AISD school gets developmentally-challenged students ready for the workforce

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by QUITA CULPEPPER / KVUE News and photojournalist DENNIS THOMAS

kvue.com

Posted on May 24, 2013 at 6:20 PM

Updated Friday, May 24 at 8:08 PM

AUSTIN -- In a couple of weeks, thousands of Central Texas students will accept their high school diplomas.

But for students with developmental disorders, that rite of passage and what comes after graduation are even more of an accomplishment. And one school in the Austin Independent School District is helping those students reach their potential.

It's a campus many Austinites don't know about called the Clifton Career Development School.

The school offers the kind of training that will help students with neuro-developmental disorders when it's time to enter the real world and the workforce.

To some, Ivan Stanfeld's job at Central Market may not sound like much.

“I’m busing tables, putting together nice arrangements of ketchups and salt and pepper shakers,” Stanfeld said.

But for him, it's a milestone.

“I have a mild form of autism,” Stanfeld said. “I've learned a lot of job skills, prepping for the real world. I'm about to graduate.”

For the past three years, Stanfeld has attended the Clifton Career Development School. Kids from across the district come to the small campus for three-and-a-half hour blocks every day.

They take part in programs like welding, childcare, culinary arts, hospitality, even horticulture.

“Those are areas identified by the Workforce Commission as areas that has high demand and high job market with skills our students are realistically able to perform,” said Clifton Principle Tony Dishner.

The number of students at Clifton is growing fast. It started in 2007 with just 43 students, and since then the number of kids has gone up by 500 percent.

Research shows unemployment rates for adults with autism are close to 90 percent. Experts say social challenges and lack of training are to blame.

“With the transitioning third-year students we have an 82.3 percent rate of either employment or continuing education,” Dishner said. “So we know what the students are doing when they're leaving and I think that statistic speaks for itself.”

Teacher Jenny Larson shows students how to get ready for the job market. They write resumes, find internships, and learn to communicate with coworkers and customers.

“Those things are realistic and possible you just need a little bit of help to get here,” Larson said.

Stanfeld says without that help, his journey into the job market would be much more difficult.

“This training has certainly gotten me a long way,” he said. “There's a hope for everybody.”

Next year, 205 students will be enrolled at Clifton.

The campus accepts students on an application basis from all AISD high schools.

Click here to visit Clifton Development School's website.

 

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