For students at The New England Center for Children, education is not limited to the classroom. From working on motor skills with the Adapted Physical Education, Physical Therapy, and Occupational Therapy department, to completing art projects both in the Dillon Arledge Student Center and at home, learning is a constant process. A crucial part of this process involves vocational training.

Beginning at age 14, NECC students start their vocational education by determining career interests, and then develop job and social skills needed to maintain a position at a worksite. Julie Weiss MSEd, BCBA, LABA, Director of Vocational Services, stresses the importance of matching students with the right job, “No matter who they are, nobody would do well in a job they don’t like. So for us, it is important that each student finds something they truly enjoy doing.”

Harrison Shaffer (pictured above), a NECC student who will graduate this coming fall, is one student who has found the balance of enjoying his work, while also excelling at different technical skills. His vocational education, including determining his job preferences and developing opportunities to sample jobs, eventually led to working in the school and in the community. Harrison currently works as a cashier at the school store, an office assistant in NECC’s Development office, and an office assistant at J. White’s Automotive in Framingham. Last fall, J. White’s Automotive celebrated Shaffer’s one-year employment anniversary with a special certificate, noting how well he had performed in his time with the company.

Through his work experience, as well as the training and support of the Vocational department, Shaffer has developed a repertoire of office skills including Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel and Quicken while also bringing a hard-working attitude and attention to detail to each task he faces. Michelle Admire, Harrison’s case manager and job coach for the last three years with NECC, notes Harrison’s development throughout her time with him stating, “He has grown so much in the time that I’ve known him. He’s much more independent and communicative.”

While Harrison’s time with NECC will sadly come to end soon as he graduates at age 22, success stories like his will persist. Thanks to the Vocational department and all of educational staff, as well as the hard work and determination of students like Harrison, NECC students can grow as learners and workers throughout their tenure at NECC.

About The New England Center for Children

The New England Center for Children® (NECC®) is an award-winning autism education center and research institute. Our community of teachers, researchers, and clinicians have transformed the lives of thousands of children with autism worldwide through education, research, and technology. The Center provides comprehensive services to maximize independence: home-based, day, and residential programs, partner classrooms in public school systems, consulting services, the ACE® ABA Software System (www.acenecc.org), teacher professional development, and research on educational best practices.

NECC is committed to staff professional development, partnering with local colleges to provide on-site graduate training and degrees at little to no cost to the NECC teacher. The result is a growing pool of exceptional teachers trained in best-in-class methodologies, whether they continue their careers at NECC or move on to public schools or private agencies. The New England Center for Children is based in Southborough, MA, and operates a center in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Learn more at www.necc.org.