Rose Tree Media launches Linking Learning to Life

Rose Tree Media School District students (left to right) Brian O., Marcus W., Reagan J., Dan Y, Ria D. and Danielle K. took a ride on SEPTA as part of the Linking Learning to Life program at Penncrest High School.

Teachers hope the information they convey to their students has a practical application.

That connection is especially important for students with disabilities.

Rose Tree Media School District has launched Linking Learning to Life (LLtL), which provides opportunities for students with disabilities to strengthen their employability and independent living skills. The program was reviewed during the January school board meeting by Director of Pupil Services and Special Education Dr. Eleanor DiMarino-Linnen and program coordinator Tiffany Bendistis.

Implemented in September, LLtL is a two-tier secondary transition designed to aid students in making the progression from the classroom to post-school life. Activities are based on the individual’s needs, ranging from those with mild disabilities to students with more significant needs who require extensive support, and consider his or her strengths, preferences and interests.

“The majority of our services were previously contracted with outside providers,” said DiMarino-Linnen. “They tended to be ‘one size fits all’ and students were oriented to a community that was not their own.”

To address the concerns, LLtL considers the various paths students will take in the months and years after high school. For some, the focus is on independent living; for others, post-secondary competitive employment, trade school or college. Planning begins no later than the first IEP when the student turns 14, with a team which can involve the individual, parents, general and special education personnel and an agency representative. Issues such as course selection and the extended school year (ESY) program are addressed.

To strengthen transition services and supports, particularly with students with complex needs, the district created a comprehensive independent living and career coaching program. A classroom at Penncrest High School was converted into a studio-style apartment, which the students visit twice weekly to learn skills such as doing the laundry, maintaining a clean environment, preparing a meal and making minor repairs. Lessons are taught on topics such as soft skills for employment, budgeting, planning social gatherings and protecting one’s identity. Students also practice techniques including traveling, making change, self-advocating, ordering food, socializing with friends and proper etiquette at the table during community-based learning experiences to the grocery store, YMCA and local businesses.

A career coaching opportunity, designed to teach concepts for successful employment such as social, problem-solving and work skills, serves as preparation for transition to the workplace. Students begin by learning basic occupational techniques during in-house modules, then transfer the skills as they work for local companies under the supervision of a job coach.

“The job coach develops a task analysis for each duty and provides individualized instructional support,” said Bendistis. “The goal is that the support will fade over time.”

LLtL business partners include the Concordville Inn and Best Western Hotel in Concordville, Slowdown Grille Pub in Aston and Henderson Plumbing and Heating in Marple. Local businesses interested in providing partnership opportunities are asked to contact Bendistis at (610) 627-6024.

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