A Room of Great Opportunity

A Room of Great Opportunity

PAES Lab promotes hands-on, real-world experiences

Special Education Division

CVES Communications and Publications Manager

“Supervisor? I am ready.”
This is a phrase commonly heard in the Practical Assessment Exploration System (PAES)  Lab at CVES’ Special Education Division in Plattsburgh. You would hear this from a student  14 or older who has completed a hands-on activity that needs to be reviewed by a supervisor.

The beauty of all this is the student has completed the task independently.

“The independence factor is the biggest reason why we purchased this program,” Coordinator of Transition Programs Tonya Robinson said. “On top of the number of  opportunities provided in the PAES Lab, and the way the program is set up to build  independence, we have to support our students by stepping back as staff and allowing for
the progression of their independence.”


If you were to walk in the Plattsburgh Division’s PAES Lab, you might just think it’s a  storage room with boxes and some tables. But inside those boxes, there are various elements for the hands-on curriculum PAES uses to help students learn in a highly  organized and structured environment.

“From the outside, this room seems overwhelming,” teaching assistant Ashley Pray said.  “Once people start to understand the system and we are able to explain the targeted outcomes, there is an excitement about the opportunities for our students.”

As the lab gets students ready to transition to the real world and various job opportunities, it presents anywhere from 48 to 60 opportunities to complete tasks in five separate fields  of work, which include business/marketing, computer/technology, construction/industrial,  processing/production and consumer service.

“It’s where we want our kids to be,” Robinson said. “We want them to exit our program  and be able to go to an employer and not need additional adult support they may have in  a school setting.”


To simulate real-world work environments, students enter the lab and clock in on a  computer before they are presented with their task.

“I like enjoying the new opportunities,” said Caleb after he finished a task that involved twisting two nuts onto a bolt. Caleb, a Saranac Lake student who attends the Plattsburgh  campus, is getting set to enter the real world, and he said the PAES Lab is a great resource.
“I get anxious here and there, but I enjoy it and what I am trying to learn,” he said. “It’s really exciting when I finish up and have my supervisor come over to say I did a good job, and I can complete my task and clock out on the computer.”

One of Caleb’s classmates Matt agreed.
Matt and Caleb were in the lab together for a day, and while Caleb was doing his task,  Matt was focused on sorting out various pipes from a large assortment.

“I like going through different things, organizing and digging through piles to investigate,”  Matt said. “It helps me learn how I could do my job well.”

As the tasks help students find direction for their desired career paths, they are expected  to communicate professionally, learn to follow safety procedures, problem solve and  showcase strong time management.


Once a student completes his or her task for the day, a supervisor who is properly trained  for the PAES Lab, helps collect information to enter in a database that shows students’ areas of strength and helps point out opportunities for improvement and determine  appropriate accommodations and assistive technology for the workplace. To fairly and  accurately have the correct data to enter, the independence factor proves to be essential  but challenging for supervisors.

Up to five students can simultaneously work in the lab with one supervisor present.

“It’s very hard because you have to learn to sit on your hands,” Pray said. “As a parent and educator, your nature is to help, but at the same time, we don’t have people with us forever. Students have to learn how to be independent, and it is our job to teach this  essential skill. It’s been an interesting process. I have had to learn how to step back and  allow students to accomplish things independently.”


Ultimately, all involved want the PAES Lab to enable students to find meaningful  employment after graduation.

“As educators, parents and adults, we always want to help kids. As students get older, how we help them must look different. We have to resist the urge to provide immediate  assistance or resolution, instead creating a safe environment that fosters independence in  a developmentally appropriate setting. Doing so will better prepare our students for  success in the real world when they graduate from our programming,” Director of Special Education Matt Slattery said.

“PAES is a great investment for the students and communities we serve across the North  Country. Many thanks to Tonya Robinson, our Transition Coordinator, and to all that  participate in this lab for the great work they are doing with our students. I am very proud of this new addition to our programming.”

So whether the task students are completing focuses on food preparation, color assembly,  electrical projects, alphabetizing or data entry, plenty of opportunities exist in the PAES Lab to bolster the futures of young adults.

“There are really special things happening in this room,” Robinson said.