School may be closed, but IA is open online!
Practice work, life, and social skills from home w/ IA!
IA is excited to share with you our free supports and services for young adults 14-22 years old with IEPs, 504 plans, or other disabilities available during the pandemic. Thank you for reading, sharing, and referring special education and other high school students with disabilities who can benefit from these free services !
Massachusetts Pre-ETS logo

Pre-Employment Transition Services
Pre-ETS virtual online groups are forming now! Pre-ETS offers online vocational and soft skills training to youths 14-22 with any disability utilizing our established curriculum delivered online by IA staff. Just because we are stuck inside our homes social distancing does not mean we can't hang out, make friends, & learn remotely! Break up the monotony & make friends and learn life skills w/ IA!
All programs are 100% free!

NOW is the perfect time for young adults to learn valuable work, life, and social skills and prepare to transition into whatever is next after high school! Governor Charlie Baker has announced that school has been cancelled for the rest of the year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As you read this, many special education and students with disabilities are home with plenty of free time and little to do.

Participants will be encouraged to interact and socialize with one another and practice important work, life, and social skills with staff and peers through interactive discussions and activities. We also look to de-stigmatize disability and help students become more comfortable with who they are. It's a great program!
Screenshot of Uno played over Zoom
IA staff and consumers play Uno via Zoom (above)
Our interactive curriculum is delivered by screen-sharing our PowerPoint slides in virtual groups held on Zoom, Lifesize, or other online platforms. IA staff leads the discussion and stimulates conversation through informative slides, videos, and activities with groups of students of similar ability. Students can participate in any or all of some or all lessons in the following four core areas of instruction:

1) Workplace Readiness Training

The Workplace Readiness Training curriculum focuses on the development of transferable work skills and other soft skills to acclimate and succeed in the workplace. Typically, new Pre-ETS students start in this area of instruction. Here is a sample curriculum that we use for this core area:

Tier 1: Awareness
Lesson 1 (approx. 60 minutes) includes:
- Introduction to Pre-ETS
- Introductions to IA and Independent Living
- Disability History & Discrimination
- Reasonable Accommodation
Lesson 2 (approx. 60 minutes) includes:
- Hiring Process
- Job Offer Letter
- Orientation
- Employer & Employee Expectations
- Calling in Sick/missing work
Lesson 3 (approx. 60 minutes) includes:
- Emotional Intelligence
- Verbal & Non-verbal communication
- Empathy
- Importance of Eye Contact
Lesson 4 (approx. 60 minutes) includes:
- Shaking Hands & Eye Contact
- Personal Space and Boundaries
- Harassment at Work
- Conflict Resolution
- Leaving a Job
Lesson 5 (approx. 60 minutes) includes:
- Clocking/punching in & Timesheets
- Shift Scheduling
- Time Management & Prioritization
- Employee Relations
- Going Above and Beyond

Tier 2: Exploration
Lesson 1 (approx. 60 minutes) includes:
- Disability Rights
- Reasonable Accommodation
- Self-Care
- Socializing & Making Friends at Work
- The science of likability
Lesson 2 (approx. 60 minutes) includes:
- Massachusetts Labor laws & Protections
- Paychecks & Deductions
- Breaks and Meals
- Holidays & Overtime
- Budgeting
Lesson 3 (approx. 60 minutes) includes:
- Job Applications
- Assessment Tests
- Resumes
- Cover letters
Lesson 4 (approx. 60 minutes) includes:
- Job Interview Procedures
- Typical Questions & Answers
- Tips & Tricks for Getting the Job
Lesson 5 (approx. 60 minutes) includes:
- Mock Job Interview Practice with Feedback

*Note* IA's Tier 3 (Preparation) is comprised mainly of in person and community based experiences that are temporarily on hold until it is deemed safe to resume these services or appropriate curriculum is developed. Also, the fifth Pre-ETS tier of Work-Based Learning Experience is also temporarily suspended until it is deemed safe to resume in person or curriculum is produced.
Pre-ETS slide Expectations of an Employee
Pre-ETS Workplace Readiness, Tier 1 Lesson 2 Slide (above)
Independence Associates offers Pre-ETS services in three additional core areas. Like Workplace Readiness Training, each core area contains approximately 10 hours of instruction across tiers one and two.

2) Job Exploration Counseling

Job exploration counseling presents an opportunity for participants to begin thinking about what they would like to do after high school by exploring their interests and investigating the necessary education and skills necessary to move towards that goal.

3) Self-advocacy & Peer Counseling

Self-advocacy and peer counseling guides students to develop individual advocacy skills through peer counseling and instruction. Living with a disability is tough; being able to advocate for one's self is an essential part of being a successful adult and this program aims to build those skills.

4) Counseling on Post-Secondary Ed.

Counseling on post-secondary education or training helps begin the process of exploring options and formulating ideas about what comes after high school has finished. IA staff will help work with participants consider options for the future and start putting together a plan to achieve it, whether it is going to college, entering a training program, going straight to work, or whatever the consumer chooses to do. High School is the perfect time to start thinking about these questions so if you know someone who would benefit let us help!

Cartoon of person leaving high school going into uncertainty
Transition to Adulthood (TAP) Groups & Instruction
IA Transition to Adulthood Groups are skills based and allow students to work towards improving skills or achieving goals that are useful to them during and after high school. Students can take part in any offered groups or work one-on-one and receive individualized instruction from an IA skills trainer. Below is a list of some of our TAP groups we offer:
Driving Permit Test Studying
Know someone interested in getting their driving permit and could use a little help or motivation to study? Leave quarantine prepared to take and pass the driving exam by working with IA!

Appropriate Social Media & Texting
Most young people use social media and text but sometimes this leads to issues. IA can help students learn to act appropriately and deal with others who act inappropriately towards them through our social media and texting discussion groups!

Budgeting & Money Management
Managing money is an essential skill for all adults. IA is here to help students develop new and important skills and techniques before leaving high school! Learn this essential skill while you have free time!

Self-care Strategies
Developing the skills to take care of one's self is an important aspect of transitioning out of high school and into adulthood. Participants can tackle these issues with IA staff and gain skills that can last a lifetime! This can be offered both in groups and one-on-one; let us know how we can help!

Coping with Anxiety & Depression
Sometimes life can be tough, and being stuck in quarantine can't help. Learn skills and coping techniques from IA staff who also deal with these issues. Refer someone now for this or other services!
Sign pointing towards several directions, all labeled 'opportunity'
More Opportunities with IA!
Social Groups
IA hosts many various social groups where among the things we do include playing Uno and Jackbox games, virtual drawing and art projects, and many other fun virtual interactive events where people can come and interact with their peers. IA staff, including Christina, Olga, and Liz will encourage positive communication and friendships and create a fun but supervised & appropriate environment for young adults to interact. Check our calendar for upcoming events, we are always adding new ones!

Podcast Production
IA is producing podcasts and we would love some help! Join Adam and Bryan as they produce their weekly podcast. We need talent both on and off air so be in touch if making a podcast sounds like fun!

Anime Social Group
Love anime or want to try it out? Jacqueline is launching and anime group and if that interests you let her know!

Wrestling Social Group
Are you a wrestling fan? Come chat and hang out with Ryan and we will have a great time talking wrestling and making friends!
Newsletter Production
Since being in quarantine, IA's newsletter has become much more popular and has a much wider readership base! Join Griffin as he prepares IA's weekly newsletter by writing articles, finding resources, researching, and helping us make the newsletter as good as it can be! Join Tom as he writes an article for the world to read. If journalism interests you, come practice and learn with IA!

YouTube Video Production
Interested in making videos? Make them with us! When not stuck in quarantine, IA partners with Bridgewater Public Access TV and gets to use their amazing production facility to create videos and different content. While we can't go to BTV until social distincing restrictions are listed, we would love to work with interested consumers to make Youtube videos to publicize on our website, social media, and newsletter. Come produce content with IA!

Netflix Watch Parties (Social)

Chat on Netflix party with IA consumers and staff as we watch movies and TV shows together and have fun. (note: Netflix is needed to join, we can help you get a free trial and set it up if needed). We are also looking to watch videos over Zoom and would love to have interested young adults watch with us!

Your ideas
Have an idea for something to do with IA? Let us know and we will try and make it happen!
Independence Associates
Event Calendar for May 2020
Calendar is subject to change. Events change based on demand
IA's event schedule for May, Monday - Friday
Frequently Asked Questions image
Q. What is Independence Associates?
A. Independence Associates (IA) is a
non-profit 501(c)(3) Independent Living Center (ILC) helping persons with disabilities gain the skills and supports necessary to live successfully in the community wherever and however they wish. Our office is located in East Bridgewater, MA and all of our supports, services, groups, and everything we offer are free of charge!
Q. Who are these programs for?
The programs discussed in this email are specif ically for students with an IEP, 504 plan, or any other disability who are 14-22 years old and are interested in gaining important life skills, work skills, and/or social skills. For information about our other programs such as Independent Living services for adults or Personal Care Attendant services, visit our website at .

Q. How much do these groups cost? Do they require need insurance?
A. These and all services from IA are offered free of charge, no insurance necessary. The only "requirement" to participate is some means of accessing the internet. All groups are meeting remotely via Lifesize, Zoom, or other virtual platforms until it is deemed safe to resume in-person meetings. If internet is an obstacle, we will do our best to provide telephonic services. We are committed to being as flexible as possible to serve as many young adults who can benefit.

Q. How is IA able to offer all of these services free of charge?
A. Independence Associates receives funding primarily through the state and Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) that allow us to fund and offer these programs free of charge.
Q. Who can refer a student to participate in our groups?
A. Anyone! Parents, teachers, counselors, relatives, friends... even the student can refer themselves! Filling out and submitting our quick and easy referral form will help get the ball rolling and start the process! Also, if there is a chat button in the bottom left, that means an IA staff is available to live chat and answer your questions!

Q. If I want to refer a young adult, should I have permission from them and their family or should I just refer them?
A. When possible, it is always helpful for the student and their family to be aware that IA will be contacting them. However, we want the referral process to be as easy as possible. Once a referral is submitted, the emails listed (up to four) will all r eceive a confirmation email letting them (the young adult, their family, supports, etc.) know that Your Name has referred Student Name for each service that you select. The confirmation email will include the next steps to complete the intake for them to get them started with supports and services from IA. You can also schedule a Zoom meeting with Ryan, invite up to 10 people (the student, their parents and supports, etc.) and I am happy to answer any questions!

Q. Do students need to live in one of the 31 cities and towns that IA covers to take part in these online groups?
A. Not necessarily! The Independent Living philosophy values consumer choice above all and, therefore, anyone that chooses to work with IA that we are able to serve can take part in any of our online groups. You can search for your local ILC by town here!
Q . Can students without disabilities join IA's groups?
A. IA social groups are open to anyone who would like to participate regardless of disability or program eligibility! If there is someone who may benefit from one of the Pre-ETS or TAP groups, email us and we are happy to try & accommodate anyone we can who will benefit.

Q. Once someone is referred and participates in a Pre-ETS or TAP group, are they obligated to finish the curriculum or can they quit at any time?
A. While we would love for all students to finish our programs, the Independent Living movement is premised on consumer choice and consumers can decide to discontinue services at any time. Therefore, if someone wants to try out some of our offerings and decides they aren't a good fit, that's ok!

Q. How many events, Pre-ETS lessons, TAP or social groups can a referred student participate in each week?
A. There is no limit, but some of our offerings have proven quite popular since we moved all of our services online. We will be better able to answer this question once we more fully understand the demand for our programs and time availability of our staff. Typically, most Pre-ETS consumers do one hour long class per week. Social and TAP groups and typically more flexible but we always try and accommodate everyone we can so be in touch!

Q. Can someone from IA speak at Special Education staff meetings, SEPAC meetings, or other gatherings of people to explain our programs and answer questions?
A. Absolutely! We would love to! We are limited to remote meetings for the time being but we would be very happy to meet any or all interested to explain further & answer questions. You can schedule me using our online scheduling program or, if I am not available when you would like to have me, send me an email and I will try and move some things around to accommodate you and your group or send another staff member in my place!
Other questions?
screen shot of IA playing a pictionary game over zoom
IA staff playing a drawing game with youth consumers over Zoom on 4-24-20 (above)

Additional IA Information and Links
Newsletter Archive
* Check for our most up to date schedule! We are always adding new events!