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Special Education students work on job skills

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

Time spent developing specific job and life skills through real-world experience is valuable to any student.

Students in Special Education classes place a special emphasis on this hands-on learning through weekly visits to local businesses.

Teacher Emily Dunkling of Chilton County High School said her class goes off-campus usually three times a week to work on job and life skills.

“I have been doing this for two years with them,” Dunkling said.

Suds R Us laundromat is usually one of the places they go on a weekly basis. Dunkling said coming to this particular business gives students experience cleaning, laundry and stocking supplies in the vending machines.

Each student has a specific job.

On a recent visit, Bethany Mims’ job was sweeping.

She said she enjoys the opportunity.

“I think it is amazing because we get a drink and a snack if we do a good job working,” Mims said.

Imani Weaver said her job was usually cleaning and stocking snacks and drinks. She said some of the students wipe off the washers and dryers.

“They work hard, and they enjoy it,” Dunkling said.

The work usually ends with a snack and soda from the vending machine.

“They get to see the real world and they see all different kinds of people come in here … They will open the doors for them. They will offer to help,” Dunkling said.

She said it helps students find a job that they like and “it’s also teaching them that when they finish their job to find another one, find someone who needs some help and try to help them.”

“They love it,” Dunkling said. “It’s not really a job to them, they want to be here. When we don’t get to come, they miss it.”

She said they enjoy having a schedule.

Dunkling said she has asked local businesses that would be willing to have the students come.

“People have been so nice,” Dunkling said.

Dunkling said the program helps student be independent because “they can do these things at home, too.”

Mims said the class has also gone to work at the Humane Society of Chilton County. She said there they do laundry and sometimes play with the animals.

“We went to Associated Foods,” Weaver said. “Our job there is to help the teachers, find groceries for the teachers.”

Dunkling said the size of Associated Foods allows the students to do more shopping on their own in smaller groups.

She said the students also get to buy things for themselves during the trips.

Other off campus activities include going to restaurants and shopping. Dunkling said this gives students a chance to practice ordering, paying, getting change, etc.

She said the shopping trips also help students learn to compare prices and brands.

The program opened the door for one student to get a job at Burger King.

“Sometimes if we had time after we were done buying groceries I would take them to Burger King and we would all get an ice cream or something, so the manager started talking to Bethany about working there,” Dunkling said. “We just make connections that way, and its good for the students and for the people of the establishment.”