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Special needs program at TUHSD links curriculum with community trips

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Posted: Friday, February 1, 2013 9:48 am

A handful of students at Desert Vista High School got to sneak a peak at newly arrived Circus Vargas in Phoenix during a special rehearsal last week.

Part of Life Skills classrooms at the Tempe Union High School District, students within the special education department can generalize their learned skills from the classroom through real-world settings.

About eight students from Desert Vista’s five Life Skills classrooms got to visit the circus and have also taken trips to a historic candy factory in Glendale, a tour of Chase Field, and will be touring Sun Devil Stadium Friday.

“Our ultimate goal is to have these students as independent as possible,” said Randy Lazar, director of the special education department at the district.

Other trips can enhance social interaction like treks to the movies, restaurants, and clothing and grocery stores.

Each school within Tempe Union has an average of two or three Life Skills classrooms available on campus.

Joann Contract, a Life Skills teacher at Desert Vista who had some of her students attend the circus rehearsal, said the program aims to tie community trips closely to what her students are learning about each week.

With a current events curriculum that functions like a newspaper, called News-2-You, Contract said her classroom has been able to closely tie in trips with what her students are learning each week.

“It’s awesome, we try to do community trips based on what we’re reading about,” Contract said. “These guys need hands-on stuff.”

Life Skills classrooms around the district are just one type of focused classroom available for special needs students. Life Skills students likely need assistance for cognitive disabilities while other classrooms help with needs like fine and gross motor skills or daily living skills.

The community-based instruction within the department has been implemented at the district for more than 20 years, according to Lazar, a program he said is vital to students.

“The focus of education support becomes much broader, with life skills, it’s one component of many,” Lazar said.

For more information on the district’s offered services for special needs, visit tuhsd.k12.az.us.

Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or dmartinez@ahwatukee.com.

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