The Birmingham Public Schools district’s cognitively impaired post-secondary program offers opportunities for students outside of the classroom.
Located in the Lincoln Alternative school, which is connected to Seaholm, the class is run by Gail Lederer.
The Birmingham-based program includes students with a wide variety of needs and equips them with a multitude of skills, ranging from work, leisure, and daily living skills.
The Center for Disease Control defines cognitive impairment as “the condition of a child whose intellectual functioning level and adaptive skills are significantly below the average for a child of his chronological age”.
This is the most common developmental disorder, occurring in approximately 12 of every 1000 children.
According to the U.S. Department of Education’s website, comprehensive transition and postsecondary programs are designed to provide access to postsecondary education to students who traditionally have been unable to participate in higher education.
“The 18 to 26 year-olds in my class are called CI post-secondary, which stands for cognitively impaired and post-secondary means after high school,” said Lederer. “We work on a little bit of academics, reading and math, and we do daily living skills.”
These students work in a variety of different fields and work on mastering various tasks.
“We cook and we clean. We’re working on laundry- sorting and that sort of thing is this month,” said Lederer.
To prepare students for the workforce, Lederer assists students in constructing resumes and works alongside them in various workplaces throughout the area.
“Some of the students go every day and some of them go three times a week to worksites in the community with a job coach and two or three students,” said Lederer, “They go learn work skills at a community-based venue.”
Students work at Starbucks, Marshall’s, Meijer, Einstein’s, Robot Garage, Old Navy, Berkshire Middle School, and the Municipal Building, where some of them do recycling. The program is designed to teach students to be as independent as possible.
“They learn work skills and are taught what to do and then given a chance to do it, and then are taught something else and do it to the extent they’re capable of,” said Lederer.
This concept of breaking down tasks into simpler steps is essential for cognitively impaired students, according to The Center for Disease Control. Walking a student through each part of a task, encouraging them to do it independently and praising at success each step is referred to as task analysis by The Center for Disease Control.
Essentially, the program is ideal for cognitively impaired students.
To determine where a student’s worksite will be is based on which sites are available and whether or not the corporate policy allows such a program.
On the smaller scale, it boils down to student’s preferences.
“It’s based on what they see for their future, and we try to give them skills that relate to that, especially the older they get, we want it to match closely with their interests,” said Lederer. “Some of them have no interest in food so we just wouldn’t put them at those locations.”
Troy Marshall’s manager, Richard H. believes the program helps CI postsecondary students with social skills and the ability to work in a hands-on environment outside of the classroom.
“It’s a great program. It’s nice that people are given the opportunity to do that, because there’s not a lot of opportunities like that. It’s great that the company gives back to the community,” said Richard H.
At Marshall’s, students size and stock the clothing racks, work in the backroom, unload the truck, and do complete janitorial work.
Students are encouraged to work at locations that match with what they see for their future, but Lederer admits part of the decision is based on exposing the students to various working environments and seeing how they do.
“A lot of corporate policies have changed, so we can’t be in some places we used to be, which is sad,” said Lederer.
With the progress of students in mind, Lederer remains confident that the locations accessible to the students are good choices, and embody the goals of the CI postsecondary program.
“The main thing is that the students learn work skills,” said Lederer.