Grocery store simulator helps students with autism develop career skills

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

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

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

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

“I like seeing customers. I also like shopping in the store,” said Sam Gold, a 20-year-old student. “It will help me find a job in the future.”

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

We have community jobs that we take our children to,” said Justine Valenza, a special education teacher. “And any company that’s willing to let us come in and teach our students and be in the community, we’ll find a way to make it work.”

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

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