Grocery store simulator helps students with autism build career skills

ABINGTON TOWNSHIP, Pennsylvania (WPVI) — “There’s all different places in the community that do hire people with special needs,” said Rachel DiCerbo. “But there’s definitely a big need for it still”

DiCerbo, an occupational therapist at The Nexus School, didn’t know much about the autism population until she started working with them. Now, she has her dream job.

“During COVID, we lacked opportunities to take our students out into the community,” she said. “It kind of led us to building this whole store to practice life skills, to practice vocational skills before going back out into the community.”

Now, in addition to students visiting the local YMCA or State Farm office, they can participate in a grocery store simulation in their own school building.

“I like to see the customers. I also like shopping in the store,” said Sam Gold, a 20-year-old student. “It’ll help me get a job in the future.”

The grocery store, called, “Nex-Mart,” is part of a greater effort to find consistent opportunities for students with autism after they age out of school.

We do have some community-based jobs that we take our kids out to,” said special education teacher Justine Valenza. “And any business that is willing to let us come in and teach our students and be out in the community, we will find a way to make it work.”

To learn more about The Nexus School, visit their website.

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