Life Skills’ Programs at The Gateway School
Besides the traditional and functional academics of the school programs, students are instructed in practical and daily living skills in order to prepare them for future adult situations in the home, community and work place. These programs include a multitude of areas such as, pre-vocational skills, daily living skills, community-based instruction, self-care, functional reading and math.
Pre–vocational skills and work orientation are a major part of Gateway’s Life Skills’ curriculum, especially as the students become adolescents and near transition age. Students are exposed to a wide range of in-school pre–vocational tasks through various classroom activities and the use of classroom manipulatives (packaging and assembly, collating and sorting activities). Often related services’ staff collaborates with teachers to integrate therapy sessions into life skills’ training in school and also out in the community. Students are encouraged to find pre-vocational tasks that are both engaging and educational. Our goal is for students to use their personal interests in pre-vocational skills and turn them into career exploration for the future.
Students are encouraged to explore a wide variety of careers starting at a young age. Students are exposed to community helpers at the elementary level and interests are gauged to determine possible vocational interests as students progress toward the middle and high school age. Once students turn 14, they begin transition services and work with the Supported Learning Experience (SLE) coordinator on in–house and off campus work experiences. These off site experiences include but are not limited to retail, grocery services, custodial and clerical work.
Activities of Daily Living
Students at Gateway School experience and are encouraged to learn various activities that they will encounter in their everyday lives. From being responsible for their own belongings to making a bed, students get to practice these skills in Gateway’s ADL room. This alternative classroom offers students the opportunity for cooking, making the bed, vacuuming, using a dishwasher, laundry and other skills found in a home or apartment environment. All of these skills can be utilized throughout a student’s entire life and help foster a greater level of independence.
Our community-based instruction allows students to generalize skills learned in school out into the real world in typical community environments, e.g., grocery store, restaurant, retail stores and the local library. Students are afforded the opportunity to work at various local job sites to gain experience and exposure to different careers. Students can work in food services, office and clerical work, clothing and retail, and other jobs in the surrounding community.
Gateway School encourages each student to be as independent as possible, and this begins with students being able to meet their personal needs. Depending on the ability and age levels of students, they are able to practice self-care skills such as grooming, brushing their teeth, and basic hygiene practices. Students are instructed on self-care skills throughout the curriculum in science, health and through related service therapy sessions.
Leisure and Recreational Skills
Leisure skills are an engrained part of the Gateway School curriculum. During these periods, students are able to discover things that they like to do in their free time. As a part of their everyday lives, students are able to socialize with friends, play games, use safe websites on the computer, and play video games with one another during the leisure time. If a student is unable to decide what they want to do, they are guided through a wide variety of safe, social and productive activities that they can enjoy on their own time.
Gateway School students are exposed to functional math skills throughout the school day, and through Gateway’s many different classroom businesses. Students practice working with money using real life experiences within the school building, and generalize those skills when students go off site on various class trips. Students visit local stores and restaurants where they are able to calculate cost of items, exchange money for goods and collect.
Gateway School students begin functional reading the moment they enter the program. Students are exposed to reading a schedule every day in their classrooms, along with a calendar and weather related items through morning meeting. Students continue to extend these skills through various trips into the local community and businesses, where they are exposed to various community signs, transportation schedules and menus.
As students transition to adulthood, they are exposed to various job sites and work experiences. While attending the job sites and work places, students are expected to uphold not only Gateway School’s expectations for behavior, but also the company’s work expectations. Students are directed while they work by classroom assistants and the employment specialist, as well.
Gateway School students are exposed to shopping skills through the various in-school activities and out in the community. The numerous Gateway School businesses allow students the opportunity to practice exchanging money for goods and collecting change throughout the school day. In addition, when school businesses need supplies, transition students go into the community to purchase the materials that will be used. The students often create a list, take the list to the store to find the desired items, and purchase those in a real life setting.
Each classroom at Gateway School provides the opportunity for students to practice their cooking skills. Through a collaborative approach with the classroom and therapy staff, students are given tools that they need to be successful in their independent lives. Students learn how to make simple recipes with a few ingredients to full-course meals, as they progress through their time at Gateway School.
Gateway School provides opportunities to practice skills that students will need later in their lives, including laundry skills. Students have the opportunity to wash, dry, fold clothes, towels and other items in life skills setting. Learning these skills will be helpful in enabling the students increased level of independence.