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.