This blog is the first in a series where I will highlight how we set up and engage students in on campus job training opportunities. While we have always offered a variety of on campus and community based job training opportunities, we have had to be especially creative with our on campus options over the course of the pandemic. One of the ways we address vocational skills on campus is by creating opportunities for our students to perform various jobs within the school environment. As an OT, I work closely with teachers and the vocational coordinators to set up job opportunities, create visuals, make adaptations, and monitor student performance. Today, we are going to start by talking about all the important things that have to happen before our students can start working so we ensure we set them up for success!.
Why is preparation so important?
We take a lot of time at the beginning of the school year to teach the job tasks and routines, make the visuals and data collection sheets, and model. We find that when we take the time for preparation, students (and staff!) feel more confident completing the job tasks. Our students thrive on repetition and routine, and it is so important to set that up in the beginning. Here are some things to consider as you get started with on campus jobs!
1. Make Connections
A crucial part of setting up on campus jobs is making connections with various departments and staff in your building. Our vocational coordinator sends out an email at the beginning of every school year, asking for departments to consider where they may need some help. We have set up a number of meaningful jobs by making these connections! Some examples include: shredding paper for various departments, checking mailboxes for and then delivering that mail to certain staff members, recycling, folding laundry/towels, cleaning tables and sweeping the floors. Some of these jobs can be done in variety of places – for example, we can clean the tables and floors in offices, classrooms, library or the cafeteria. We can fold laundry/towels for Family and Consumer Science classes and also for the Athletic Department. Sometimes, all it takes is making that connection – and then we can work with the staff to create a meaningful job opportunity for our students that is a win-win for everyone!
2. Teach the Jobs
This may seem obvious, but I think sometimes we can be so excited to start working, we forget to take the time needed to teach the steps and model. For each on campus job, I worked with the amazing teacher to create a variety of social stories and Boom card activities to help support students learning the steps of the tasks. These were easy to put together using Google Slides, real pictures of job steps, and the Google Read and Write extension which has a built in feature that is so helpful when making quick visuals! Our students spend the first few weeks of school reviewing these activities. Then, we spent a few days modeling the jobs and walking through the steps we had practicing in the social stories. We started with just a few jobs this semester, and will add on as the year progresses.
3. Set Up Materials and Systems
With multiple students and adults working in our classroom, we wanted to be sure we set up a clear system and had visual supports in place to facilitate independence on the job. For each on campus job, we made a bin where all the visuals are kept for the jobs, such as task lists and social stories. We also have our students sign in to their jobs, so we placed that clipboard right next to the material bins. Additionally, any supplies the students may take with them are right in the same storage area.
4. Consider Communication Opportunities
Having opportunities to practice important communication skills in job situations is essential for our learners. Some of the on campus jobs may originally have had minimal opportunities for communication with staff. However, my teacher friend is an amazing advocate, and we have brainstormed ways to incorporate communication opportunities into almost every job. More on that in a future post. Therefore, as part of your prep, you will want to identify opportunities for communication within on campus jobs and then ensure the supports are in place to do so. Whether that is a programmed phrase in a student’s communication device, or a written script, these supports will be essential while on the job!
5. Staff Training
Staff training is a huge part of our prep process. We have spent time this fall reviewing the prompt hierarchy, and have even laminated Sasha’s awesome visual and posted it in the front of our classroom. It is important that we continue to have conversations around prompt levels throughout the semester, especially as we ask staff to take data and we track student progress.
Next up, we will take a closer look at some of the on campus jobs, including ideas for adapting the tasks to increase independence, expanding on communication opportunities and data collection!