They have finished high school and now need skills that will help them live independently.

Special needs students who have finished their high school classes enroll in a program that teaches them basic job skills, how to dine in a restaurant and go to the bank and how to shop for and prepare a simple meal.

Franklin Community Schools is growing its Transition to Adulthood program and educators believe the program can be used as a model for other school districts across the state.

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The program is for young adults, ages 18 to 22, with special needs who have finished their traditional schooling and need additional skills that will allow them to live part or all of their lives independently from their caregivers.

State law mandates that school districts must offer this type of program for their special needs students. Franklin’s program has helped give the students the skills to have jobs at Goodwill, Chili’s and Bradley Chevrolet.

And students who cannot secure employment outside the program work on preparing paper to be turned into stationary, that is sometimes sold on the program’s Facebook page.

The program is based at Custer Baker Intermediate School to make the students feel like the program is different than their high school studies.

“We want them to have a self-directed life,” said Mike Nevins, special services transition coordinator. “This allows us to work on that.”

The No. 1 goal of the program is to give the students basic life skills that they will need. An independent life could mean living in a home, living alone or having some independence while living with a caregiver.

“Whatever their potential is, we want them to meet that potential,” Nevins said.

Each student who comes through the program will concentrate on job goals, community goals and individualized goals, said Chelsea Parker-Tucker, a teacher in the program.

“We want people to see these kids in the community because this is the community where they will live,” she said.

At lease once a week, students have an outing where they learn the basic skills of being an adult.

They talk about what they can make for lunch, make a list of ingredients and go to the store to buy the ingredients. They go to restaurants where they are taught about table manners, paying a bill and using an inside voice. Trips to the bank and community center also help them see what their independent life would be like.

They ride public transportation everywhere, since most likely will never be able to get a driver’s license, Nevins said.

“It is completely based on the student’s needs to be out in the community,” he said.

Their classroom at Custer Baker has a kitchen and a bed that they can practice making. Educators walk them through daily household chores and work on job skills and work from a curriculum.

And some may be able to work outside the program on their own.

Owen Riggs, 18, works at Bradley Chevrolet vacuuming cars and is employed at Chili’s where he prepares silverware for diners and wipes down the kiosks.

Riggs is on the autism spectrum and had a traumatic brain injury at birth. The programming offering has allowed Riggs to thrive and try and find his way in what life after school might look like for him, said Debbie Riggs, his mother.

“There are lots of things these kids can do if given the opportunity,” she said.

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Magen Kritsch is an editorial assistant at the Daily Journal. She can be reached at or 317-736-2770.