Take a close look at the Y.A.L.E. School’s community-based transition programs in action: you will see students working on job-readiness, pre-vocational pursuits, general safety, leisure time, and independent living skills in community settings.
As part of their school day, Y.A.L.E. Audubon students travel to local neighborhoods to learn new skills. At Applebee’s in Audubon, students assemble silverware and napkins, and straighten up the eating area. At Jubili Beads & Yarns in Collingswood, students work on counting and sorting packages and assembling beads into individual packages for the store’s display racks. When students go to the Food Bank of South Jersey, they stock shelves and sort food items and at the Camden County Library in Westmont, they return books to the shelves.
This may look like simple pre-vocational learning, but students are actually working on many of their IEP goals and objectives across different skill domains. When the student at Applebee’s runs out of napkins, he has to problem-solve by asking the supervisor for additional materials to complete the task. When the student at the Food Bank is stocking shelves, she must read and follow a written checklist to complete her work. Independently. For many of our students, these are complex communication skills that require direct instruction.
Community outings also provide an ideal “classroom” to teach the skills of connection: leisure, recreation, and independent living skills. Students learn to shop at the grocery store and use the laundromat, order and pay at restaurants, and go to the bowling alley or take yoga classes at the Y. On these outings, students not only learn how to shop from a list, use a coin washing machine, and order from a menu, they are exposed to new situations and have a chance to use skills in new settings. And, they have an opportunity to make connections in the community.
Like instruction at school, community-based instruction is based in principles of Applied Behavior Analysis. Complex skills are broken down into smaller steps and taught in a task analysis format. For example, when paying for a purchase in the community, the student is required to walk up to the cashier with the item, pull out his/her wallet, take out the correct amount of money and hand it to the cashier. The Y.A.L.E. School staff teaches the student each of these steps so he or she is able to perform the skill independently. This type of direct instruction and data collection occur on every trip.
With so much instruction taking place in the community, students make great progress on the acquisition, maintenance, and particularly, the generalization of their skills from the classroom to the community—where the skills are most vital and will be used for a lifetime!