Adaptive Curriculum Proves Game Changer for Student With Autism

Adaptive Curriculum Proves Game Changer for Student With Autism

“How is Cory ever going to make a successful transition to a job and adulthood?”

When Pam Roth met Theresa Cortney, a Transition and Employment Specialist for Klein ISD, Houston, Texas, she was concerned about her son’s future. Cory has intellectual delays. In middle school, his teachers saw his aptitude decline. Mrs. Roth knew that her son liked hands-on activities. Cory didn’t do so well in classes that were mostly listening to teacher-led instruction. His mom asked his teacher, Ms. Cortney, “How is Cory ever going to make a successful transition to a job and be ready for adulthood?”

Cortney, a seasoned special educator, has worked with hundreds of students, like Cory. And each year, she develops their individualized education programs (IEP’s), to include transition graduation requirements. She oversees the plans under the Texas House Bill 617 or HB5, a law requiring schools to prepare students for college and careers.

HB 5 Requirements for students with special needs

“For general education students, this transition requirement seems fairly easy,” says Cortney, “but not so for students at risk and with exceptional needs. Career exploration is critical for students with cognitive, physical or behavioral issues. These kids are often labeled ‘unteachable or unemployable,’ and that can lead to a downward spiral in their abilities and confidence. Our district provides an alternative academic and vocational curriculum based on a student’s ability levels. This can be a game-changer and a safety net for alternative students who may think about dropping out of school and society.”

Learning Job Skills in an inclusive classroom

At Klein ISD, students study the curriculum in both inclusive general education and resource classes. They learn skills in automotive repair, small animal care, cosmetology, child and health care, law enforcement, retail and grocery clerking, graphic arts, accounting, dental care, banking, tourism and hospitality and more. Life skills lessons teach students to prepare for jobs, live more independently, learn what cyber bullying and Internet safety are, learn how to make healthy food choices, learn kitchen safety, money management and more. “Students enjoy the hands-on activities that are practical and fun,” says Cortney. “We’ve seen significant improvements academically and socially.”

Using Job Skills in the Community

Cory volunteers at a local animal shelter. He can read medical charts, administer medications, feed and bathe animals. He has enrolled in a veterinary assistance program at a local college. His life skill abilities have improved. He can manage money and complete job applications. His mom says, “Initially, Cory was denied job services, but this curriculum changed his life because he had a natural ability to work with animals. Today, he is more talkative and holds eye contact with classmates and teachers. He realizes he has choices and his confidence level has taken a big step forward!”

Ms. Cortney adds, “When students enthusiastically tell me, “I got into the Future Farmers of America or I’m attending college or I’m working,” it makes our district and educators so proud. Educators always want to dwell in possibilities and give every student the opportunity to succeed.”

Job Ready. Life Ready.


Life-learning begins with discovery.

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