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Overcoming Communication Barriers

If a picture is with a thousand words, then one sign is priceless (photo credit Lisa Sams)Overcoming Communication Barriers (OCB) was initially developed on the premise that few —if any — model dropout intervention and prevention programs target students with sensory/multiple disabilities and the communication barriers that exacerbate at-risk issues.
OCB: At-Risk and OCB: Mentoring are sister-projects, both supported by Alabama Senator Richard Shelby and administered by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

OCB: At-Risk assists students’ families and educators using multisystemic therapy/wraparound case management. OCB: At-Risk students are first in-line for a mentor — individuals who undergo Alabama Bureau of Investigation background checks, are deaf or blind and/or have special education or vocational rehabilitation training.  

Helping Others
Kenneth White knows first-hand what it means to receive a helping-hand.

“I was the only young person I knew with a disability,” he states. “I wanted to do so many things but always told I couldn’t…this made me very depressed. I would apply for jobs but got no calls due to my vision. I finally gave up. Everything I tried, nothing came of it.”
Kenneth White, former E.H. Gentry student, OCB: At-Risk and Mentoring, Tuscaloosa, AL (photo credit: Bob Crisp)Kenneth was paired with Johnny Long, a Tuscaloosa native who is blind. He and Johnny mentor by phone while Kenneth is at Gentry, which includes Central Alabama Community College dual enrollment as Kenneth preps to be an Assistant Physical Therapist. On breaks, they spend time one-on-one, “just talking about life.”

“He gives me advice,” Kenneth says. “If I have a problem, he makes me feel better. He has helped me look at life differently. I had very low self-esteem; now I feel like I can do anything.”

“I’ve seen a real growth in Kenneth,” states Gentry Case Manager for the Blind, Jerry McKee, a recent mentor recruit, along with wife, Wendy. “He’s a model student and can certainly mentor others. He’s one of those students we’ll look back and say, ‘We’ve made a difference.’”

Making a Difference
“Kids don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” states mentor Carol Hudson, AIDB’s Marianna Greene Henry Special Equestrian Barn Manager.

“One-on-one attention is such a precious commodity. I admit, the first time was a little awkward, but we soon fell into a relationship which quickly grew beyond horses. She now shares her problems, ambitions and dreams.

“I wouldn’t trade my mentor experience for anything,” explains Carol. “I have the flexibility to make learning fun while making a difference in a young girl’s life.”
Through both programs, participant incident reports have been reduced by 87 percent; unexcused absences reduced by 59 percent; suspensions/expulsions reduced by 98 percent; and participants’ overall grade-point average raised one complete letter grade.  

 For more information, to mentor or to support these initiatives, contact AIDB Foundation Executive Director Lynne Hanner at 256.761.3206 or hanner.lynne@aidb.state.al.us.