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September 20, 2013
CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine

SRU's new adapted program boosts education, job training opportunities

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Slippery Rock University is launching a "Comprehensive Transition Program" to give students in the adapted physical activity program more experience working with young people with intellectual disabilities.

The program will provide job and life-skills training to help clients ages 16-25 with intellectual disabilities make the school-to-work transition.

SRU students in the adapted physical activity major will run the program, coordinated by Robert Arnhold, SRU professor of physical education.

A soft launch is scheduled for Sept. 30, followed by a full implementation next semester.

Arnhold said local residents would come to SRU for training in food service, clerical, custodial, gardening, animal care and grounds upkeep. They will partner with SRU student-mentors, eat lunch in Boozel Dining Hall and work out in the Aebersold Student Recreation Center.

While SRU has provided job training at its Storm Harbor Equestrian Center, the new program is distinctive because it will enable clients to learn by observing SRU employees in facilities and planning and other departments pertinent to the program, Arnhold said.

Also new is the triple-emphasis focus on job training, life skills and fitness within such a broad scope of aptitudes. Students with learning disabilities should master as many academic skills as possible, but they also need competency in time management, taking instruction, posture, nutrition, fitness and other life skills, he said.

"We will be providing a whole day of work, eat and play," Arnhold said. "Our students will receive hands-on training with career-related value."

Arnold said up to 100 SRU students would eventually be involved in the program. Clients will be placed from the Slippery Rock, New Castle, Grove City and Butler Area school districts and social-service agencies such as Butler County Lifesteps.

The program will teach skills such as filing and photocopying, animal care, landscaping, moving equipment, dishwashing and other tasks that may springboard clients to employment.

During the fall semester, clients will rotate between three or four job sites and then choose their favorite, called "self-determination," for training next semester, Arnhold said. Lunch breaks will give mentors a chance for etiquette lessons, followed by healthy-lifestyle pointers at the recreation center.

The adapted physical activity program provides opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to demonstrate advocacy and leadership programs by developing and managing health, physical activity and wellness programs for those with disabilities.

SRU has shown leadership in the field for many years. It provides service-learning and health promotion through the Center of Disability and Health. SRU operates a "Kids In Action" program for youths with autism and an annual VIP camp for children with vision disabilities.

SRU also offers its version of the federal I Can Do It, You Can Do It program. It pairs college students with children for eight weeks of physical activity sessions.

In 2008, SRU was selected to help launch nine new "I Can Do It" sites across the country and distribute grants of up to $15,000 to each new site.

Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.