One of my goals this year is to help get a coffee cart program started at Alex's High School. Nothing huge, just a nice cart that sells with drip coffee. I think it's a great opportunity to mix the special needs kids with the rest of the school. It's also a real life way to work on social skills. I'm a fan of getting our kids out of the classroom and into the real world.
When I heard another school had cart up and running I tracked down the supervisor and stopped by to check it out.
I expected a rolling cart and some drip coffee for sale. What I found was a full blown espresso bar. The cart was started as part of a vocational program about ten years ago. Kids learn their coffee skills at the sister cart in the Pioneer School and help maintain the Red Cross site afterwards. The cart is stocked, maintained and serviced by the kids. Staff from the Pioneer School oversee the kids but they don't hover (thank god, I hate hovering). George was obviously in charge of cart, having to jump to serve coffee several times during my constant questions.
I loved everything about this program. The customers knew George and George knew the customers. You could feel his sense of pride and accomplishment. George is getting real life job skills, he's navigating complex social situations, and he's doing it independently. Beautiful.
It's unfortunate that the death of vocational education in America occurred just as the Autism epidemic was beginning. Academics are important but at 16 I'm less concerned that Alex is fluent in Algebra. I'm looking 10 years down the road, I'm looking for a full life with as much independence as he can handle.
Time to find a rolling cart and some coffee.