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Putting the Fun in Functional

Special Olympics athlete Loretta Claiborne visited Dallastown to observe Functional Fridays, a class for students with special needs and disabilities to gain life and employment skills.

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Putting the Fun in Functional

Special Olympics athlete and motivational speaker Loretta Claiborne poses with students in the Functional Friday class on her February 22 visit to Dallastown. Functional Fridays give students in the neurological, autistic, and life skills classes a chance to learn employment and life skills they can use after graduation.

Special Olympics athlete and motivational speaker Loretta Claiborne poses with students in the Functional Friday class on her February 22 visit to Dallastown. Functional Fridays give students in the neurological, autistic, and life skills classes a chance to learn employment and life skills they can use after graduation.

Submitted

Special Olympics athlete and motivational speaker Loretta Claiborne poses with students in the Functional Friday class on her February 22 visit to Dallastown. Functional Fridays give students in the neurological, autistic, and life skills classes a chance to learn employment and life skills they can use after graduation.

Submitted

Submitted

Special Olympics athlete and motivational speaker Loretta Claiborne poses with students in the Functional Friday class on her February 22 visit to Dallastown. Functional Fridays give students in the neurological, autistic, and life skills classes a chance to learn employment and life skills they can use after graduation.

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Everyone looks forward to Friday. It’s the last day of week, marking the beginning of the weekend. But some Dallastown students look forward to Fridays for another reason.

Each Friday morning, students in the life skills, neurological support, and autistic support classes participate in Functional Fridays.

The purpose behind Functional Fridays is for students to gain employment, vocational training, and daily living skills.

Led by teachers Mrs. Meek, Mrs. Spicher, Ms. Abby, and their staff, students are split into three groups. These groups have a variety of students and teachers from all three classes.

“It’s nice to mix up all three classes. It gives the students an opportunity to interact and work with other students who have different skills than them,” Mrs. Spicher said. “It also is nice for them to experience working with other teachers.”

Each group is assigned to one of three stations: Food service, clerical/secretarial, or custodial/maintenance. The following week the groups will rotate to a new station.

On Friday, February 22, Functional Friday became a little more fun when special guest Loretta Claiborne came to observe.

“I’ve always wanted to meet a celebrity and here I am meeting Loretta,” one student said.

Claiborne was scheduled to come to Dallastown twice before her visit, but had to cancel for various reasons.

“[Dallastown] is one of my favorite schools because it has so many diverse students who have a shot to do things many other schools don’t offer, like unified sports,” Claiborne said.

Smiling faces and excited screams filled the room when Claiborne entered. The students are big fans of hers, after watching her movie The Loretta Claiborne Story in class in anticipation of her arrival.

After interacting with the students, Claiborne began her own rotations to visit each station, beginning with the clerical/secretarial jobs.

Tasks at this station involve many activities to prepare students for jobs and skills after high school.

Alexa Fisher
On Functional Fridays, students are put into one of three groups: food service, clerical, or custodial. Here, the clerical group folds brochures for a high school teacher’s class. Many teachers from all over the building give work for the students to complete on Functional Fridays.

“We deliver breakfast food to the Strive room,” student Joey said.

Prior to each Functional Friday, teachers give the classes packets to laminate or copy. This group goes down to the middle school on Friday and learns how to operate the machines in an effort to do productive work for the school.

Next, Loretta went back to the classroom to see what the students were cooking up. Today’s menu included individual chicken pot pies.

At the food station, students learn how to wash and dry dishes, follow directions, and cook and bake. While the teachers may give assistance, the students cut chicken and vegetables, mixed the ingredients, and filled up the dough cups.

“This is awesome! I can’t even cook and these kids can,” Claiborne said.

Alexa Fisher
Mixing up vegetables was just one of many tasks the students in the food service group completed. The objective of the food service station is not only to teach the students life skills such as cooking and doing dishes, but also skills they can use in a food service job, like busing. On the menu today was individual mini chicken pot pies. The menu changes each week, with the students learning how to cook everything from waffles and ice cream to mac and cheese.

Students also practice their table busing skills by sharing and delivering their food to classmates in other stations and nearby teachers.

Claiborne took a few minutes while the pies were cooking to have a mini q-and-a with the students.

Listening intently to their role model, Claiborne spoke to the class of being bullied as a school student. She recalled using her hands to fight, but encouraged the students to instead use their words.

The class inquired if she still ran, with Claiborne reporting that she still runs for pleasure to this day.

With the pot pies in the oven, Claiborne moved on to check in on the custodial/maintenance group. Students in this group have the opportunity to clean classroom tables, shred and copy papers, and clean.

Both high school and middle school teachers allow the students to come in and wash the desks and chairs.

“We have so many different students so we can offer a lot,” Spicher said.

Functional Fridays are a favorite among students. When asked what her favorite station is, student Tori said, “I like them all, they are all so much fun!”

As it gets warmer, the students will also have the chance to complete gardening and landscaping work in the nature center.

Dallastown’s inclusive environment impressed Claiborne.

“We might not learn as fast as each other, but we all play the same. We could end up having the same jobs, or might be interviewing each other for a position,” Claiborne said.

Growing up in a different time, Claiborne, and many other students with special needs and/or disabilities did not have the same opportunities Dallastown offers.

In regards to Functional Fridays, Claiborne said, ‘What these students are doing is my dream.”  

 

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