VIDEO: Los Alamitos Unified’s adult transition program promotes independence and opportunities for students

It can be difficult for most people to stick to a shopping list at Target, but not for students in the Los Alamitos Unified School District’s adult transition program, who take their roles as consumers very seriously. 

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The students are part of a special education program designed to support young adults ages 18 to 22 with disabilities. It emphasizes student independence, individualized work experience, communication skills, money skills and transition to integrated work.

The program is structured around a schedule that includes daily life essential skills, work experience in the community and a variety of different activities, including shopping. 

The pandemic put a pause on some of the work experience opportunities that students looked forward to, such as working at a local coffee shop. Educators in the district like adult transition coordinator Julie Demuth had to be creative in finding ways for students to build their independence during a time filled with uncertainties. 

“We came up with an idea to do a personal instant shopping service called ATP Instacart,” Demuth said. “Staff members at the district office can submit their orders through a Google Form for places like Target, Trader Joe’s and Sprouts Farmers Market.”

Demuth and her team accompany students each week as they navigate stores and different aisles to look for items, complete purchases at checkout stations, and deliver orders to district employees. 

Annika Westling, 18, recently shopped for district superintendent Dr. Andrew Pulver. 

“I like seeing their smiles when I deliver the food,” Westling said. “They always say ‘Thank you’ and smile. It makes me feel good when I get their order right.” 

The ATP Instacart service has grown in the last two years — expanding to a middle school and the high school in the district. 

“Our young adults with disabilities are doing things that are meaningful for them,” Demuth said. “We are creating opportunities for them to be involved in their own community, exhibiting their level of independence.”

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