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Special needs student practices real life job skills

Teacher John Hudson worked with student Jack Thomas, 17, (center left) at Crossroads School in Natick, which offers training in job skills to students with autism.
Teacher John Hudson worked with student Jack Thomas, 17, (center left) at Crossroads School in Natick, which offers training in job skills to students with autism.(Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe)

Jack Thomas, 17, of West Boylston, is one of the dozen autistic students participating in a new program at Crossroads School to prepare them for jobs.

The Natick school educates students with special needs, focusing on vocational training through partnerships with area businesses.

With the help of his teacher, Jonathan Hudson, Thomas spoke with Globe correspondent Cindy Atoji Keene about working at Newton-Wellesley Hospital.

"I have Asperger's and PDD, or pervasive development disorder. Sometimes things are harder for me than other people. I've been working at Newton-Wellesley hospital for about six months, putting together packets, stuffing envelopes, or counting patient handbooks. I had to interview for this position, so I practiced a lot on answering questions. I also practiced this kind of job at the school's lab, where I tried different work, including wrapping burgers, sorting, data entry, or alphabetizing. We also practice social skills. I don't always know how to talk to people or ask follow-up questions.

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"But I think I'm doing better. I recently talked with my teachers about the future and I do think I want to go to college some day. Things are looking good.''


Cindy Atoji Keene can be reached at cindy@cindyatoji.com.