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Unique Program Helps Students With Neurological Differences

Gail Delaughter
KUHF News Houston

A group of students dealing with autism, learning disabilities, brain injuries, and other challenges are learning how to make their way in the business world.

Seventeen-year-old Kylie likes to make and sell jewelry. She's one of the students helping with the Monarch School's annual holiday sale.

The room is filled with color. There are beaded earrings and bracelets, big pots of poinsettias, along with carefully-wrapped gift baskets filled with treats. 

"You can have all kinds of themes. You have bath and body; you can have Christmas themes."

And response has been good. Kylie says she and her fellow students make lots of sales when they take their items to festivals and other events.  

"It makes me feel like people actually care and are willing to support us ... when they know our story."

Their story is that of kids and young adults dealing with what the Monarch School calls neurological differences.

The school has students with different forms of autism. Some have mood and anxiety disorders. Others have suffered brain injuries. But they're learning to cope with those differences through a life skills program that shows them how to operate a micro-business.  Kids sell their artwork.  They also cook and bake in the school's kitchen. Students even process orders for the school's uniforms.  

Linda Caruso is program manager.

"We have a dedicated group of students who are creative, who are able to do lots of different things, who know that their strengths are something to be built upon."

The students learn the basics of running a business, things like how to order supplies and stay on budget.  But they also learn a bigger lesson, and that's how to deal with people. 

Caruso says some of their students are prone to emotional outbursts. Other kids struggle to have appropriate interactions. 

"We can do lots of things to have tools and standards and lots of support to help them to be able to continue to do what they do and remember how to do it and remember how to do it appropriately."

And Caruso says it's especially gratifying when former students return to talk about their jobs and successes.

"We also feel like they're helping others because they will be able to communicate with somebody else who might have some of the same difficulties they've had.  And they've been taught to help each other."

The Monarch School is currently expanding its campus and hopes to enroll  more students in the future.