When CBHS students who participate in the personal skills class through the HDS Foundation BRIDGES grant ate lunch this past Thursday at Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza, it was so much more than just lunch. To the average observer, it may seem like a treat that these students have the opportunity to go off campus to dine and socialize. Truth be told, there was a lot of thought and planning that went into this off campus activity: the students were working on their budgeting and communication skills.
One of the recommendations for teaching money management skills to a teen with special needs, such as those who participate in the BRIDGES program, is to give the student a budget and go out into the community. Each student had to order his own lunch from the menu. At the end of the meal, they each had to compute the tip as well. In order to meet with success on this task in the area of budgeting, the teachers provided in class practice and discussion prior to the field trip.
According to best practices for teachers working with this population of students, communication skills are complicated because of the different components involved. The students had to engage in socially appropriate conversations with not only their teachers, but also with their peers and the restaurant staff. The teachers in this program make a conscious effort to work on the skills of initiating conversation and maintaining appropriate interactions, skills that most people take for granted.
Because of funding by the HDS Foundation, CBHS students in the personal skills class are given these opportunities to work on budgeting, communication, and so much more such as community resources, independent functioning skills, and social skills. While the students are learning these skills, the teachers provide prompting as needed to stay on task and reflect about the group’s success after the field trip to Anthony’s.
The HDS Foundation, as part of its College Mentor program, feels a strong connection to University of North Florida’s THRIVE program. When the devastation of Hurricane Irma caused severe flooding to the St. John’s River, the HDS Foundation was right there to lend a helping hand. They reached out to THRIVE and sent over items to help the THRIVE students and program leaders recover and most importantly, stay safe during the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.
During this hurricane, people in affected areas lost power and accessibility to clean and safe drinking water. Individuals on the ASD spectrum already face many challenges, and adding a devastating hurricane to it, made things even more difficult. Understanding this, the HDS Foundation quickly responded by donating, money, water, and any other essentials that were needed. The HDS Foundation is committed to the wellbeing and safety of UNF’s THRIVE students. We send our heartfelt thoughts and best wishes to all as they start their recovery from this devastating storm.
When we say we are “Building BRIDGES at the Bay”, the teachers in charge of the BRIDGES program at Cypress Bay High School (CBHS) really mean it. This school year’s kick off activity was filled with team building tasks as well as enjoying lunch together at a community gazebo across the street from the school’s campus. The team building activities allowed this new group of students in the 2017-2018 BRIDGES program to get to know one another in a setting outside of the classroom.
While the main goal of the event was designed to get the classmates to work together toward a common goal, the teachers never lost sight of making sure the students also had fun. The team building activities were designed to boost skills such as teamwork, communication, leadership, interpersonal, listening, and social. By participating in the event, the students had to work cooperatively together for each of the activities: none could be done alone! The purpose of the BRIDGES grant at CBHS is to give these young adults in high school many more opportunities to develop and build skills that typical students usually don’t require to be taught explicitly.
The students in the program, for example, participated in a “Trust Walk” as one of their team building activities. Extra challenges were added in such as taking their shoes off. Of course you can imagine how hesitant and uncomfortable the students were in the beginning, but with the support of the teachers and the feedback the students were given, activities such as these only increased a sense of teamwork between everyone.
A great aspect of these team building activities is the corrective feedback from the teachers to their students. As each task was completed, the teachers would make specific suggestions, model the recommendations, and discuss the successes accomplished during the activities. Every accomplishment was mentioned, no matter how big or small, which gave students a positive outlook and make them feel good.
Once the team building activities ended, the students enjoyed lunch together, eating and conversing about the activities they had just worked on together. As the students in the BRIDGES program walked back to campus, each one felt accomplished and closer to their classmates. This is just the beginning of giving these students the tools they need to be successful in our community, in the school, and throughout the rest of their lives.
Project THRIVE provides degree-seeking students who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and related disorders with equal access to the University of North Florida. Throughout the year, THRIVE hosts social events that encourage students to practice social skills in a welcoming environment. One of the events included a game afternoon, where students could bring in board, card, or electronic games and host tournaments. The day was filled with laughter and friendly competition. The afternoon of recreation was not exclusive to THRIVE participants, but open to all UNF students. People from all sorts of majors and programs could integrate and create a closer campus community.
Young adults with ASD may find it difficult at first to socialize with their peers. So, communal events like this allow students to explore their social boundaries. Making this game day inclusive also gave THRIVE students the opportunity to make new friends. When it comes to friendships, sometimes you need to take the interaction outside of the classroom. In a laidback setting, people will feel more comfortable to be themselves.
As seen in the picture, students played card games while munching and sipping on snacks provided by the HDS Foundation. THIRVE Coordinator, Tara Rowe, is also pictured hanging out with two students during the afternoon. Tara has kept the HDS Foundation updated with THRIVE’s happenings and shared great pictures. We encourage Project THRIVE to continue their mission and hope they keep hosting these fun events next school year!
Recently, Project THRIVE held their Community Learning Opportunity (CLO) event. CLO is a career fair held for the THRIVE students, in which the students educate businesses and employers on what Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is and different ways to support employees with ASD in the workplace. The career fair allows students to network with potential employers, building relationships that can help them get jobs with the company in the future.
The students prepared for the Community Learning Opportunity event for quite some time. They built resumes that highlighted their education, extracurricular activities, and work experience to present to the employers. THRIVE staff briefed the students beforehand on how the event would work, what companies would be there, and how to approach the employers they were interested in getting a job with. The days before the event were spent practicing individual introductory speeches with the Program Director and Assistant Dean of Students. Introductions are crucial during a job search, so preparing these speeches ensured that the students would be able to connect with the employers, especially those that offered jobs interesting to them.
When the day finally arrived, excitement and anticipation coursed through the students, directors, and employers. The event was held in a large room with tables for the company representatives to set up. The students arrived later and they had clearly dressed to impress, some even sporting full suits! The students circled the room, stopping at each table to introduce themselves find out each representative’s role at their company. If the student was particularly interested in a job, they could hand the employer their resume.
The students also had the opportunity of speaking with the employers about what it means to have Autism Spectrum Disorder, how it affects their life, and how to accommodate people with ASD in the workplace. They spoke of previous accommodations made by co-workers that had helped them, and different ways a workplace could support employees with ASD. It was a learning experience for the employers to be presented with first-hand accounts of how to assist their employees with ASD while having a more inclusive and diverse work environment.
CLO was a success for the employers and the Project THRIVE team, and we loved hearing about the experience. Congratulations on another successful CLO!
In March, Dr. Temple Grandin gave a seminar at the University of North Florida about her accomplishments. This was of particular interest to the THRIVE students because Dr. Temple Grandin is a remarkably successful woman and innovator in the agricultural field, who also has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Dr Grandin’s seminar is titled “Thinking in Pictures: My Life with Autism.” The THRIVE program directors and students had the incredible opportunity of not only listening to Dr. Grandin’s life story but also being able to meet her.
In the seminar, “Thinking in Pictures: My Life with Autism,” Dr. Grandin discusses her life growing up and how she because interested in the agricultural industry. She spoke about having difficulties in English class as it focused on figurative language, but she found mathematics and science mush easier as they were based on logic and formulas. She also had a very strong grasp on visual learning. Having autism had led her to think in pictures; for example, when someone mentioned a horse, she would mentally pull up all the pictures of horses she had ever seen.
Thinking in pictures also significantly helped her in pursuing a career in agriculture and in designing popular cattle herding methods. She was able to pick up on thing other people could not. She was also very skilled at tracking and understanding their movement in circular patters, and angles that would be bast suited to them, which aided in their further development of methods.
Temple Grandin faced many obstacles in her life. She was a newcomer to the field when she was first trying to make tremendous changes. At the time, people had very little understanding of Autism. She preserved these obstacles and paved the way for others who also shared in her difficulties with Autism.
Dr. Grandin is considered the most accomplished and well-known adult with autism in the world. In fact, her journey was made into a film. The THRIVE students were so inspired and thrilled to see and meet someone like them who overcame so many obstacles and rose to such a level of success. Dr. Grandin’s presentation also increased awareness and understanding about ASD for UNF students who may not have encountered ASD or who may not have understood what it means to have ASD.
After the seminar, the THRIVE students met with Dr. Grandin to take pictures and speak to her for a bit. They were thrilled to have met her.
Thank you to Dr. Temple Grandin for visiting UNF and to UNF for hosting this wonderful event. Also, thank you to Tara Rowe for all the great pictures you shared with us!