CBI Project Search, Provides Students With Disabilities At Gov. Livingston With Transition Experience

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The Community-Based Instruction (CBI) Program,  Project Search, has had a successful impact on a group of students with disabilities since its recent inception at Gov. Livingston High School.  Cynthia Manto, Speech and Language Pathologist and Phillip Acosta, Special Education Teacher at Gov. Livingston reported on the program's progress at a recent  Board Of Education meeting.

Five CBI team members received 35 hours of training through a program offered at UMDNJ on how to implement a CBI program at Gov. Livingston said Manto. 

"Community-Based Instruction is a critical component of a successful transition from school to adult life for many students with disabilities. With funding from the NJ Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, Community-Based Instruction (CBI) training and technical assistance efforts assist school districts in providing instruction for students in community-based settings," stated the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School website.  

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The goal is to create a very comprehensive program, providing more than just job training said Acosta. The program includes life skills for cooking and recreation such as bowling and going out to lunch.

Acosta provides the students with exposure to different jobs. A student would shadow a person at a job, with the goal to work up to a part time or full time job placement. "It is based on interest and feedback of what the student likes and what they are good at," said Acosta.  

My portion of the program is to help with social skills said Manto. She designs "mocking" exercises and plans lessons to mimic real life experiences. Manto works on social skills through lunch outings and a recent bowling trip. She prepares the students through role play with different scenarios as the boss, the worker or the customer. The students discuss and write a story about their experience with a teacher said Manto. 

The program includes travel training through NJTIP [New Jersey Travel Independence Program] and UMDNJ, who come out to the school and teach the students how to use public transportation. The students learned to look up schedules using technology with apps which is a great tool to use said Acosta. They have taken the train to Summit and the public bus to the Livingston Mall.    

The teachers have created partnerships with local businesses that include the YMCA, Dean's Greens Nursery, Dimaio, TD Bank and Plaza Lanes. In the future, the program would like to maintain these relationships and add to it. We want to tailor the program to what the students like, said Acosta.

The students visit the YMCA every Wednesday and work in a four-cycle rotation helping with office work, reading to the children in daycare, work on projects and play games. The YMCA has agreed to participate in interview training. The teachers prepare the students with open ended questions and situational questions while emphasizing the importance of eye contact. . 

Nadine Tokash, a retired district teacher and owner of Dean's Greens Nursery, has been very welcoming said Acosta.  The students sample different jobs with a rotation schedule including sample phone calls and a tour of the facility.

Dimaio offers the students the opportunity to learn skills involved in steps of service -- how to pour drinks, set a table and serve a plate to a customer like they are a waiter.   The students also visit Dunkin Donuts each week to fill orders to a group for 40 Gov. Livingston staff who participate. 

TD Bank has taught the students about deposits and withdrawals for checking and savings accounts.  

Transition outside of the school was very positive said Acosta. All activities are designed to create positive, observable outcomes for students.  The students have received supportive reviews from the businesses. 

Seven Gov. Livingston seniors are currently included in Project Search and participate in all programs. There is an additional class of five students that participate in the life skills classes and five students from Columbia Middle School and all of the hearing impaired students participate in some of the community social activities such as bowling at Plaza Lanes. 

Board member Mary Ann Walsh, who is excited about the program, asked the teachers about their future goals and expansion of the program. "The program will remain limited to 10-12 students. We have to be careful about taking on more students. We can handle 10-12 students on a regular basis and can include some of the younger students in some of the activities," said Manto.

The teachers would like to include more job shadowing. "The more the kids are out in the community the more the community accepts these students and want to hire them.  Our goal is to continue to shadow.  It gives the students the opportunity to have a taste in different jobs and get a feel of what they are interested in.  It gets them interested in things they never would have thought," said Manto. "We want to make the students as independent as possible." 

Project Search will be hosting a car wash fundraiser at Gov. Livingston High School on May 17.

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