At the Wonderwood Academy, we help students with Down syndrome prepare for work that is stimulating, challenging, and interesting—and thus find real inclusion for life.
The Transition Problem
Many post-high school transition programs prepare students for the narrow range of jobs that can be accomplished without advanced education. Lacking the skills to read complex instructions, master factual material, or speak articulately, the large majority of students with Down syndrome are headed for an unambitious job that has little relation to their personal interests. Students who have the ability to be plumbers are farmed out as part-time floor washers. Students who might have been excellent dental assistants are given jobs cleaning up toys in nursery schools or dusting library tables. A lucky few may find fulfilling work, but many will end up unemployed or bagging groceries for decades, despite their real talents.
An Exciting Alternative
Like every other curious, enthusiastic young person, those with Down syndrome find their talents and passions through their experiences. We offer immersion in the stimulating world of college life and activities as a way of exposing students to possibilities. As they develop their ambitions that carry them toward future careers, some will find that they have a flair for technology or media production; some will discover promising talents in the fine arts and media production; some will learn that they most love to serve and nurture. As students are discovering their chosen direction, we help them develop the skills to read a manual in their auto shop class, document their work with cohesive notes in a family life class, or ask a question in a biology class with appropriate clarity, brevity, and volume.
- Partner with peers. College-age peers will participate as role models, friends, and fellow students as Wonderwood students continue their education. Peers stimulate growth, model great social behaviors, help develop study skills, and make learning fun!
- Develop specific job skills. Although college courses attended through the Wonderwood College Bridge program do not earn college credit, attending a wide range of general education classes will build skills that help students help prepare for rewarding employment. As students develop greater independence on campus, mentors will help them access courses that are increasingly specific to their chosen career areas. The bridge program gives students the increased time and the repetition they need to learn career-specific skills gradually. It may take a Wonderwood student three semesters instead of one to learn the medical vocabulary he needs for work as a nurse’s assistant, or to learn the keyboarding skills she needs to track guests in a hotel, but the opportunity for success is there.
- Build academic skills. Reading comprehension, writing, and math are foundational to most careers. It does matter that our students can use good punctuation when reporting that supplies are low, or accurately tabulate the number of boxes delivered to the deli. Students enrolled in college courses will continue to work through challenging academic courses that meet them at their own level to build competency and retention.
- Partner with local businesses. Success for our students means not only being included in the community, but making real contributions to community life. We want to help local businesses who hire students with Down syndrome prosper! When we see job positions we believe would suit the interests and talents of one of our students, we will work with the employer not only to prepare and support their new employee, but also to help the business become known as one that that gives back and offers a superior working environment.