process of monitoring the student/worker and also guiding the employees and supervisors on how to give appropriate support to their co-worker. As I have said, the checklist is very long and dynamic, and the parents should wisely choose the work placement programs of their child.
We thank John and his parents for giving us the inspiration, hope and confidence we need in preparing youth with specials needs for life.

*****

Jane Ann S. Gonzales is a mother of a youth with autism. She is an advocate/core member of the Autism Society Philippines and Directress of the Independent Living Learning Centre (ILLC) Davao, a centre for teenagers and adults with special needs. For comments or questions, please email janeanngonzales@yahoo.com).

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on February 19, 2014.

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