Post Secondary Transition through Project Search

Friday, June 16, 2017

Hey ALL! Happy (hopefully) summer break to you! Since I’m not in administration, I’m working all summer, so I am jealous of all of your who are lounging around by a pool! Any who, I wanted to talk to you guys about Post-Secondary Transition. More specifically a Program that I was able to help start in my county this past year.

If you haven’t heard of Project Search yet, I BEG of you! STOP! STOP what you are doing right now and head on over to their website to check out what the program is.

Project Search is a multi-organizational team approach to Post Secondary Transition for Students with Disabilities. It is truly a unique opportunity that really provides an amazing experience for students with disabilities to prepare them for a long-term job!

In the first year of our local Project Search, we had eight interns. Out of that eight, six of them have received long term jobs making anywhere from minimum wage to $11.00 an hour, which here in Ohio, is a substantial wage for ANY 18-year-old just starting a job. The other two are still searching for employment, but they only finished the program 4 weeks ago!

Whose Apart of the Team?

Like I said, It’s multi-organizational. We had 5 partners in order to make our year a success.
The business site, vocational rehab, department of disabilities, educational service center, and a job trainer through vocational rehab.
Our first year of the program was 2016-2017 school year, but we started planning for our first year in 2015. First, we had to secure a business partner. As a representative of the ESC, we teamed up with our Local Board of Developmental Disabilities. We then needed to find a business to host the Project. We found ours in a local hospital. Once the business was in place, we need to secure funding for the one-time startup fee for support through the ladies that came up with Project Search. They seriously meet with you, train all the staff and business staff, and help trouble shoot through your first year! The startup fee is $10,000. Now many of you may stop reading at that, but I swear, the more people that know about the program, and what you are trying to do… well money just started to come out of every place! We had a local foundation donate money to cover the startup fees, after we applied for a grant through them. The rest of the costs to cover the program come through the organizations that are teamed up. And as transition services go, the program ends up being quite cost effective.

Where’d it Start?
The idea came about in 1996, between a Emergency Department, Erin Riehle, had an idea about hiring people with disabilities to help out at the hospital, since a large part of their patients had disabilities. Erin wondered if it would be possible to train people with developmental disabilities to fill some of the high-turnover, entry level positions in her department, which involved complex and systematic tasks such as stocking supply cabinets. She partnered with Susie Rutkowski, who at the time was the special education director at a nearby school. Project Search started as a one site program and has grown over the last twenty plus years to over 300 sites.

What’s So SPECIAL about the Project Search Model?

While the school, County Board of DD, and Vocational rehab are all big parts of the model, it is actually led by the business. This makes buy in from the employees of the business essential.
We were lucky that when the project was announced at our partner business- A local hospital, had EVERY SINGLE department ask to have an intern in their area. We were blown away, and still are to be honest!

The focus of Project Search is made clear to interns at the very beginning of the year. The collaborative team wants them to get employment at least part time in an area of their interests.

To gain employability skills, the interns are given a 3 week in the classroom learning experience. During this time, the instructor teaches the interns the rules of the business including orientations and general training. After the initial three week training the job trainers work with the instructor to start and slowly train the interns in each part of the internship.

The interns get to experience three – ten week internships over the course of the school year. This challenges them by letting them learn many parts of different jobs. The skills they learn are transferrable to other employment areas with in the community. This means that students learn relevant, marketable skills while immersed in the business and those businesses are active partners in the internship process.

The standards that Project Search sets for students who are referred to as interns, is competitive employment in an integrated setting. Gone are the days of sheltered workshops. We want our interns to get a job in a real work place, that challenges them, and empowers them. We also encourage at least a part time work, that is year-round.

Some Other Basics!

We made the interns go through an application process- just like college or any other internship process. We also interviewed them and asked them to complete a skills assessment (which consisted of us watching them complete simple tasks like putting things in alphabetical order, transferring a patient down the hall in a wheel chair, or putting surgical tools on a tray in correct order). We didn’t expect perfection, but we were looking to see what skills they had or needed. Students had to have not graduated high school, but have met their graduation requirements. They also still had to be under the age of 22. Interns spend 6 hours a day at the business. With 4.5 hours working in the internships.

Towards the end of the school year, the vocational rehab partner comes in to help the interns job search.

Overall, the Project provides a clear path to employment for many youth with disabilities and also encourages collaboration for the partners to the project. It’s truly a team effort.

It’s a huge project, and I’m sure I left some of your questions unanswered. If that is the case, reach out, email me, or comment with your questions below! I will do my best to answer any questions you may have!

Tips for an Effective Self Monitoring Plan

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Do you have students that struggle with completing their work? Do you have students who struggle with asking for help on tasks? Do you have students who struggle with playing with other students?

Self-monitoring is the best tool I have found that helps improve students behavior while also help keeping students accountable for their own behavior. Self monitoring is good to work on academics, behavior, and social skills!

Self-monitoring is a low maintenance prevention strategy that works to help students improve their self management skills. Teaching students how to critically look at what they are doing and whether they are engaging in appropriate behavior at a particular time is key to success in creating greater independence.

There are a ton of variations that can be used for students in self monitoring programs. Most effective self monitoring programs usually include these 7 steps:

1. Identifying Behavior for the Self-Monitoring to Target
Focus on one area to target. Talk with the student to discuss the behavior you want them to critically look for.
Do you want to Increase the Targeted Behavior?
Or Decrease the Targeted Behavior?

Increasing behavior ideas could include:
*Playing with a peer at recess
*Staying on task to complete a task
*Complete reading assignments
*Saying nice things to peers
 *Complying with teacher directives

Decreasing behavior ideas could include:
*Talking during instruction
*Bullying another student
*Leaving an assigned area

2. Pick How to Monitor the Behavior 

There are a ton of self monitoring sheets on TeachersPayTeachers. You can choose to ask students to create a mental count in their heads, but I personal like to have students write down what they are monitoring, so they can see their improvements over time. Use some of the following free resources:

*Frequency Counts
*Rating Scales

3. Choose a Schedule

Does the student need to monitor for a single period? For a start of the day? During Transitions?

Make sure that you tell the student for how long they will need to monitor their behaviors. Make a plan that will work and start the monitoring. Don't be afraid to tweak the plan, if the data shows you need to! It's a working plan, so if you need to tweak it, do it!

4. Cue the Monitoring! 

The teacher and student need to pick a cue to remind the student to begin monitoring. Do you choose a teacher led cue? a Student led cue? or a timer as the cue. Decide on one, and let the cuing begin.

5. To Reward or not to Reward, that is the question!  
Some students don't need a reward for self monitoring, others need some motivation to keep that self monitoring in check. You can work with a student using a menu of rewards for them to choose from. Giving them some reinforcers to keep on track.

6. Data, Data, Data! 
A good self monitoring plan allows for time for the teacher to look over data see how things are going, and tweak if needed. Spot check the plan at random times to ensure the fidelity of the plan.

7. Bye, Bye, Bye! 
I couldn't resist using the 90's boy band titled song to help me explain the last part of a good self monitoring plan. The best plans are used and faded away once the desired outcomes have been reached. Pat the student on the back and give yourself a high five!

Whew! What a list!

What are your favorite self monitoring strategies to use in the classroom? I'd love to hear!

Using Praise to Increase Positive Behavior

Thursday, February 16, 2017

 Have you ever tried to complete a new skill but struggled immensely?

I have, and I absolutely hated the experience of not being able to do something that I wanted to learn to do.
I’ve felt this way a few times throughout my life, but no more so than in my 9th grade home economics class. Our teacher was giving us a lesson on how to sew. We practiced a few things, then we were supposed to bring in fabric to make pajama pants.

Pajama pants y’all?!

Like, I could BARELY sew the sit-upon together in 5th grade at girl scout camp and that required no hem or sewing needle point. Heck, it didn’t even require thread! We used ribbon.

If you can sew, I envy you. But I cannot. It was like herding cats. I did not have the skill. At one point, I actually sewed the pant legs together. Who does that?
My teacher was pretty good though. She had me stay after class and helped me out. She tried to show me, encouraged me, and praised me for trying. With a little more practice I finally got it. If she hadn't praised me and encouraged me, I hardly think I would have finished that pair of pajama pants.

So why does my pajama story relate to positive behavior management?
If my Home Ec. Teacher told me that I sucked at sewing, I really don’t think I would have stuck with it. If she didn’t give me any feedback either, I am not sure I would have finished the pajama pants. The praise and encouragement she gave me, was what helped me be able to complete and finish the task at hand. I think many of you can probably relate, you perform better, and feel better about yourself if you are given praise.

Kids are no different. Our students need specific praise about what they are doing. They need to feel good about their work.

So often we as teachers get stuck in a rut. I know I am guilty of this. We are so used to correcting and reacting to bad behavior that we forget to be proactive and praise the good behavior. Praising a student’s good work or behavior increases academic outcomes. With so many tasks to do, transitions to make, goals to meet, IEP's to write, it's a wonder we have time for anything else. but just a little bit of praise goes a LONG way.

There has been TONS of research on specific praise use in the classroom.
Research indicates that when implemented consistently giving students specific behavior and academic praising increases on task behavior, correct academic responses, and increases instructional time. Didn’t you always want more hours in the day? Implementing specific praise will help you gain time! Maybe not hours, but more time is always good.

 To help you understand completely what academic and behavior specific praise is I made a handy chart below!

You want to give specific praise statements, but you don’t want to overdo it. Research says that a ratio of 4:1 praise to reprimand statements is a desirable amount. Using about 6 praise statements for every 15 minutes is also a good marker of success.

1. Complete a Praise Challenge

Challenge another classroom to a challenge, whichever teaching team has the most counts after a week or even 2 has to do something for the competing team. Whether it's being them coffee, or pick up their recess duty. Make it desirable. If you win, you and your students will be rewarded.

2. Get Your Students Involved

Play the teacher/student game.  Explain to your students what you want to see. We have even done this in our MD classes. We lead by example and give students several chances to watch specific positive praise being implemented in the classroom, then we point it out to them. Once the kids get what it is, challenge them to praise off.
The teacher verse the students. Every time the teacher says a Positive Praise Statement, they get a point, if the students say them, they get a point. Points are tallied and at the end of the day see who wins. You can determine ahead of time what is on the line. Are they working for no homework? extra recess? Getting them involved will create an overall better classroom environment and students will be encouraging more positive behavior and good academic performance.

3. Squirrel!

I tried for the longest time to remember to implement more specific positive praise statements, but I failed miserably. My paraprofessionals and I had a joke at the time about how I would sometimes jump from one student to the next and sometimes would completely blank about what I was doing. It didn’t happen all the time, but I’d have those “oh, shoot!” moments on occasion. They would always whisper “squirrel!” when I did it.  I decided to put up a picture of a squirrel in my classroom. The picture was to remind me that I needed to give my students specific praise more often. Because of the pictures my parapro’s started to do it too. It’s sounds silly, but I promise it is effective.

4. Create a List

Think up a list of areas in your classroom that you feel like you are always correcting yourself with. Type or write out that list and laminate it. In fact, make two. Put them in places you will see them, so you have a quick and easy way to remember specific statements.

That’s my short list on how to improve positive behavior in your classroom through using praise. I’d love to hear what you do in your classroom! Drop me a line in the comment section below.

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