At the Helen Keller School (HKS), making students feel that they are like everyone else is the key to opening their paths to independence.
To accomplish this goal, the staff at HKS, which provides functional-based instruction to deaf, blind and deafblind students with multiple disabilities, works together as a team in a transition program that helps prepare students to enter the workforce.
It is an individualized approach combining the development of independent living and job skills. “We want to make them aware of what’s out there for them and give them confidence in their abilities to pursue those opportunities,” HKS Principal Dr. Sandra Ware said.
Among the limitless possibilities HKS students have recently found available to them are opportunities to work off campus, to participate in college classes at Jacksonville State University, and to even take driver’s education in hopes of getting a driver’s license someday.
HKS students have joined the local Talladega workforce by working at Subway, Domino’s Pizza, Piggly Wiggly, The Daily Grind coffee shop, while others work at the different AIDB campus locations.
“When you talk about work, you see a light in their eyes go on. They are ready to go,” said Academic Director Robert McLendon. “Realizing that something like this is possible means everything to these students.”
Transition University, a program designed to cultivate relationships between high school students with intellectual and severe disabilities and Jacksonville State University Special Education Collaborative Teacher candidates, has played a key role in expanding the horizons of HKS students. Every Friday, HKS students visit the college campus to experience college life by participating in campus activities.
“It is good because our students have siblings or other people they know in the community who have gone to college, and it helps them understand what you do there,” Ware said. “For the Helen Keller School to have five students participate in Transition University makes us really proud.”
Finally, HKS has several students who have either taken or will take driver’s education at the E.H. Gentry Facility.
“It is quite the accomplishment for us to have students who are able to even consider taking driver’s ed,” Ware said. “All of these things show the levels our students can attain when you show them what is possible.”