School District: Yonkers Public Schools
Positions: Physical and Occupational Therapists, respectively
At the beginning of the 2014/15 school year the Autism Program for high school-aged students in Yonkers Public Schools moved to Roosevelt High School, situated in a more urban neighborhood in Yonkers than the program’s previous site, in order to give the students in the program more opportunities to engage with the community.
Dmitry Libman and Kara O’Donnell are therapists in Yonkers Public Schools who work with the students in the Autism Program at Roosevelt. The program is focused on empowering the students with the skills they need to be successful in life beyond school. Their goal is to provide each student who graduates from the program with a resume or portfolio of the skills they have learned in high school in order to help them transition to a job or a day program when they graduate. Dmitry and Kara have worked with other teachers in the school to give the students as many opportunities to learn the life skills they will need for success. Within the school the students run a recycling program, work at the school store, manage the homeless closet where donations are made, and work in the garden. Outside of school the students have opportunities to work in the community, with weekly visits to Dunkin’ Donuts, CVS, the local pizzeria, and the Salvation Army, where they can practice real-life job skills.
Earlier this year, they began using Rethink’s Transition Curriculum to teach the students Transition skills and used Rethink’s task analysis sheets to collect data on the tasks the students perform. They plan to use the collected data to compile portfolios for the students so that they can demonstrate their skills to potential employers or day programs they apply to.
Using the tools and curriculum on Rethink, Dmitry and Kara have seen their students progress. One student, George, came to the program as a freshman and had difficulty navigating the hallways and interacting with his peers. By participating in the various programs Roosevelt has to offer, he has developed an outgoing personality and is known by staff and peers as “the mayor” of the school, greeting people in the hallway and out in the community. With the help of his teachers, therapists, and Rethink, George has built up a repertoire of social and life skills that will support him as he transitions out of high school next year.
Keep up the amazing work, Dmitry and Kara!