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.

Skills Development

Students spend afternoons engaged in learning experiences focused on vocational, functional living, and social development. The bulk of the learning occurs in the community.

Vocational Skills

Students are assessed on vocational interest, ability, skill, and learning style. Vocational skills groups, taught by the employment specialist, focus on attaining employment (applying, interviewing), workplace etiquette, communication, problem solving, leadership, and career planning.

Functional Living Skills

This curriculum includes an emphasis on independent living (transportation, consumer skills, medical and supportive services, self advocacy, financial management), community living (leisure and recreation activities, civic responsibilities), communication, and character building (responsibility, problem solving, attitude).

Social and Coping Skills

Weekly groups, facilitated by the clinical social worker, cover communication skills, reading social cues, initiating and maintaining social interaction/friendships, emotion regulation, tolerating stress, and problem solving.

College Experience

Post-secondary education/college experiences are facilitated and supported while students are enrolled in the Passage Program. College 101 is a course developed and offered by program staff to students who will be pursuing post-secondary education.

Students are oriented to such topics as using a college library, utilizing a syllabus, time management, study skills, and how to access student support services. While enrolled in college classes, students continue to receive individualized support to facilitate their success. Students are also guided through the college application process, including SAT preparation and exploration of specific colleges.

Students have recently attended Albertus Magnus College, University of New Haven, and Gateway Community College. Subjects studied have included criminology, communications, political science, and sign language.


Program staff consists of employment specialists, certified special education teachers, and licensed clinical social workers.


The program runs from 8:30 am to 3:00 pm, Monday through Thursday and from 8:30 am to 2:00 pm on Fridays. We follow a regular, 10-month academic calendar. There is an optional summer component that runs from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm, Monday through Friday for six weeks, focused exclusively on employment skills.

Additional Feature

  • Social workers and trained support staff provide case management, crisis intervention, and collaborate actively with outside agencies (therapists, DMHAS, BRS, etc.);
  • Intensive work with family members and significant others to maximize student independence and success;
  • A small stipend is provided based on attendance and work participation;
  • Daily lunch and transportation to and from work sites and community activities; and
  • Training in independent travel is provided. Students eventually travel independently between work sites, college settings and the Passage Program, utilizing available travel options, including the Yale shuttle.

Referral Process

Students are referred to the Passage Program by their local school districts via the PPT process. Referral materials should be sent directly to the Passage Program and should consist of recent IEPs, Psychoeducational evaluations, academic transcript, vocational or transition related evaluations and any relevant clinical documentation/recommendations that are available. The student and family will then be invited to the program for a tour and an intake interview. We are also happy to provide tours and information to parents, students and/or school district personnel, in collaboration with the LEA, at any time in the process.

For more information, please contact us directly at 203-764-9314, or