A Student’s Special Education Transition Story

At the Watson Institute, special education transition services help prepare our students to make the transition into adulthood after graduation or to transition smoothly back to their school district. We support students with special needs to help them achieve their educational, social, and developmental goals. The length of time a student attends the Watson Institute varies; some students are with us for a year, while others, like Maddy Hines, spend their developmental years with us.

“I used to be very stubborn” – these are the words Maddy uses to describe her start at the Watson Institute. At 18 years old, Maddy is reflecting back on her years attending school at the Watson Institute as she prepares for her upcoming graduation.

When she came to Watson, Maddy exhibited many challenging behaviors. Over the years, Maddy’s special education team learned what motivated her and taught her how to manage her emotions and practice appropriate behaviors. Justine Marks, one of Maddy’s first teachers at the Watson Institute, shared that one of Maddy’s favorite places was the zoo and that served as a motivator for her.

“Madison makes the funniest comments and with perfect timing,” shared Ms. Marks.  “One year we learned about idioms then went outside to walk on the trail. When we came back inside she said, ‘My dogs are barking! You know that’s an idiom right?’ I don’t think I can put into words how proud I am of her and how far she’s come.”

Maddy and Ms. Marks

Now, staff members at Watson who know Maddy have a hard time believing that she is that same girl! Bernadette Stankay, Maddy’s current special education teacher at the Watson Institute shared that they “look back at old data sheets of her behavior now and just laugh. We don’t know that kid anymore. Maddy worked really hard to get where she is today.”

Impact of Special Education Transition Services

At the Watson Institute, special education transition services staff work with students starting around age 14 to prepare them for their transition into adulthood post-graduation. Throughout her attendance at Watson, Maddy has taken on numerous jobs around the school, giving her the opportunity to work on her IEP goals, but also preparing her for life after graduation.

Maddy has helped update cover sheets for attendance, collected dishes and trays from the classrooms after lunchtime, and has also helped in the office with shredding and checking paper levels in the printers around the school. Maddy’s favorite jobs are those in which she gets to interact with her classmates. She loves going around to the classrooms and has made a lot of friends that way. Jobs like these have helped Maddy work on her self-esteem and build confidence in herself and her abilities.

The transition services team and special education staff at Watson have worked with Maddy over the years, leading to her placement three days a week at BCRC (Beaver Country Rehabilitation Center), a community agency providing services and job opportunities for individuals with disabilities.

At BCRC, Maddy is learning new skill sets to help her work towards independent living when she graduates from the Watson Institute. She’s learning how to navigate the public transportation system and how to eat out at a restaurant independently. Most importantly, Maddy is learning job skills to help her gain employment outside of BCRC and is earning a paycheck through her current placement. She enjoys visiting with the residents at Rochester Manor and meeting other kids from her school district.

“We are just over the moon proud of her. She took success and ran with it.” shared Ms. Stankay.

Learn more about the Watson Institute’s Education Center Sewickley and our special education transition services. Also, be sure to LIKE us on Facebook to stay up-to-date on the latest happenings at Watson!