October 29th marked the Second Annual Halloween Party for the Cypress Bay BRIDGES program. Both Parents and HDS Foundation staff members were invited to celebrate with the class. HDS Foundation was very happy to be invited to this party and were ready to have some fun! The event was held at Tarantella in Weston from 5:15 to 7:30 in the evening, who graciously hosted the party and served the students. Students were able to show off some newly learned skills to the HDS Foundation, and had the opportunity to dress up for the occasion.
At Tarantella, the students had the chance to use and showcase their social skills. The students all ordered meals and drinks, using effective and polite communication skills, as well as money managing skills, as they wanted to buy a well-priced meal once tax and gratuity had been added. They socialized well all throughout the meal with the students, teachers, and HDS Foundation staff, demonstrating a more casual set of communication skills. They used conversation starters to help them out at the beginning, but soon got into the conversation and were very animated in speaking and telling stories. When it came time to pay, they paid an appropriate gratuity amount and used their ATM cards, showcasing their skills in purchasing, as well as their understanding of gratuities and their importance when paying for services.
The students were also able to dress up, showing off their very distinct personalities. Costumes ranged from graphic tees showing off holiday spirit, to a spider witch, to a mobster, to a very detailed pirate. Dr. Sandy even showed up in a wolf’s head to the occasion! Seeing all the students in their costumes was truly incredible, as it showed off their very distinct and diverse personalities, personalities that also meshed so well over the party’s conversation. The costumes made the excitement for Halloween all the more real, and talk touched upon plans for trick-or-treating and candy. Which was terrific to overhear that the students were wanting to do after.
The Second Annual Halloween Party was a definite success. The students seemed to greatly enjoy this gathering, as well as participating in conversation with their classmates, teachers, and the HDS Foundation staff. The teachers spoke very highly of the party, and also seemed to truly enjoy this time to celebrate the upcoming holiday in a fun and exciting way. The HDS Foundation staff had an incredible time, and loved getting to see the skills the students had learned, and learn more about the students through conversation and through their original and diverse costumes. Everyone had an incredible time!
On October 1st, all the students of the Cypress Bay BRIDGES Social Skills class and their parents, who came to Cypress Bay for the day, met with a Bank of America representative. The Bank of American representative spoke to them about opening bank accounts for themselves, something that is crucial to adult life but is unfortunately not taught in schools. Each student was able to open their own bank account, giving them the ability to see the money they have in their account, as well as deposit and withdraw money, and use the money that is in their account. They will now be able to keep track of their money and use their bank cards to pay for their purchases in other community based instructions or use their spending money. Having the parents there with their students was special both for the students and the parents. The students got to have the support of their parents as they opened their very first bank accounts, and the parents got to see the impacts of the Social Skills class and see their students learning how to live more independently. HDS Foundation’s very own Carla, Dr. Sandy, and Meagan were able to attend this event, and had a wonderful time. Everyone had bright smiles and there was a general feeling of accomplishment and excitement buzzing in the room. All in all, it was a very successful day.
On September 29th, the students of the BRIDGES Social Skills class at Cypress Bay had their second community based instruction. This one was similar to the first community based instruction at Office Depot, but there were lots of notable differences. This time the students ventured to their local Publix, where they had to independently purchase lunch for themselves. The lunch had to include an entrée, a drink, and a snack or dessert. Their budget was once again $15. A major difference between this trip and the one to Office Depot was that they had to work independently to purchase their lunch. The students enlisted the help of the store employees to maneuver the store, although most were very familiar with Publix and its layout. There was also much more freedom, as at Office Depot they had a list of things they could purchase, where as in Publix, they had the liberty to choose their favorite entrées, drinks, and snacks, as long as the total stayed under $!5. Also, whereas all items in Office Depot are taxed, many items at Publix and other grocery stores are not taxable, as there is no tax on groceries. Because of this, the students had to figure out whether the lunch items they had selected for themselves were taxable or not to be able to factor the price of their items in and stay under their $!5 limit. The students once again had a great time, and had their delicious lunches at the end of the instruction.
On September 21st, the students of Cypress Bay’s Social Skills class, sponsored by HDS Foundation’s BRIDGES grant, had their first community based instruction. The students went to Office Depot with a mission. They were instructed to work in groups to purchase items from a list given to them, so that their total would not exceed $15 including tax. Their goal was to purchase as many of the items on the list without going over their limit. Students bought things such as three-ringed binders, paper clips, scissors, clip boards, and gift cards. This lesson taught the students many things. Firstly, they had to work collaboratively to decide which items to purchase and find them in the store. They had to problem solve, finding the best items to purchase so that they could buy as many as possible and still stay under $15. Importantly, they had to understand how to include tax, so that their final total would not exceed $!5, even after the tax was added to their order. The students enlisted the help of store employees, helping them with maneuvering the store and improving their social skills, especially when speaking to new people. This instruction proved to be a great way to get the students into their community and learning practical skills that are otherwise not taught in schools. It was a great day for everyone involved, and the students had a great time.
Over the course of this summer, the HDS Foundation has had two interns on board – Hope Sotolongo-Miranda and Benny Elfont. Hope and Benny have been incredibly helpful in their work at the HDS Foundation.
Hope has been successful in putting together a binder full of information on post-secondary options for graduating high school students with disabilities. She focused primarily on degree and certificate programs that would be available to students with disabilities, especially Autism Spectrum Disorder, in the South Florida area. Hope thoroughly researched these schools and the important information parents would need to know, such as accommodations provided, cost of attendance and services, transportation, and contact information. She even visited one of the schools she researched to gain more knowledge of the program and to start building a relationship with the school’s program. In addition, Hope researched a multitude of general scholarships for students with disabilities and created a document where they can all be seen. All of this information can now be found in one compact binder, making it easier and more convenient for parents and students to learn about their options. Hope has also aided in developing the HDS Foundation’s social media presence by updating the Facebook page with new pictures, events, or blogs.
Benny has also been successful, having developed the HDS Foundation’s online presence through the writing, editing, and posting of numerous blogs on the HDS Foundation’s website. The HDS Foundation has so many events occurring constantly, and Benny’s work on the blog has been instrumental in getting the word out about these wonderful and impactful events. With each blog post, he adds on pictures of the event, so that readers can really get a glimpse of what the Foundation does and what it’s really all about: helping those with Autism Spectrum Disorder in developing a future that they will be happy with and proud of. Without these blog posts, the HDS Foundation would not be as known as we are today, and the people in the ASD community would not know the amazing opportunities available to them through the Foundation. Benny will be with the company until August 25th, continuing to write these essential blog posts.
As the summer is coming to an end, today HDS and the HDS Foundation will be celebrating these interns and their work over the last few months. Thank you, interns!
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