By Anthony Cammalleri | November 8, 2022 | Lynn Item
LYNN — Education leaders met virtually with parents of students enrolled in Lynn Public Schools Monday evening to discuss methods of post-high school support for young adult students with disabilities.
Eric Werner, who works with Fresh Start, a special education program at Lynn Tech, kicked off the meeting with a presentation highlighting the program’s efforts toward helping young adults aged 18 through 21 with disabilities prepare for adult life.
The program, Werner said, helps students with mild or moderate mental, intellectual, or emotional disabilities practice basic skills such as volunteer work in a kitchen, using public transportation, socializing, cooking, and holding down a job.
“The Fresh Start program will prepare students to transition to young adulthood by providing necessary instruction, meaningful experiences, valuable exposure, and all required skills for a strong, independent life,” Werner said. “In a nutshell, we’re preparing them for their life after high school.”
Werner said that through collaboration with disability service organization Northeast Arc’s Spotlight program, students can practice social skills through role playing, real social interaction, and multimedia programs.
“Spotlight provides a curriculum that includes music, multimedia, role playing, real experiences, all with the idea of working on social skills,” Werner said. “They work through conflict resolution, any kind of problems that arise in adult life that may be a struggle to those with intellectual disability.”
Through collaboration with another organization called Work Opportunities, which helps train students to put together resumes, practice job interviews, and gain employment. Werner said that the program has already helped students attain employment at Market Basket, DSW Shoes, and the YMCA. On Mondays, Werner said, the program volunteers at My Brother’s Table soup kitchen.
Following Werner’s presentation, Special Education Administrator for Lynn Public Schools (LPS) Phylitia Jamerson introduced the district’s new transition specialist Jim McDonald, who works with young adults and families navigating the process of filing Chapter 688, a state law that keeps disabled youth eligible for government-sponsored support after high school graduation.
McDonald also said that he plans on using his position to expand access to internship
programs and work opportunities for the students he serves.
“I would like to collaborate with staff and agencies to increase the number of students participating in internships, work, and volunteer opportunities that can assist with competitive employment,” McDonald said. “ I think we want students to gain employment, that they enjoy it well, and access to opportunities that they didn’t even think of. As part of this process, we’ll work with staff to open new opportunities for travel training, job tours, and meaningful experiences for students.”
Following McDonald’s introduction, Accessibility Services Counselor at North Shore Community College (NSCC) Kendalle Jones joined the call to remind parents that the college has resources for students with disabilities, or students struggling with mental or physical health hurdles. Among the most common struggles for NSCC students, Jones said, were depression and anxiety.
“You would be surprised at how many students we interact with who have anxiety and depression, which significantly impact their ability to be successful, but, through conversation and accommodations, we oftentimes can help to ease some of that anxiety and work with students in a way that just makes them feel like it’s doable,” Jones said.
Jones also reminded parents that at the college level, disabled students, or students in need of accommodations must attain them themselves. She said that accommodations will not change the academic standards or curriculums for the student, but will unlock additional services needed to help a student succeed.
“We offer academic accommodations designed to level the playing field, which means that we don’t modify the curriculum, so we don’t change it. We just give students extra tools, like extra time on testing, or your ability to record lectures or something of that nature or access to the Assistive Technology Lab where they can take their test, as opposed to, you know, making it so that a student only has to do or questions out of 10 or they get extra time to complete assignments,” Jones said. “We’re here to help. We want your students to be successful, and we want to walk them through the process, they just have to initiate that with us.”
Anthony Cammalleri can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org