by Mikayla Salib ‘22
Published Dec. 23rd, 2020
Children with special needs are often surrounded by school activities, clubs, classmates, and extracurriculars to participate in, but once high school comes to an end, so do their connections to the community. Students have the right to stay in the school system until they are 21, and after that they are left isolated at the cliff: the 22 year cliff.
MHS offers programs to help students with disabilities transition into the real world after high school. The school provides a work sampling program where students work in the main office, library, or around the classroom to develop skills such as following a schedule and listening to directions.
MHS has partnered with Penn Medicine, Princeton Hospital, CVS, and ShopRite to provide jobs where skills needed for a meaningful work-life are taught to older students.
Family members rely on the community to assist their loved ones with disabilities once high school is no longer an option. A senior at MHS who has a brother with autism expressed how he “wants to see more opportunities for students with disabilities to find jobs to prevent them from experiencing ‘the cliff.’”
“The biggest help from Montgomery would be having awareness of the work sampling program at the high school and attention being brought to store workers and small business owners in the town to know the benefits of employing people with disabilities,” said Mrs. Torralba, an MHS Special Education teacher.
Many employers shut down the idea of hiring people with disabilities, expressing concerns of how they would take more time to train, might not effectively perform given tasks, or cost more for the company to hire. However, some agencies train and help find them jobs that would match their set of skills.
“Employers need to have dialogue and be open to the idea of hiring people with disabilities,” said Mrs. Torralba, “Once businesses give people with disabilities a chance, they will see how hardworking, dedicated, and amazing they can be. They just need a chance.”