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Column: District 518 helping students reach professional potential

By Deb Stoll, District 518 WORTHINGTON -- Seventy years ago, Aunt Mariam was removed from her parents' home at the age of 10 and placed at the St Peter State Hospital for what the State called "safekeeping." A traumatic event for the family, Aunt...

By Deb Stoll, District 518

WORTHINGTON - Seventy years ago, Aunt Mariam was removed from her parents’ home at the age of 10 and placed at the St Peter State Hospital for what the State called “safekeeping.” A traumatic event for the family, Aunt Mariam experienced a fever at age 2 and never totally recovered, experiencing cognitive and developmental delays along with physical challenges.
Thankfully, our society has moved to a more humane philosophy since the 1930s. How thankful we are that schools and society now focuses on the abilities of students to reach their potential while teaching them to cope with their disabilities.
Fast forward to 1975 and the passing of Public Law 94-142, a national law requiring students with disabilities to be integrated into schools and welcomed into the folds of all students. Including students of all differences was introduced. Students with special differences were guaranteed a Free and Appropriate Education (FAPE), which was the beginning of Inclusion, where students with special needs were welcomed into the hallways and classes with their non-disabled peers.
Even though it’s been 40 years since the original special education law, schools continue to strive to build opportunities to enhance the potential for students with special needs as they look forward to adult life.
So, in the fall of 2016, Worthington High School will add a life skills training program with the opportunity for students with special needs to explore and experience employment and life skills in a controlled environment. A Practical Assessment Exploration System Lab (PAES) will be offered as a work experience lab. This PAES lab will provide students with the instructions and equipment to complete a variety of job tasks ranging from collating papers to making change at a cash register to assembling bolts and pipes. A total of 264 job opportunities will be available. The dynamic class will include opportunities in Business/Marketing, Consumer/Service, Construction/Industrial, Processing/Production and Computer/Technology.
Dr. Judy Swisher developed the PAES program over 30 years ago. It is a comprehensive, data-driven curriculum for students with special needs that provides training in career and life skills, and exploration through hands-on experiences that can help to determine a student’s career/vocational strengths. The simulated work environment allows staff to assess and address behaviors that may cause barriers to a competitive working environment. The program also includes assessment of a student’s ability to work, their interests in specific types of work and the type of support an individual would need in the workplace.
As Aunt Mariam cheers from above, we appreciate every opportunity to nurture our students and assist them with reaching their potential and achieving their goals through the addition of the PAES lab at Worthington High School.

Deb Stoll is assistant director of special education for District 518.

Related Topics: EDUCATION
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