What Makes WISCA a Recognized Autism School?

Behavior technician oversees a student shredding papers for their in-house vocational job.

The Watson Institute Social Center for Academic Achievement (WISCA) school program provides autistic students with educational, therapeutic, and behavioral support to help them succeed in and outside the classroom.

As a specialized autism school, WISCA strives to provide students with a supportive, therapeutic environment in which they can focus on their education; learning in a flexible setting with support from educators and behavioral support staff.

While the school curriculum focuses on academic skills, WISCA educators work with students to build job readiness and interpersonal and therapeutic skill sets. As part of this effort, WISCA On the Way (W.O.W.) was born!

Developing Job Readiness Skills

Transition-related services that empower students to learn job readiness skills and work towards greater independence are an integral part of students’ curriculum at the Watson Institute’s autism school, WISCA.

Ms. Vanessa Thomas, a Behavior Specialist at the Sharpsburg location of WISCA, founded W.O.W. to provide opportunities for students to complete jobs around the building. WISCA On the Way is a student-operated delivery and task management “company” at the Sharpsburg-based location of the WISCA program.

In-House Vocational Experiences (IHVE), like WISCA On the Way, give students assigned jobs and responsibilities within their school building. Completing jobs in a familiar setting with trusted staff encourages students to receive feedback and guidance more openly, helping to develop their skills and build their self-confidence!

Jobs that the student “employees” in WISCA On the Way are tasked with include:

  • Calling WISCA classrooms and staff offices to take supply orders over the phone
  • Fulfilling orders at the supply cabinet and noting any missing inventory for replenishment
  • Delivering all orders to corresponding classrooms and offices in the school
  • Shredding papers
  • Laminating and cutting out materials for classrooms
  • Sanitizing and organizing shared spaces in the school
  • Scanning and copying documents

When a student has completed their assigned work, a performance evaluation slip is provided to them by the supervising staff member. Timely and detailed feedback helps students identify opportunities to improve and recognition of the things they do well can boost their confidence!

Ms. Thomas is the primary staff supervisor for the W.O.W. program and works with students daily to improve the program and refine their processes to help the program run more smoothly.

“It is incredible to see how seriously the W.O.W. students take their work … and how eager they are to tell other students and teachers about the jobs they have done.”

In-school jobs provide impactful learning experiences while also acting as a strong motivator for students to complete all of their assigned school work and meet classroom expectations. Students are expected to maintain safe and appropriate behavior and to remain on-task in their classes to be eligible to complete jobs for WISCA On The Way that day.

Currently WISCA On The Way is operating solely in the Sharpsburg location, but Ms. Thomas hopes that in upcoming school years, the program will expand to include the Sewickley and South Fayette campuses of WISCA.

Learn more about the WISCA program and how Watson’s experienced educators offer exceptional support for students, making WISCA a recognized autism school!