Research shows adults with disabilities are far more likely to be unemployed or underemployed than the rest of the population. Research also shows that employment activities encourage independence, strengthens daily living skills, and increases life satisfaction.

Because of this, Esperanza School created ELC in February 2019, a transition program for students 14.5 to 21 years of age. This program specifically targets vocational and life skills.

“Many transition programs are either full or will not accept our students due to their maladaptive behaviors,” explains ELC’s Transition Specialist, Leslie Boyle. “So we created our own program, based on our students’ needs, where they can practice independent living and vocational skills, so they are prepared for life post-graduation.” 

The two classrooms at ELC focus on building skills related to memory building, communication and socialization, identifying and responding to emotions, adhering to a routine and following directions, attending to a task, completing preferred and non-preferred activities, and much more. 

These skills are taught within various vocational and task-based units, such as laundry, cooking, recycling, and cleaning, as well as community-based outings. Within these units and field trips, teachers and behavior technicians still focus on students’ Individualized Education Plans (IEP) and their behavior plans with the classroom team to ensure all student needs are met. 

“Our goal is to eventually create school jobs within our building before our students apply and practice these skills within the community,” ELC’s Principal, Anne Hellmer, says. “When student schedules are created around jobs in the school, we can simulate how life would be after high school and build the necessary skills to be successful upon graduation.”

Since ELC’s inception, ELC has enrolled over 20 students and is on its way to making an impact on these students’ lives. 

“Of course, all of our students have different learning and transition goals,” Anne says. “However, our hope is that all of our students can live to their fullest potential after leaving their Esperanza family. ELC is one way in which we are going to achieve that.”