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Special Needs Students Prepare for Tough Job Market

A school in DFW is preparing its special needs students by puting them to work

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The Green Oaks School and Adult Learning Center's Dollars & Sense store is making those with special needs more marketable in the workforce.

    These days, finding work can be hard work. For people with special needs it's no different. In fact, it's probably harder.

    "You've got two people that need a job, typically it's going to go to someone who doesn't have the developmental disability or the intellectual disability," said Leigh Weedman, director of education at the Green Oaks School and Adult Learning Center, a private school in Arlington that serves people with special need.

     

    To help make their students more marketable, the school has opened Dollars & Sense Thrift & Gift store on W. Pioneer Parkway in Arlington.

     

    "We hope to have them employed with real paychecks and to give them something productive to do where they feel good about themselves throughout the day and into their adult lives," said Weedman.

     

    Without programs like this, there are often few other options for adults with special needs, and without options they're often left to leading sedentary lives at home. That can lead to deterioration in health, both physical and emotional as well as social skills.

     

    Weedman said the training and the work gives students a sense of pride in what they're doing, in addition to a broader skill set.

     

    "It's important that they know that they're like any other employee," said Natalie Barron, store manager at Dollars & Sense. "They have to sign in, they get a paycheck, they have to be appropriate at their job, they have to dress. They know what's expected of them."

     

     

    Jeffrey Whitmore, a student employee at the thrift store, not only knows what's expected of him, he relishes in getting it done, even if it's the tasks that others typically avoid when searching for a job.

     

    These days, finding work can be hard work. For people with special needs it's no different. In fact, it's probably harder.

    "You've got two people that need a job, typically it's going to go to someone who doesn't have the developmental disability or the intellectual disability," said Leigh Weedman, director of education at the Green Oaks School and Adult Learning Center, a private school in Arlington that serves people with special needs.

     

    To help make their students more marketable, the school has opened Dollars & Sense Thrift & Gift store on W. Pioneer Parkway in Arlington.

     

    "We hope to have them employed with real paychecks and to give them something productive to do where they feel good about themselves throughout the day and into their adult lives," said Weedman

     

    Without programs like this, there are often few other options for adults with special needs, and without options they're often left to leading sedentary lives at home. That can lead to deterioration in health – physical and emotional – and social skills.

     

    Weedman said the training and the work gives students a sense of pride in what they're doing, in addition to a broader skill set.

     

    "It's important that they know that they're like any other employee," said Natalie Barron, store manager at Dollars & Sense. "They have to sign in, they get a paycheck, they have to be appropriate at their job, they have to dress. They know what's expected of them."

     

     

    Jeffrey Whitmore, a student employee at the thrift store, not only knows what's expected of him, he relishes in getting it done, even if it's the tasks that others typically avoid when searching for a job.

     

    "I like lifting heavy boxes," said Whitmore. "I like helping out on cashier whenever I get a chance. I like doing anything they ask me and everything they've asked."

     

     

    "They are very faithful employees, they're loyal, they want to please people and they stay long term at jobs that usually have high turnover," said Weedman.

     

    That's what the school hopes to show prospective employers who visit the store and asses student's skills to see if they're the right fit for their workplace.

     

    Though, some employees will inevitably remain and continue working at Dollars & Sense, which is just fine with Jeffrey Whitmore.

     

    With a smile he adds, "If I could, every day I would sleep here and work here and live here."

     

    I like lifting heavy boxes," said Whitmore. "I like helping out on cashier whenever I get a chance. I like doing anything they ask me and everything they've asked."

     

     

    "They are very faithful employees, they're loyal, they want to please people and they stay long term at jobs that usually have high turnover," said Weedman.

     

    That's what the school hopes to show prospective employers who visit the store and asses student's skills to see if they're the right fit for their workplace.

     

    Though, some employees will inevitably remain and continue working at Dollars & Sense, which is just fine with Jeffrey Whitmore.

     

    With a smile he adds, "If I could, every day I would sleep here and work here and live here."