The School’s framework for Independent Living (FIL) blends state standard-based academics with functional skill areas and focuses on bridging school experiences with adult life. Our Pre-Vocational and Transition Program provides instruction in the following areas:

• Adaptive Physical Education
• Art
• Community Based Instruction (CBI)
• Center for Theatre Arts
• Consumer Sciences
• Industrial Arts
• Music Therapy
• Food Service Training
• Science Lab
• Computer Lab
• Building & Grounds
• Sensory Rooms
• Functional Academics
• Self Help Skills






















The Pathfinder School                   
A SCHOOL OF OPPORTUNITY                                     
1966 - 2016                                                     
Proudly serving students in southwestern Pennsylvania for over 50 years.  
50 Donati Road, Bethel Park, PA 15102     412-833-2777                  
Program Details
PAES Pre-Vocational
Five basic areas of Career Development
1.Business/Marketing
2.Computer/Technology
3 Consumer/Service
4.Construction/Industrial
5.Processing/Production


Students participate in a quarterly rotation between four pre-vocational programs. These programs include:

 Clerical /job etiquette
 Custodial maintenance
 Housekeeping/ foods service
 Auto Detailing

Clerical/Office/job etiquette:
Students learn the basic operations related to office work. This includes, copying, mail delivery, shredding, answering phones, office management. Incorporated with this component is training on appropriate behavior on the job.

Custodial/ maintenance:
Students learn basic skills related to commercial cleaning. This includes the appropriate handling of cleaning products (non-toxic), tool safety and proper use.

Housekeeping-laundry-bakery-foods service:
Students have the opportunity to participate in a variety of programs related to housekeeping. These programs include basis skills needed to work in the laundry industry and food services.

Auto detailing:
Students have the opportunity to participate in programming that prepares them for the auto industry.

Home Economics
The Pre-Vocational Specialty Program in Home Economics at The Pathfinder School offers students the opportunity to develop independent daily living skills in the areas of Food & Nutrition and Apartment Living.

The Food & Nutrition component is comprised of four related areas and a vocational aspect:
- Nutritional Education
- Meal Planning
- Food Preparation
- Consumer Skills, and
- Bakery


The Apartment Living component is comprised of two related areas, one with a vocational aspect:

- Housekeeping - Includes practicing basic cleaning routines for maintaining the major rooms in a house or apartment. Students learn to identify cleaning needs and appropriate cleaning products to complete typical cleaning tasks associated with apartment living. 

- Laundry Service-Is provided by the pre-vocational students to classrooms. Students pick up and deliver laundry to and from classrooms, select appropriate products, sort and fold laundry and operate the washer and dryer.  

Industrial Arts
This area of the pre-vocational Education Program is comprised of 3 main components: 

Buildings and Grounds - ​Here the students learn how to do basic building upkeep. They learn the skills to clean a building as well as to set up for different functions.  In the warehousing section of Building and Grounds, students learn how to fill supply orders and to maintain a ready supply of materials. In the landscaping portion of Buildings and Grounds, students learn how to maintain the outside of a building. 

Auto Detailing- The Auto Detailing program consists of 3 different packages; Bronze, Silver and Gold. Every wash consists of students checking tire pressure, fluid levels and filling out a detailed report of what was done. Students will also rotate tires.

Industrial Arts - In this area students learn how to use basic hand tools like a hammer, screwdriver and sander. They also learn how to use basic power tools and machines like a drill, saw and power sander. Students are taught how to use the tools around the building to put things together and possibly even fix something that is broken. Some of the things students have put together include metal cabinets, chairs, desks and even bleachers. 



Speech and Language
The Speech and Language Department at the Pathfinder School has two full time and one part time Speech/Language Pathologists on staff. Speech and Language Therapy is provided according to the student’s Individualized Education Plan to focus on the diverse needs of the students at Pathfinder School. Students range in age from age 5 to age 21 with communication needs that range from minimal to severe. Total Communication is approached to foster eye gaze, gestures, signs, leading, picture choices, verbalizations and assistive technology according to the student’s skill level and communication needs.








Speech/Language Groups have been developed to build on socialization and communication skills. Students are grouped according to their needs and abilities.

Current Groups of the Speech/Language Program:

Chapter Book Club – Students listen to a chapter book and answer questions with visual and/or verbal cues to build on comprehension and expression.

Girls Club and Boys Club – Students are grouped from different classrooms to build on socialization, comprehension and expression through themed activities and lessons.

Simple Signs – Sign language group for basic signs.

Talk Time – Social Skills group to encourage peer interactions and to discuss appropriateness.

Breakfast Club – Encourages peer interactions using vocal output communication devices and verbalizations in a social communication format.

Wise Words – Focuses on learning word meanings for comprehension and expression.

Sing and Sign – Collaboration with music therapist to use signs to express songs and develop fluency of signing.  

Community Based Instruction

The Framework for Independent Living (FIL) is the basis for Community-Based Instruction (CBI) planning. CBI is a tool to implement the FIL in the classroom and beyond, providing activities and instruction supporting students’ learning. It provides a structure to prepare, instruct, apply, follow up, remediate and assess objectives that help students develop skills needed to function in their communities. CBI activities support the student toward functional independence and participation in a variety of community settings.

CBI begins in the classroom, with students working on academics, behavior, communications, daily living and social skills. It extends to the larger community of the school such as hallways, other classrooms, cafeteria, offices and school campus. Faculty, support staff office workers and custodians are members of the student’s community and can be engaged in practicing, expanding and improving skills. Those skills gained in the school setting are then applied in “beyond the school” experiences such as the grocery store, mall, restaurants, work place or other locations deemed appropriate by the instructional team.

Every student at pathfinder goes into the community at least 4 times a month. Pathfinder School is located directly next to the Port Authority “T” subway line. The students and staff use the “T” for traveling further distances like to Mt. Lebanon, Dormont and downtown Pittsburgh. Staff and students also frequent local establishments by walking. This allows the opportunity to apply safety, pedestrian and sign skills first hand with the supports needed.

Multi Sensory Rooms
All of us have sensory needs. Every day we adjust our environments, clothing, activities, etc… to satisfy our needs. There are people who prefer running to yoga. There are people who prefer a heavy blanket when they sleep, while others need just a light sheet. Some people thrive on the up and down feel of a roller coaster while others prefer the spinning sensation of a merry-go-round. All of these situations require a need for sensory input.  

With people who have special needs and particularly people with Autism, this sensory input is there, but the control of it is not consistent or functional for them. Many times the person may have overly sensitive sensations causing the person to avoid or dislike for certain things. Other people may have under responsive responses or cravings for certain sensory inputs. Sensory integration can be used with both these responses, as well as with people’s typical responses to sensory input. It can be very calming or very stimulating depending upon the person’s need.
















Pathfinder School offers 2 different types of Multi-Sensory Environments. These environments provide the students with sensory areas including:

• Visual Processing
Child may be easily distracted, blurred images, lack of personal space and boundaries, etc…
•Auditory Processing
Child is unable to organize auditory signals, difficulty discriminating sounds, appears inattentive, difficulty speaking in groups and articulating.
•Tactile Discrimination
Over Sensitive: doesn’t like messy things, picky eater, dislikes bathing, etc…
Underactive Reactive: touches others, high tolerance to pain, breaks objects/toys.
•Movement Vestibular
Over responsive: dislikes playground or physical activity, may appear to be manipulative.
Under Responsive: craves spinning/movement, need to move constantly, poor balance etc…
•Balance Proprioceptive
Bumps into objects, difficulty getting up/down and doing stairs, stiff, uncoordinated, etc…
•Motor Planning & Sequencing
Poor self-help skills, lack of purposeful play with toys, poor gross/fine motor skills, failure to respond to speech.
•Cognitive Processing
Unable to move from concrete to abstract, difficulty making connections between actions/consequences
•Affective/Emotional Processing
Difficulty reading social, emotional, body, cues.








Transition Consultant Services
    Transition is a coordinated set of activities for youth with disabilities, ages 14-21, designed within an outcome-oriented process which promotes movement from school to post-school activities. We also offer our PRIDE program (details HERE.)

Our coordinator will assist in the following services:

•Assist with development of transition plans, activities and outcome including:
        1.Post –secondary education/training
        2.Employment
        3.Independent living (Residential, Participation , Recreation/Leisure)
•Attend IEP meetings when necessary
•Administer student transition assessment
•Coordinate vocational evaluations
•Assist in accessing adult services
•Promote self-advocacy/self-determination
•Provide guidance to students, parents, teachers and community partners in the transition planning process.
•Provide cooperative education services
        1.Assess student work-ready skills
        2.Match students with potential career exploration experiences of:
                    oIn-school occupational training, Job shadowing, Supportive/competitive                        employment.
        3. Develop training agreements
        4.Establish training agreements
        5.Maintain communications with school, student, parents and employers.








Pathfinder Facts:
    In a recent follow-up study of graduates from The Pathfinder School and their         respective school districts, 90%of the graduates surveyed were employed or         actively involved in Adult Training Facility (ATF) programs.
    The other 10% of the graduates families had chosen to have their young adult         child reside at home and be actively involved within their own community.

    Pathfinder transition services are proud of their 100% success rate in placing         students in vocational training or employment programs before graduation, for         the school years.

Check out our
PRIDE transition program* 
for 18 - 21 year olds!


                              * new as of Fall 2016!