Delaware County IU 25: Better OPTIONS for Students with Disabilities

While Pennsylvanians with intellectual disabilities are teens and young adults, schools strive to teach them the skills they’ll need to hold fulfilling jobs. But as family members and teachers know, it takes more than just punching a clock to achieve success and happiness.

Delaware County Intermediate Unit 25 helps schools guide students to bright futures. Its OPTIONS program enhances job training with intensive workplace coaching, travel instruction, and introduction to independent living.

OPTIONS students are 15 through 21 years old. Over several years, they rotate through varied worksites, learning the soft skills of employment – showing up on time, dressing appropriately, following directions and interacting with others – while exploring job options best suited to their talents.

“A variety of experiences helps students realize their strengths and preferences, so they find jobs they really enjoy,” says OPTIONS Supervisor Barbara Brodie.

Job coaches assigned to each student provide on-site guidance in everything from time management to workplace social skills. Coaches monitor student progress by collaborating with employers.

OPTIONS’ travel instruction “goes hand in hand” with job training, says Brodie.  IU 25 works closely with transit officials, police departments, and families to help students safely navigate the local community. Instructors guide individual students through the gradual process of learning to ride buses and walk independently through neighborhoods and business areas. “It’s a huge responsibility for the travel instructors,” notes Brodie. 

OPTIONS operates four apartments to teach transitioning students daily living skills such as budgeting, cooking, cleaning, problem solving as well as recreation and leisure. Students plan social outings and participate in community-service activities such as making items to sell in support of local and national charities.

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