Vocational Skills Build Pathway To Learning: Drew’s Personal Route to Self-Sufficiency
When you first meet Drew you notice his polite and kind nature, followed by his bright smile. He works hard at his jobs and enjoys the rewards of a paycheck and a job well done. It is hard to imagine that just 2 ½ years ago when he came to Crotched Mountain School, Drew was withdrawn and struggling emotionally. Diagnosed with ADHD and a learning disability, he had a hard time expressing himself and interpersonal relationships were difficult. Academically, he was a reluctant student who resisted traditional classroom instruction. His anxiety and difficulty in communicating made learning and developing relationships with his peers and teachers very challenging.
“Before Drew came to Crotched Mountain, he struggled with aggression and had a hard time focusing,” said his mom, Lisa. “Now he comes home from school upbeat and happy. He always says, ‘I had a great day!’”
Drew’s transformation took a commitment to finding the best way for Drew to learn and a focus on interpersonal and communication skills. With self-confidence and a quest for independence, Drew is now focused on life after Crotched Mountain School, which includes more vocational training and finding a job.
Unraveling the issues
One fundamental step in Drew’s early successes at Crotched Mountain School was learning how to deal with conflict. When his teachers focused on academics in class, he wouldn’t talk. He wouldn’t engage. He wouldn’t make eye contact. He wouldn’t do his school work. He wasn’t happy and he was struggling to adapt.
Christy Greene, his counselor, discovered that it was hard for Drew to put his feelings into words. He had a long history of unsuccessful school experiences and he often chose not to communicate. “Drew had some past issues with expressing himself, especially around conflict and his struggles with academics,” said Greene. By role-playing, they worked on identifying words for Drew to communicate his needs more effectively, being assertive without being aggressive and using communication to manage challenging social situations.
Developing his vocational interests
After several months of challenging classroom work, Drew’s classroom teacher, Alyssa Collyer, consulted with his educational and therapy team to help find a better way for Drew to learn. “Drew’s original IEP was focused solely on academics and improving his ability to read, write and understand math,” said Collyer. “But reaching him in the traditional ways wasn’t working.” The team decided to explore a vocational approach.
Tim Hogue, vocational trainer at Crotched Mountain School, completed an interest inventory with Drew and asked him such questions as: Are you good with your hands? Do you like to work outside? He offered Drew some vocational opportunities and Drew discovered his love of working … first with jobs at Crotched Mountain’s skills center and recycling center, and then in the community, cleaning offices, taking inventory in a hardware store/lumberyard and repairing cars in an auto shop.
“Drew demonstrated early on that he is very capable and conscientious about his work,” said Hogue. “Together we modeled behavior for situations he might experience on the job and what is expected of him in the workplace.”
According to Collyer, “It was at this point that we worked with his home school, his mom and his team at Crotched Mountain to adjust his IEP to focus on a vocational track as a means of education. Drew’s academic improvement was significant and he learned math, writing and reading skills on the job. Tapping into Drew’s strong work ethic was a major breakthrough for him." Drew agrees. "I don't dread my IEP goals anymore. Now I have something to actually sit down and work on," he says, referring to the tasks that come with earning money, including budgeting, learning how to use a checking account and paying bills.
Accomplishing personal goals
Drew has grown socially and academically thanks to his jobs that integrate math and reading and participation in supportive counseling. And thanks to his success at work, he has earned opportunities for paid positions.
Joe MacGregor of Bennington Garage says, “Drew was a joy to have in our shop. He came in each day with a good attitude and was ready to participate. He has a good sense of humor, a desire to do well and will follow through to complete tasks. He is a good team worker, was able to master many skills that will be of good use to him for a variety of positions and he developed a sense of confidence as the year progressed.”
His ability to be a role model with the younger students and his enjoyment of life at school also earned Drew the Principal’s Award at graduation this year.
After receiving his certificate of attendance Drew returned to his school district to further his vocational education. “I like to work on cars and I want to be a mechanic. I like that I get paid for doing it!” said Drew with a smile. "When we were looking for possible school placements for Drew three years ago, two schools were recommended, one was Crotched Mountain," said his mom. "But once I saw Crotched Mountain, I didn't need to see the other. Crotched Mountain was one of the best choices I have ever made for Andrew. He's in a great spot because so many people really care.
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