Autistic Students Learn Life Lessons in Their School’s Coffee Shop

A public school in New Jersey has found a creative way to help autistic students learn social skills. Thomas Macchiverna is a teacher at Woodrow Wilson Middle School who started a special class for autistic students and students with multiple learning disabilities. In this class, the students run a coffee shop every Friday morning and sell coffee, tea, and various sweets to staff members at the school.

Edward Lin is a seventh grade student who is in the class. One day, when a customer came into the coffee shop, he was reluctant to make eye contact with the customer. However, with some coaching from his teacher, he eventually does connect with the customer and ends the transaction with a smile.

Edward is one of the twelve students who run the coffee shop. So far, they have sold more than $1,000 worth of goods since October. On average, they bring in $100 each week. These funds are used for activities that benefit the students, such as a recent field trip to the bowling alley and a Thanksgiving party.

Another student, Norman Shamy, really enjoys working in the coffee shop because he likes “talking to the customers.” His stepmother says that the coffee shop is beneficial for Norman because “it gives him direction and teaches his leadership skills.”

The students learn valuable lessons about interacting with others and other life skills. However, they are not the only ones who benefit from the school’s new coffee shop.

“The teachers love it,” said Cori Jensen, a music teacher at the school. “We wish we could have it every day.”

The students rotate through various jobs in the shop. Each job has specific responsibilities and teaches lessons that the student need for their everyday lives. The students who run the cash register must make change, which requires them to practice math. Sometimes the students must make deliveries to classrooms, which requires them to navigate the school on their own.

Although the coffee and sweets are delicious, they are not the main point of the class.

“It’s not about the coffee or the cookies, it about the interaction and seeing how capable the kids are,” said Patricia Cotoia, the school principal. She plans on keeping the coffee shop open for months to come. “We may have to switch to iced coffee in May, but we’ll get there.”

Via The NY Times

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