The Riverview School’s G.R.O.W. Program – Post Secondary Training for Young Adults with Disabilities

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

The Riverview School, located in Cape Cod, MA is truly one of a kind; as a co-educational boarding school and a post secondary option, Riverview pledges to provide a caring community for adolescents and young adults with complex language, learning and cognitive disabilities, and are taught by staff that are committed to “developing student competence and confidence in academic, social, and independent living skills.” The school provides services to 180 students through three programs: ages 11-19 are enrolled in the middle and secondary program, and students aged 18-22 are enrolled in the post secondary program GROW. There is also a five-week summer option available.

Naturally, the staff of M&L Special Needs Planning, LLC, was immediately drawn to the GROW program. We have spent the last year becoming completely immersed in housing information, independent living programs, and the organizations that offer them; over the last few months we have offered discussions and analysis on a number of independent living and housing programs such as those offered by the Center for Independent Futures, Specialized Housing Inc., and Jewish Family and Children’s Services. Although GROW isn’t technically an independent living program, it does offer students the opportunity to learn important skills related to independent living, employment, and socialization. As such, we are excited to offer a detailed discussion of this program to you as an option for your child who may soon be leaving high school.

Riverview’s Grow Program – What is it?

G.R.O.W. (Getting Ready for the Outside World) is a 10-month post-secondary program that is offered to students who have completed the Riverview Secondary program, or a program similar in style. According to GROW’s webpage, the program is “designed to provide students with the skills that will assist them in functioning more independently within the adult world.”

The program has three distinct stages; each stage builds on skills that the student has acquired in the previous stage. For example, the first stage of GROW will build on skills that the student acquired in the secondary program at Riverview, or another institution, and the second stage will build on skills acquired in the first, and so on and so forth. GROW is designed as a three year program preparing young adults with disabilities for the “real” world.

What is GROW’s curriculum?

As mentioned, GROW has a number of different components which focus on helping students obtain skills that will help them lead socially rewarding and productive, independent lives. These components are broken down into academics, personal growth and development, residential life, vocational programs, college experience and transitioning planning.

Academically, the GROW program focuses on the skills which will directly translate into independent life; students take part in English classes that help them learn how to communicate effectively, increase self awareness, and help students improve comprehension skills. Travel training focuses on teaching students to get from place to place safely; banking classes expose students to money management skills, and budgeting. The academic program also has a section that focuses on human health and sexuality, and students are encouraged to take an active role in planning their futures by completing their own Personal Vision Statement.

The Residential and the Personal Growth and Development components of GROW focus on helping students take skills they learn in the classroom and apply them in their home, or residential life. Residences are located both on and off campus – Riverview staff (a residential supervisor, overnight dorm coordinator and a dorm assistant) are on-site throughout the day and night.  During the first stage of GROW, all students are housed on campus (subject to space availability). As students progress through the program, they move to housing off campus – this is intended to help students grow as they acquire and practice skills related to independent life. Through this component, students plan and shop for groceries, plan and participate in social events, clean their homes, learn about health and fitness, cook, and manage homework and other responsibilities.

Residential life enables students to practice safe participation in the community, and learn how to manage their time and achieve a balance between work, social, and home life. The Personal Growth Component provides a time for students to discuss any issues and get help solving any problems that may arise from their residential life; social skills guidance is given by staff to all students, and according to the website, “all staff are trained to assist students in understanding social errors and preventing their re-occurrence on an ongoing basis during student’s daily lives.”

Grow also offers a number of vocational programs as well as the opportunity to participate in the college experience. Riverview expresses the opinion that “all students need exposure to a variety of vocations in order to increase their career awareness and enable them to make appropriate employment choices in the future.” As a result of this belief, the GROW program is designed to offer students the opportunity to participate in different vocational opportunities during each of the three stages of the program.

In Phase I of the GROW program, GROW offers students employment opportunities on campus; examples include working in the campus cafés, the Stark School store, or in maintenance.  In all three phases of the GROW program, GROW offers the Project Forward experience, which is a “nationally recognized school-to-work model offered at Cape Cod Community College.” As the webpage for the program explains, in Phase I of GROW, “The first exploratory sequence consists of six experiential vocational courses of instruction (four-five weeks each) in the areas of Basic Foods, Maintenance, Basic Retail, Office Technology, Animal Care and Child Care.” After the exploratory phase, students have the option to study one of these areas, and participate in internships that provide them with the work experience in the field of their college focus. (Note: Project Forward is optional and requires a separate application; should students elect not to participate in this program, GROW provides individualized classes.) In Phase II of GROW, the students take classes in their desired vocation and additional work in their field at least two times a week. In Phase III, the students may work in another vocation in addition to their desired area of concentration to broaden their communication and vocational skills.

During the vocational component of the program, students are evaluated and are offered valuable feedback that will help them to further hone employment and vocational skills.

GROW also offers transitioning planning to all students throughout all stages of the program; Riverview staff work with students and families to ensure the best possible outcomes for each student as he or she moves through high school, the post secondary program, and eventually into adult life. Riverview hosts on-campus fairs and a transition weekend that helps families look at long term transitioning options.

The last component of the GROW program is their summer program; Riverview offers a five week camp which is available for students enrolled in the GROW program, or students who will enroll in the program the following year. This program helps to ensure a smooth transition for new students, and allows current students the opportunity to continue to practice the skills they learn during the year. For a schedule of a typical day at camp, please click here.

Eligibility Requirements

As we mentioned earlier, students who enroll in the GROW program have to have completed Riverview’s Secondary Program, or a program that is similar. A high school diploma or certificate of completion is required for all applicants, and Riverview provide services to students that fall in the 65-90 IQ range.  For more information on eligibility for Riverview’s middle, secondary and GROW programs, please contact admissions – the email is, or visit the Riverview School website.

Here at M&L Special Needs Planning, we are devoted to providing you with information that can help you plan for the future of your family and your family member with special needs. If you would like more information on Riverview, the GROW program, or any other special needs planning topic, please do not hesitate to contact us. You may also wish to visit our blog archive, or sign up for notifications. Each week we publish a blog that discusses an important special needs planning topic. As well, we are putting the finishing touches on our Independent Living Program and Housing Project database, so stay tuned!

Have a great weekend!

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