SOESD / Learning Matters / Newsletter Archive / March 2008 / A Productive Life
A Productive Life
By Steve Boyarsky
In visiting STEPS classrooms in Klamath Falls last week, I was reminded about how SOESD programs provide developmentally delayed young people with skills necessary to live a productive life. Special education programs are more staff-intensive and more expensive to deliver than regular education, yet it is a good allocation of resources to invest in the school-age years to grow adults who can live with a minimum level of assistance and hold jobs that contribute to their support and sense of worth.
In Ted Vanderlip’s Klamath Falls transition classroom, students were very proud of their work ethic and accomplishments. When students were asked if they were dressed for success and prepared for their work, they all responded that they were ready and proud of the work they did. They were prepared for adult responsibilities and had a great attitude about life. Seth gave me a hug and signed that he knew me. Andrew was a bit melancholy about leaving the transition classroom at the end of the year, yet he was ready for the next steps in his life. Kristy was happy to share the events of her work from previous days.
In Shari Glidden’s classroom at Stearns Elementary, there were many different activities underway during my visit. Educational assistants Victor and Barbara were playing a board game with Jasmine and several other students. The game reinforced concepts such as color, shape, animals and numbers. Jasmine was very excited to participate and used her limited language to repeat and identify words such as pig, lamb, two stars, yellow and circle. She was demonstrating increasing comprehension of these picture symbols and was excited to be learning. Victor and Barbara were encouraging all the students to express themselves and expand their language. Shari was reading to a student who was having a difficult day.
In James Roemer’s classroom at Stearns Elementary, students were singing along with educational assistant Steve Snyder. The songs Steve led reinforced language development and cooperation.
Shawn Smith, an educational assistant in Shelly Baeth’s classroom at Brixner Junior High was leading a Jeopardy-like game for groups of students. This activity reinforced students' skills in reading written directions and warning labels, recognizing food items, and navigating in the community.
STEPS students are nurtured along the way to be increasingly independent and productive. Working for an employer is an obvious source of pride for high school and transition students. In elementary and middle school classrooms, STEPS students are taught social and work skills that prepare them for job site placement in high school and transition classrooms. It is exciting being around young people who are friendly, enthusiastic and ready to work. Our staff is preparing students for life-long productivity. The expense of special education is paid back many times over by more independent and productive lives for our students as they reach adulthood.