If you walk around the halls of Heartspring for any amount of time, it won’t be long until you run into Dylan. He often patrols Heartspring with a paraeducator, doing a variety of vocational tasks. You can usually hear him before you see him. He is very curious and asks questions about what’s around him and the jobs he is doing. Dylan usually has a big smile on his face as he learns and perfects his vocational skills.
When Dylan first got to Heartspring, that wasn’t the case. It just wasn’t a clear picture. He was struggling. He had a hard time completing the traditional sit down tasks. After months of trial and error, his team found something that worked for him. They realized Dylan excelled at tasks that allowed him to be mobile.
It started with cleaning the vans. His teacher, Shawn, watched Dylan work diligently. He stayed on task and got through the chore with very few prompts. Once he realized that this was a key component to Dylan’s success, Shawn expanded on it. They gave Dylan more on-campus jobs. He does a number of tasks including taking out the trash and delivering supplies.
He also gained a leadership role as the cafe manager for Caffeine Connection, a student-run coffee shop. He started out as a coffee deliverer in January and by April he was promoted to manager. Dylan’s friendly personality shines through when he makes the coffee and serves customers, but he takes his job very seriously. He checks in on his peers to make sure they are doing everything correctly.
“Dylan’s such an asset to the cafe because you show him one time what to do and then, after that, he’s got it,” Holli, Caffeine Connection leader, said. “He’s very good about making sure he’s doing his job well.”
Dylan’s work world has expanded outside of Heartspring. He now has added off-campus jobs to his work resume. Each week, Dylan goes to Birds of Paradise, a local pet store, to fold towels and put out birdseed. He also is in charge of delivering papers at an apartment complex. These employment-training opportunities give him a chance to work in the community and meet even more people while he tackles new tasks in new settings.
On the academic side, Dylan’s team worked to find the educational style that is best for Dylan. He took to the classroom’s SMART Board, because it was more of a hands-on style of learning. This is just one of the ways Heartspring tries to give its students as many outlets as possible to learn.
“If you’re a tactical learner, but you’re not a sit-down learner, what are your options,” Shawn said. “The SMART Board made all of the difference. He needs something interactive that he can get up and manipulate with his hands.”
Shawn says he’s seen Dylan improve dramatically in academics since the classroom added a SMART board. With the change in his academic lesson plans and all of the job knowledge he’s picked up, Dylan now has a better chance to find the picture of success when he transfers back to his home community.
“It’s a life-changer for him,” Shawn said. “We have to expand his options as much as we possibly can and give him as many employable work skills and vocational skills as he can get.”