HOUSTON (FOX 26) - What happens when they grow up? That's what many parents wonder when they have a child with autism. Educators at one Houston school are trying to ease minds by teaching students skills that they can use to pave their way toward a positive future. Students at Monarch School in Houston learn life skills in non-traditional ways.
"It's a big comfort for these families to know that their futures look somewhat promising. Much more so than ever before, it's very exciting," exclaims Robin Rettie, who is the Employability & Life Academy director.
From gardening when they're young to learning how to make jewelry when they get older, the students learn tedious techniques that take time and patience. Students may not even realize they're brushing up on academics like math, engineering, English, art, even science in their woodworks class.
"I'm treating them as though we are entrepreneurs together," explains Patrick Waters, who is a Professional Educator in a fun classroom called "Steamworks." Students get to build products under close supervision. Waters says he's there to set the students up for success. What he teaches them gives students a better chance of getting a job and being more independent.
Students also learn how to operate a full culinary kitchen.
"Teaching restaurant skills, front of the house, back of the house, serving the public, preparing meals for the public, planning menus, shopping," explains Rettie. Students say they enjoy preparing and delivering lunches around school.
Students sell many of their handmade products at the Life Academy Store on campus, everything from jewelry to cutting boards. They even help operate the store!
"They've created a community and have friendships," says Rettie. "It's a feeling of pride and that they belong and that contributes to self esteem." It worked for Adam!
"Monarch has taught me confidence - I'm really good at confidence," says Adam. Now like many of the students, Adam has a job, working at Wal-Mart through a partnership with the school. "I love it there, a wonderful program and store."
Others work at Starbucks. Chapelwood United Methodist Church welcomes many of the students with open arms, giving them a chance to use the lessons they've learned at Monarch. Local law firms are giving them a chance! Other companies, like H-E-B, are welcoming these young adults, to work in their stores.
"Often we have parents come to us, and they don't have much hope and think kids will hit a plateau," explains Rettie. "At Monarch, we don't see it like that. We're working continuously in every area in this full campus - helping the individual, that they understand who they are, they're part of a community, they have a contribution to the community."
"From academic, social and emotional growth, they really grow overall as a person!," says Kaaron Singleton, a professional educator at Monarch. "They come in timid broken from other environments they've been in to comfortable and safe to us - not only academically, but as a person, as well. It's wonderful to watch them merge into an adult, contributing efforts to the community,"
For more information, visit http://www.monarchschool.org/.