Last night my family attending an open house for an area wide school program for high school special needs student. This is a program that my kids have attended over the last 4-5 years. It is run by two teachers and works with kids from our counties local school. Here the student make wood projects such as birdhouses and picnic tables. These are fantastic products. The kids work hard. The teachers work hard. One of the teachers works the saws. The students 16 or under must use the cordless drills and over 16 get to use corded drills. They have many orders, especially for the picnic tables. However, as like any program funding is always an issue.
Until recently the students only had half of the building that houses this program. Now they have the full use of the building and the students also perform a great service to the community by sorting and recycling the cities trash. Here again, updates have been taking place. They sort the plastics according to their number which differentiates one plastic from another. Then there is “junk” plastic that doesn’t get used and must be thrown away. This is something that is not only helpful to the community it is helpful to the planet. Basically, it performs a community service project for a large group of people.
The new update or addition to the program is a glass crusher which recycles glass from the garbage. Whoo Hoo this is fun to watch. It is a big machine that has pipes that goes to the ceiling and ventilates any dust out of the large work space. This machine crushes and deposits the glass into big bins. When you feel the glass there aren’t any sharp edges. The program is looking to different ways to help this program fund itself. Some of the uses for the crushed glass are as material used for sand blasting as there are different degrees of the end product or “grit”. Some of the glass is powder fine and some of it is the size of small glass beads. Then there are some coarser pieces. These bins sparkle with the crushed glass. They are even using the end product for landscaping. It is pretty to see…some of the glass is as fine as powdery sand on the beach…others sparkle along sidewalks and such.
The colors are fantastic. They range from a clear color, to a light seafoam green to brown….there is some blue but for some reason there are not as many blue glass bottles and such made nowdays. The prettiest to me was the bins where the colors were mixed together. I imagined the crush glass to be used in art projects and in floral arrangements at the bottom of the vases. Maybe used in making decorative patio blocks or cement pads. In fact, I am thinking next summer of making a patio area around our firepit with cement and adding in the crushed glass in the surface to add a bit of style and color.
The sad part of the program to me is that there is so little funding. The kids work with regular tools…these are not designed for commercial or heavy duty use; which is the workout that those tools get. It is costly to keep replacing these tools. What would be fantastic would be to have a tool company supply them with commercial grade tools. Noone really knows of what this programs needs are in the community. These kind of programs don’t get the attention that they deserve or need. I wish I was independently wealthy and could fund the areas that they need financial help with. The student could be learning skills that they could use in the future to help them earn a living once they are too old for the program. That is IMPORTANT for their personal success.
How could this program find ways to fund itself with these assets? That is the question. In the front of the “shop” they could set up a retail area….if only they could come up with some ideas. Do you have any ideas? Do you support your schools programs for your communities special needs students?
I recently had the pleasure of witnessing the power of seeing special needs students who were trained at doing a job and felts a sense of empowerment with their purpose. It was a simple program that is funded by donations from their customers or clients. The group of Autistic students get “hired” to go to homes and businesses and steam clean carpets.
This local program is in danger of being phased out. A new person took over and therefore did not have all of the contacts that the previous person had. However, in the last couple of weeks of this summer’s program things picked up. The students get booked by an organizer and they go to local businesses or homes at an appointed time and they steam clean. They were excited when they arrived and they were diligent in doing their jobs. There was a team of 2-3 students and a couple of adult supervisors. This worked out wonderfully. Was the carpet cleaning equal to a professional cleaning? No, however they didn’t charge a professional price either. I felt that the service they performed was worthy of being a paid job. They used regular upright steam cleaners that anyone could buy and cleaning solution that you could buy in a box store; but in general the results were clean and fresh.
It was awesome to see pride on their faces when thanked for performing the carpet cleaning service. They had a passion for doing their “job” right. They appeared to feel happy to have a purpose. In fact, the teacher told me that she was concerned about how they would feel for the rest of the summer when they didn’t have a job to get up for; she said there were some students who would get filled with anxiety when there were no “jobs”.
I would love to see more programs developed for special needs individuals…both those who are in school and those who are older. Everyone has abilities, skills and knowledge…why not harness the best opportunities that will enrich the lives of a special needs person? Do you know of any programs that exist in cities or rural areas that build up the life of a person who was born with challenges? Tell us about it please.