Being a Responsible Citizen for Special Education Students

Crow's Nest State School - Special Education Unit

By Louise Leggett, Teacher

Crows Nest 1


This activity involved travelling to Toowoomba via bus (one-hour trip) to visit the major shopping centre, Grand Central. Students were supported in small groups by special education staff to practise using their communication skills to find information, make decisions and purchase an item. Further to this, the students were given the opportunity to practise being a responsible citizen whilst communicating with each other and other relevant community members.

Special education students require specific lessons and substantial practise to develop their social skills. This excursion enabled these skills to be practised and implemented in a real-life situation.

Aims of the Event

The main purpose of the activity was to provide a situation where Special Education students were given the opportunity to practise some basic and fundamental social skills which enable them to operate as a mainstream citizen.

Event Preparation

In preparation for the excursion, the children were given the opportunity to role-play the social situations which would be presented to them (eg purchasing a bus ticket, seeking advice from the information desk and ordering a meal at a café). As some of our students are speech-language impaired, we also perused the menus to familiarise them with the necessary vocabulary.

Being familiar with a set of unknown circumstances is important to our students. Hence, we completed a sequencing activity, breaking the day down into an ordered set of events.

Our autistic students have great difficulty making a decision in a given timeframe and were provided with catalogues to help them prepare for their shopping experience.

The concept of the value of money was also challenging to these students and much conversation was had to prepare them for the limitations of their choices. The children were asked to purchase a gift for themselves and for another person to encourage them to think socially of others.

In order for the social experiences to be as valuable as possible for our students, key stakeholders were contacted prior to the excursion. For instance, the bus driver was aware that each student would purchase their ticket individually, and café staff were informed that Special Education students would be ordering their own meals.

The Implementation of the Event

The following is a brief summary of the day's events:

  1. Students are given name tags.
  2. Walked to Crows Nest Post Office to catch 9:20am bus to Grand Central.
  3. Arrived 10:30am and had morning tea in the food court.
  4. Visited the information desk to seek directions to different stores.
  5. Children made purchases.
  6. Used computerised directory to locate café.
  7. At 11:50am, arrived at café for lunch.
  8. After lunch, walked around centre before departing at 1:08pm for school.
  9. On arriving back at school, the students shared their purchased items and stories.

Crows Nest 2

Student Outcomes and Evaluation

The activity gave students the opportunity to:

  • Interact and communicate with members of the public, including the bus driver, shopping centre staff, café staff and information services.
  • Seek information and directions from shopping centre staff.
  • Use appropriate voice tone, give a greeting prior to a request, listen effectively, and use eye contact when conversing.
  • Make decisions in terms of which shop they would like to visit, what they would like to purchase and for whom.

The activity also incorporated some hidden outcomes such as:

  • Money skills.
  • Responsibility for belongings.
  • Independence.
  • Road and bus safety.
  • Time management.

As a concluding activity, the students will create a display for our office foyer showing the events of the day and highlighting the skills used during each stage.


It can be said with confidence that the excursion was not only an enjoyable social experience but also a valuable educational outing. The staff were aware of the individual needs and goals of each student and worked towards providing opportunities for them to step outside their comfort zone and interact with unfamiliar members of the wider community. For some of our students, it was the first time they had visited the centre. Overall, the excursion was a success in every aspect. All of the students thoroughly enjoyed the experience.