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The Passage Program at Cedarhurst School

This program serves special education students ages 18-21, identified as Emotionally Disturbed (ED), Other Health Impaired (OHI), or Autism, who have completed most or all of their academic credits. Students needing credits for graduation can be accommodated with individualized programming.

The highly individualized program provides functional living and vocational skills development for students who require additional support in order to successfully transition to independence.

The program consists of one or more academic years in which students receive specific instruction and support in pre-employment skills, functional and independent living skills, as well as therapeutic group programming focused on social and adaptive coping skills development.

The bulk of the learning occurs in the community where students participate in paid vocational experiences in competitive work environments.

The Passage Program is funded by tuition which is paid by the sending school district.

The overall goal of the program is to enable each student to achieve the maximum level of independence possible through learning, working, and participating in the community as an adult. To that end, each student will be on a career track upon graduation, whether in competitive employment, in training, or attending college.

Work Experience

Students spend at least 3 hours a day (from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm) working in competitive work environments.


Students typically begin their work experience at Yale-New Haven Hospital (YNHH), where they rotate through various settings exposing them to the world of work and providing them basic employment skills. Students go to work with the employment specialist, who guides and coaches as needed.


As students demonstrate increased skill and independence, individual internships are developed based on career interests and preferences. The employment specialist is available to support and coach the student, more intensely at first, and remaining available to the student over time for problem solving and support when needed. Internships at YNHH have included work in plumbing, HVAC, admissions, the Call Center, painting, and the Atrium Café. Internships in the community have included Luvena Leslie Hair Salon, the Law Firm of Wiggin and Dana, and the Marsh Botanical Garden at Yale.

Job Development

As students gain greater confidence and skills, program staff assist them in transitioning to a paid, competitive job upon graduation. If students are ready for competitive employment more quickly, job development begins sooner.