Frequently Asked Questions

What does OPTIONS stand for?

Optimizing Potential Through Individualized, Ongoing, Nurtured Support

Why is a program like OPTIONS needed?
A large percentage of freshmen college students do not return for a sophomore year, and the primary cause of this phenomenon has nothing to do with academics. Students with learning disabilities coming out of high school are often not equipped with the academic, independent living, social, and employability strategies needed to lead a successful life after graduation. Many students with learning disabilities do not struggle to get information just inside the classroom, but in all other life areas, as well. OPTIONS offers an approach to working with students that stretches across academic, employability, independent living, social, and emotional domains, making sure that young adults have all the tools they need for success.

What are the components of the OPTIONS Program?

The OPTIONS Program consists of several components, all carefully interwoven to provide comprehensive support and instruction for students. The academic component consists of classes developed and taught by OPTIONS staff as well as support for participation in community college classes. Employment readiness also includes classes developed and taught at OPTIONS and partnerships with over sixty businesses in the community that provide supervised internship opportunities for OPTIONS students. Independent Living support and instruction spans a wide spectrum of skills needed to lead healthy, content adult lives. Communication skills are addressed through the Speech and Language component and are integrated across all areas. The social and emotional needs of students are addressed through integrated instruction across all program components by being aware of “teachable moments,” as well as by accessing community resources and Social Strategies groups.

What is the typical student profile at OPTIONS?

Most OPTIONS students are between the ages of 18 and 23. They are committed to participating in the program and are high school graduates or are in transition before college or employment. The majority of students have a primary learning disability diagnosis and one or more co-morbid diagnoses.

How did OPTIONS come to be?
The Brehm School alumni, parents, and staff identified the need for a transitional program for graduates that would help them learn how to lead independent adult lives.
Where are the OPTIONS facilities?

OPTIONS Transitions to Independence is located in Carbondale, Illinois, which is in Southern Illinois, only 114 miles from St. Louis and 350 miles south of Chicago.

What instructional options are there at OPTIONS?

College Transition Track – In this track, the student pursues a curriculum at the local community college to complete either a Certificate or an Associate’s Degree that can be transferred to another institution. The student receives academic support at both the college and at OPTIONS.

Certificate of Completion Track – In this track, the student pursues a Certificate of Completion in one of seven vocational areas. The academic requirements are taught through OPTIONS, and job-specific skills are taught through partnerships with community businesses via internship experiences. The goal is to help the student transition into competitive employment.

How does a student progress through OPTIONS?
The first semester coursework is the basis for a transition assessment, and course curricula are designed in-house. Several classes are modeled after courses students will encounter at the community college. Each semester, students are placed into classes at OPTIONS based on their academic needs. Students also participate in internship experiences and potentially classes at the community college; the curriculum is designed for the specific instructional track chosen by the student. The students are introduced to competencies that are needed in all professions, and their progress is tracked in each. OPTIONS has three levels of programming that students transition through as they require less supervision and become more independent.
What areas and skills are addressed through the College Transition track?
Students receive guidance with assessing college readiness, registering for community college classes, following curriculum guidelines, buying textbooks and finding classes. Students will also get help organizing materials, reading syllabi, working with teachers and disclosing a disability to others. OPTIONS staff will also aid students in accessing resources and living accommodations, breaking down assignments and completing course work, completing bi-monthly monitor sheets and communicating with faculty members and instructors.
What are Certificates of Completion?

Certificates of Completion indicate a student’s readiness for competitive employment in eight of the fastest growing industries in the twenty-first Century: Business and Office Technology; Retail Sales; Social Services; Medical Services; Animal Care and Services; Food Services; and Janitorial Services. The Certificates also indicate the student’s successful completion of academic preparation, coupled with hands-on employ-ability training.

What areas are addressed through the Internship Experience Program?
OPTIONS instructors match each student’s skills, abilities, and interests with a valuable internship experience. These internships help students develop relationships with employers and gain meaningful work experience, moving them toward greater independence. Internship Performance Reviews are kept to evaluate the student’s performance and progress. As a result, students learn new job skills that increase their employability, help them develop more self-confidence, and allow them to explore potential career paths.
Why do most OPTIONS students participate in Speech & Language Therapy?

We have found that individual and/or group Speech & Language Therapy facilitates effective expressive and receptive communication, helping students develop additional important employability and independence skills, especially at this later stage of learning.

How does OPTIONS help students to transition to Independent Living?
Each student is given individualized instruction to meet his or her specific needs. Hands-on demonstrations and instruction are provided along with small group independent living skills assessments to determine each student’s readiness to meet the demands of living independently.
Where do students live?
OPTIONS students live in community apartments with three students per apartment. The Program’s apartment building is located within a larger apartment complex. Each student has his or her own bedroom and bathroom. The building has key-less entry and alarm systems for security, a washer and dryer in every apartment, an in-ground pool, a workout room, and a computer room.
Do staff members supervise the living area?
Yes. At least one full-time staff person – an Independent Living Counselor or Supervisor – is present when students are in the apartments. Auxiliary staff members also assist with direct instruction of competencies within the apartments. Transportation to the apartment building is provided by the staff in OPTIONS vehicles.
What skills are taught through the Independent Living experiences?

Life skills assessment and instruction, culinary instruction, social strategies curriculum, structured study hours, medical management, and recreation and leisure planning.

What are the major objectives of the OPTIONS Program?

The OPTIONS Program strives to equip each student with:

  • Academic skills
  • Employment skills
  • Independent living skills
  • Self-advocacy skills
  • Self-awareness
  • Social skills
  • The ability to transition from school to college or work

Brehm and OPTIONS helped put me on my path to success. I learned how to deal with my disability as well as how to be an advocate for myself in seeking any help I needed in school or in life. Brehm and OPTIONS helped me to stand on my own two feet and taught me many important skills that I will use for the rest of my life. These skills range from organization skills to skills needed to live on my own and be an independent adult. If I had not come to Brehm and eventually gone to OPTIONS, I am certain I would not be in the place I am today and would not have been as successful as I was at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. The staffs at Brehm and OPTIONS are supportive and caring individuals who supported me while I was a student, as well as after I left the program. Brehm and OPTIONS will always hold a special place in my heart as I know they provided me with the foundation to be successful in life.

Natalie Pereless

Brehm and OPTIONS alumnus