Confidence Paves The Way To Community
Michael loved high school. Knowing that graduation was coming soon, Michael and her family began to explore different transition options and she was introduced to CLASS’ Centre Services in the Fall of 1993. Transitioning from high school to other opportunities is a challenging time for most people. After the daily schedule of high school, students face the uncertainty of what the world holds for them after their graduation date. For students with a disability, these times are especially challenging and difficult to navigate because services and supports need to be in place once the student graduates and is no longer supported by their school district. CLASS supports local high school students, like Michael, to ease into this transition period. Transition services occur when a young adult prepares to leave the school environment and becomes more actively involved in the community.
Diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum of behaviors, Michael was very quiet as well as withdrawn and often seemed to avoid people. While it appeared that she wanted to talk and interact with her peers, it was very difficult for her. Michael would also only say a few words and would allow people to finish her sentences or thoughts. When staff tried to engage Michael, she would move away and lower her eyes.
As Michael became familiar with the routine brought by the classes of the program, staff began to witness her transformation. CLASS encouraged staff to prompt Michael to finish her own thoughts. She began to approach staff on a regular basis, engaging them in conversation or asking for assistance without prompts. As this became common practice, Michael began to talk with others in her classes. As she began to gain confidence in her communications, Michael began to join people in their groups rather than avoiding them. She began making friends and engaging them in conversation. Playing an active role in class, Michael would even call attention to the needs of others in class who may not be able to ask for themselves.
The more confident Michael became, the more risks she would start to take such as trying new activities or classes. She began to step out of her comfort zone and challenge herself to try new things. With support from instructors during classes, Michael learned to prepare meals through her work in the café and meal preparation classes, basic computer skills, housekeeping methods, strategies for improving interpersonal communications, and reading comprehension skills. Michael also began to ask staff to complete social tasks such as painting her nails or helping her fix her makeup. She even asked if her case manager would accompany her to a local drug store to pick out a new nail polish color. Along with classes, Michael wanted to begin volunteering in the community at a local library and hospital. These two positions enabled her to get out in the community and interact with people she would not usually interact with, as well as learn various vocational skills she could apply at home or at other positions in the future.
All of the skills and experience Michael gained at CLASS allowed her to take the next big adventure in her life: moving out of her family home. In December of 2013, Michael moved into a new home with several roommates. She will be able to utilize the various independent living skills she learned through Centre Services within this new environment. CLASS wishes Michael well and was glad to have been a part of her growing independence.