I’ve been taking Nathan to speech therapy for several months; the therapy office is in the wellness center building of our local hospital, just a mile from the house. It’s convenient and the people there have been wonderful to work with. Several weeks ago, I noticed a young woman with Down syndrome in scrubs with a name badge. I didn’t have time to speak to her because I was trying to run Nathan down before he escaped out the side door.
A few days later, I saw her again, and once more I didn’t have a chance to speak to her. I kept seeing her and continued to wish for an opportunity to talk to her, but after a few weeks she disappeared and I haven’t seen her since.
As it turns out, there’s a good reason for her disappearance.
This young lady is part of a local Project SEARCH, a high school transition program for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Each of the young adults in the program is working in a rotation internship for one year through various departments in the Infirmary Health System, which has hospitals in Mobile County and here in Mayberry. According to Project SEARCH:
The goal for each student participant is competitive employment. The program provides real-life work experience combined with training in employability and independent living skills to help youths with significant disabilities make successful transitions from school to productive adult life. The Project SEARCH model involves an extensive period of training and career exploration, innovative adaptations, long-term job coaching, and continuous feedback from teachers, job coaches, and employers. As a result, at the completion of the training program, students with significant intellectual disabilities are employed in nontraditional, complex and rewarding jobs. The presence of a Project SEARCH High School Transition Program can bring about long-term changes in business culture that have far-reaching positive effects on attitudes about hiring people with disabilities and the range of jobs in which they can be successful.
I was thrilled to learn that a program like this one not only exists, but can be found right in my backyard.
For more information on our local Project SEARCH,
To find a program near you, visit the Project SEARCH website.