Our 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