Category Archives: Life Skills

Saturday Seminar: Post-Secondary Transition Planning

Tee Stock, MS OTR/L, MBA presented a Therapro Saturday Seminar last weekend that provided a comprehensive look at Post – Secondary Transition Planning (PSTP) for students. Her extensive experience with transition planning in public schools, a private special education school, and a local collaborative, in addition to her doctoral work in this area, offered attendees an abundance of useful and current information including a guide to the numerous resources available. An essential component of her presentation was the role of the occupational therapist on the transition team.

In her review of the PSTP process, Tee reviewed some interesting statistics, some of which were quite alarming, including: “People with disabilities are twice as likely to drop out of high school; ”Those with disabilities are three times more likely to live in poverty;” and “After high school, students with disabilities are less likely to continue their education, find employment, or live independently.”    Transition planning is federally mandated to begin at age 16, but in some states, including Massachusetts, planning begins at age 14, or even earlier with the goal of preparing the student for life after high school by teaching the student a set of skills.  These skills encompass finding and keeping employment, living independently, learning to access community resources, and learning to self-manage medical and other personal needs.

When taking a look at the skill set that PSTP addresses, it seems clear that the occupational therapist should have an important role on the transition team.  However, Tee explained that sometimes lack of understanding of what the OT can offer to the process or lack of funding to increase OT services when preparing for post-secondary transitioning could stand in the way of including this professional on the team.  AOTA supports the role of the occupational therapist in TP as stated clearly in the OT Standards of Practice Guidelines and by providing valuable resources on transition planning.

Tee highlighted a large sample of OT activities for transition services that included: performing activity analysis for job, school, and self help skills; administering assessments that support life skills and transition skills; providing consultation on assistive technology to promote a student’s access, progress, and participation. The I Can Work! curriculum was endorsed by Tee and other attendees as a valuable 5-module program for integrating communication skills with hands-on pre-vocational training for middle school, high school, and young adults with special needs. Some assessments that can be administered by OTs that Tee recommended include the Transition Planning Inventory (TP-2), the Kohlman Evaluation of Living Skills (Kels) 4th Edition, which was developed by an OT, TEACCH Transition Assessment Profile – 2nd Edition (TTAP), and the Reading-Free Vocational Interest Inventory 2 (R-FII:2).  Attendees freely shared information about assessments they used, liked, and did not like. OTs can consult on selecting Assistive Technology that may be useful for TP. Tee recommended a broad variety of Apps including: Stop, Breathe & Think, a free meditation app that we actually tried out; Visual Schedule Planner, to create a custom schedule with audio and video of events; and My Homework Student Planner, designed to help students from middle school age through college keep track of classes, projects, test, and homework.

Tee left us with a great deal of information on the whole scope of post-secondary transition planning including the importance of a full team that includes the parents and student.  We also learned the important contribution the occupational therapist can provide for the student to help ensure a successful transition from high school to the community.

Take a look at a few of the many positive remarks from those who attended Tee’s seminar:

“It was a pleasure listening to this comprehensive seminar, presented at an excellent pace with thorough notes.  Thanks so much!”  Beth B., Occupational Therapist

“Organized, lots of resources.”  Karen D., Occupational Therapist

“Informative, a lot of resources.”  Jackie P., Occupational Therapist

Thank you, Tee!

Filomena Connor, MS, OTR/L

Task Boxes: A Hands-On Approach to Life Skills

by Angela Mahoney

The importance of pre-vocational planning and opportunity is ever growing, yet when and where to begin can be so overwhelming for both educators and parents! Task boxes are a great way to introduce as well as develop a wide range of hands-on life and vocational activities for a range of diverse learners.

Task boxes are compartments that contain material for a certain activity. The activities are typically short and structured and they offer a nice blend of familiarity and challenge. Any activity that fits in the compartment may be used as part of the young adult’s curriculum both at school and home as well as in a therapy session such as OT, PT and Speech. Task boxes offer much more than organization for the young adult working on the activity:

  • Activities address various skills.
  • They encourage independence, as the young adult takes the task out of the box, completes it, and puts it away with minimal or no guidance.
  • They serve as excellent sequencing activities.
  • The boxes are visual, and the single-unit presentation is easy to understand.
  • They break down activities into small steps, which is an important aspect of applied behavioral analysis (ABA).

Task Boxes for Life SkillsTask Boxes for Life Skills

To create a task box you need to first gather a limited number of materials (10-20) related to the activity as well as a compartment with lid large enough to store materials.


Next you will need tocreate a visual guide showing each step of the task in the compartment. This allows the young adult to visually see each step of the variety of task boxes and encourages independence when working.


After the materials have been placed in the compartment, adhere the steps to the lid, number the box and add it to your task box area for future practice and success with a wide range of skills!

Below are some examples of task box ideas broken down by Module, adapted from the I Can Work! Program.

Clerical: Folding paper in thirds, Addressing envelopes, Filing by numbers or words

Task Boxes for Life SkillsTask Boxes for Life Skills

Retail: Folding t-shirts, Pairing and Sizing shoes, Buttoning Shirt

Task Boxes for Life SkillsTask Boxes for Life Skills

Food Service: Folding napkins, Setting a table, Assembly of place settings

Task Boxes for Life SkillsTask Boxes for Life Skills

Grocery: Sorting hard and soft groceries, Stocking shelves

Task Boxes for Life SkillsTask Boxes for Life Skills

By creating task boxes that apply to life utilizing vocational materials, young adults are building a stronger foundation and confidence for future success!

Saturday Seminar: I Can Work! Hands-on Ways to Build a Strong Pre-vocational Foundation for All Young Adults

I Can WorkOur hope for all children is that they become productive, engaged members of their community as adults.  For students with special needs, this goal becomes a challenge because it is dependent on early, interesting, and meaningful training in pre-vocational skills. At Therapro’s Saturday Seminar on March 12th, entitled: I Can Work! Hands-on Ways to Build a Strong Pre-vocational Foundation for All Young Adults, educator and creator of I Can Work!, Angela Mahoney, M.Ed. presented her 5 module course designed to integrate communication skills with hands-on pre-vocational training.  Angela has an extensive background in working on pre-vocational training with special needs students in a variety of settings in New England. Currently she is a Skills for Life Educator at the Middle School level in a self-contained classroom in Connecticut.  She is also providing consultation and training to schools and programs throughout the US in administering and adapting I Can Work! for their particular setting and students.

With her broad experience as a pre-vocational teacher and as a consultant to other schools in developing their pre-voc programs, Angela’s I Can Work! continues to evolve into a practical, exciting course that builds on basic job readiness skills such as how to greet a supervisor, how to dress for work, how to fill out a job application, appropriate job behaviors, etc. Learning those basic skills provides a firm foundation on which to build more advanced skills.  Angela’s program instructs students in 5 different jobs, including clerical, food service, retail, and grocery, which may help them discover a special interest they may not have considered.

Angela was a charismatic and passionate presenter, who engaged in lively problem solving with the audience.  The attendees were very interactive with offering their experiences as professionals and/or parents.  One Mom of a special needs student expressed anxiety that her son would become stuck in a repetitive “job” of folding paper.  Angela was able to encourage the Mom to visualize where her son’s skills could lead him, given a firm foundation in basic job skills. Angela stated that one of her goals with implementing I Can Work! is “to break the mold of preconceived ideas of these students.”  As part of Angela’s program, the skills students have acquired in their pre-vocational training are supported by data collected on a regular basis. When this information is presented at a team meeting, the broad scope of skills the student has acquired is apparent and celebrated.

Attendees had very positive comments about Angela’s seminar:

“Well organized way to approach pre-voc education for a range of student with special needs.  This seminar provides some great ideas for how to incorporate effective, meaningful activities for pre-vocational skills.” Laura K., Teacher

“Mrs. Mahoney was clear, concise & energetic.  She listened and answered questions beautifully.”  Ella, PTA/ Parent

“The format can be generalized to not just these modules/skills (that were presented today), but also to agriculture, computers, engineering, etc.” Jen L. M., Occupational Therapist

“Both our elementary students and 18-21 year old program could benefit to use this program.  I would love to collaborate on how to take these ideas even further.” Anonymous, Transition Counselor

“Fantastic presentation on how to organize a work skills program.  Can implement ideas immediately.” Jennifer P., Occupational Therapist

Thank you, Angie!

Filomena Connor, MS, OTR/L