The I Can Work! program is a five-module course designed to integrate communication skills with hands-on prevocational training in the areas of job readiness, clerical, retail, food service, and the grocery industry.
I Can Work! serves to introduce and educate young adults with special needs and who are interested in working in their community. This program is geared toward middle school and high school students. Additionally this program can support recent graduates ages twenty-one through twenty-five who are transitioning from school to the workplace.
Educators can implement this program in a variety of settings, such as a classroom, a special area class, as well as in a small therapy setting. The suggested frequency for this program is two forty-five-minute sessions per week, although this program can meet the needs of any allotted time frame.
In my experience, I have found the greatest success in taking the activity-based modules two through five and dividing them over the course of the academic year. By designating a module of the month, and then rotating that module on a monthly basis between clerical, retail, food service, and grocery categories, educators continually challenge as well as motivate students through the change in materials as well as topics. Additionally, this model enables the facilitator to assess growth as well as gain an accurate understanding of the tasks previously attempted.
At the beginning of each module is a one-page reference sheet. This sheet includes a list of materials needed to execute the module as well as preparations required prior to beginning each lesson or activity. Use this reference sheet as a guide when starting each module.
All classrooms feature a diverse range of student needs and learning styles requiring educators to spend hours reworking lessons. To alleviate the hours of research and modifications that educators might normally need to undertake, I have created two formats - a text-only version and a picture supported version - for each lesson and visual supports throughout the entire program. This allows the facilitator to implement the format that best meets the needs of their students while encouraging independent learning. Additionally, each activity plan has a visual support for acceptable versus unacceptable work, a visual supported word wall, and a bank of modifications and suggestions.
Writing individualized education plans (IEP) for each student is a crucial yet time-consuming task requiring data collection. To facilitate writing an IEP, each module in this program contains a list of IEP objectives related to each task. In conjunction with those objectives, modules two through five include an observation table to record the necessary data (e.g., items correctly completed, number of cues if needed, adaptations if applicable, following left to right sequence, times, and any other pertinent information), for each student regarding each task.
I Can Work! is designed to mimic and duplicate many real world, work-related situations. The ''professional of the month'' award is facilitator-driven and implemented based on what works for the time frame allotted. We suggest that facilitators present the award to one student every four weeks. The award serves to acknowledge positive work habits in students and then reward them with a small token. Additionally, the student’s name is placed in a specific location of honor for all to see. This is similar to an ''employee of the month'' board and recognition notice that many work places today utilize as a means of positive reinforcement. This program's ''professional of the month'' award not only motivates students but also reiterates work expectations throughout the program.
One last unique element to this program is the “portfolio.” Each student creates a personal portfolio where he or she records each activity plan per module. In addition to this running record is a self-reflection piece. This part of the process is key to the success and growth of each student. After completing a task and noting how many such tasks he or she completed, students can then discuss how they felt about the task at hand directly through the written portfolio entry. This reflection opportunity allows for honesty as well as growth by enabling students to think further about what tasks they do or do not enjoy, and what that might mean for their future employment opportunities. Additionally, this personal portfolio is the first step in the résumé-building process for each student, as it records all jobs completed as well as in what area of the program.
The portfolio is a remarkable tool for any student to have as a reference for job planning, and he or she can utilize it at educational planning meetings as a tool for future vocational placement. The portfolio features a text-only as well as picture-supported format to help ensure the successful program completion by every student.