Adam Dayan, Esq.
Since visiting the Ann Sullivan Center (CASP) in 2013, I have been searching for programs in NYC that offer support to students transitioning from high school to the real world. I had the opportunity this week to attend a presentation about the Winston Transitions program in Manhattan. Winston Transitions is a new program for students with learning difficulties particularly in the areas of language, attention, processing, executive functioning, and social/emotional skills. The presentation was given by John Civita, Director of Winston Transitions, and Elizabeth Mendelsohn, COO at Winston Prep and Director of the Winston Innovation Lab.
I found the Winston Transitions presentation to be extremely informative with respect to addressing the needs of students who are transitioning out of high school but not yet ready to move on to college or work. The school offers a full-time program as well as a part-time option for those students who may be otherwise engaged with college or work. The full-time program occurs five days per week roughly from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Through constant assessment, the school identifies the needs, abilities, and interests of each student, and customizes each student's program accordingly. The school's academic curriculum focuses primarily on reading, writing, and math. Classroom instruction occurs in small groups and is highly individualized. Through the FOCUS program, students have the opportunity to receive 1:1 instruction in areas of need. Much of the workload is project-based, affording students an opportunity to work independently and seek out assistance as needed. There is also a heavy emphasis on social and interpersonal skills.
One of the aspects of the school that impressed me the most was the internship program. Internships occur two days per week for roughly ten hours per week, and are tailored to the students' particular interests and strengths. In order to foster independence and self-advocacy, students do not receive the support of job coaches. Instead, constant collaboration occurs between Winston Transitions and the students' internship supervisors. Students also receive training and feedback at the center, which provides an opportunity to reflect on the students' internship experiences, discuss how to handle internship-related situations, and practice the skills necessary to succeed in a work environment. This practical piece, in my opinion, is crucial to the learning process, and I was amazed by the manner in which the school has been dealing with it.
Winston Transitions is affiliated with Winston Prep, a highly-regarded special education private school for students with language-based learning disabilities, but students need not have attended Winston Prep in order to be admitted into Winston Transitions. It is also worth noting that the school building is conveniently located at 240 Madison Avenue not far from Grand Central station. The floor includes a living room space, an activities room, classrooms, a kitchen, and a recording room (used to create podcasts), and offers a warm learning environment for its students.
A substantial number of the families enrolled at Winston Transitions receive government funding pursuant to remedies available under federal and state law for students with disabilities who have been denied an appropriate education by their local school districts. Students who have received a high school diploma may not be eligible for such funding. Parents should be mindful of this and consult an attorney for advice regarding how to approach this issue.