Children with special needs can benefit from learning prevocational skills that prepare them for the workplace. Teachers can prepare students for a job that is within their abilities by helping them develop skills related to safety, personal care, time management and endurance. Many of these skills can be taught within a classroom setting with everyday materials. Occupational therapists can help identify the ability level of special needs children and set up a prevocational program tailored for each student's unique abilities.
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Math skills can be taught to special needs children to prepare them for possible vocational opportunities after high school. Tasks such as sorting and recognising money, counting coins and making change can be done in the classroom using play money and a cash register. Older students can learn how to make change and handle money by working in a school store or coffee shop. Games that reinforce math concepts such as counting, addition and subtraction help students practice these functions in preparation for job opportunities where they may need to stock items, take inventory or give a customer proper change. Counting out beads into cups or an egg carton can also help develop counting and stocking skills.
Developing gross and fine motor skills is very important for special needs students in a prevocational program. Gross motor skills are necessary to perform tasks such as pushing a vacuum, stacking items and wiping down shelves. Building gross motor skills also helps improve endurance, and gives individuals the strength to stand on their feet for periods of time. Gross motor skills can be built through activities such as Simon Says, Red Light, Green Light and Follow the Leader. Gross motor skills can also be attained through obstacle courses and relay races. Fine motor skills are necessary for sorting mail, filing papers, writing lists and assembling items. Fine motor skills can be built using puzzles, stacking blocks, sorting small items, cutting with scissors and using a hole punch.
Social skills are extremely important in the workplace, and many special needs children may need instruction in acceptable social interaction. Role playing situations such as greetings, asking for assistance, maintaining eye contact and answering the phone will build proper social skills in students with special needs. You can also reinforce social skills by providing students with opportunities to observe others interacting socially, as well as real life opportunities to practice social skills. Bring students into the community and have them practice taking public transportation, asking for directions, ordering a meal and greeting someone at the store.
Organizational skills will help prevocational students prepare for various job responsibilities regardless of the type of job they hold. Time management is one organizational skill that can be taught using daily schedules. Hold students accountable for staying on task until the period is over. Teach students to tell time and to plan their tasks in order to use their time accordingly. Teach students to keep their work area clean and organised by keeping a checklist of necessary tasks to be completed during set-up of a work area, and again during clean-up. Teaching students to follow directions will also keep them organised and on task. Break tasks down into simple steps. Create checklists to help them remember what they must do. Songs and games that help improve memory also help students develop organizational and directional skills.
All students in a prevocational program should learn safety skills. Students must be able to get to and from work safely. They should be taught to cross streets, read maps and use public transportation. Supervised outings into the community can reinforce these skills. Students must also be trained in how to handle cleaning supplies and other substances that may be toxic if ingested or harmful to the eyes or lungs. Opportunities to use a washing machine, clean dishes and operate a vacuum with assistance from a teacher can help students learn to complete tasks safely. Students can also be shown how to use tools and kitchen appliances safely. Offer lessons in cooking, gardening and assembling simple shelving to help students use tools and appliances safely.
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