In the process of completing a degree in elementary education, I have enrolled in a class specifically designed to increase my understanding of students with different disabilities and the resources that are available to help them function and succeed in the classroom. While taking A Child with Special Needs course I received an assignment requiring myself to volunteer at an organization that works with children, adults, or both with special needs for fifteen hours over a course of no less than two weeks.
Also, I am writing this paper because I am pursuing a career in elementary education, which may require me to have to the proper knowledge and skills for working with students with special needs. Burger School for Students with Autism is a center-based and restrictive school in Wayne County where the age of the students can range from three years to twenty-six years old. At Burger East, the location I spent my fifteen hours volunteering at, students are seventeen and older. Eligibility for Burger School is done through a referral process starting at the student’s resident district Special Education department.
The student referral process includes a review of less restrictive options that have been considered or have not met the student’s needs, student profiles, parent questionnaires, as well as resident district IEP assessment and documentation. Once a person has become a student at Burger School for Students with Autism, the faculty is committed to maximizing the potential of each student to gain independence and self-fulfillment while assuring the opportunity for each student to become a happy, healthy, productive, and contributing member of society. http://www. gardencityschools. com/BurgerSchool. cfm, April 17th, 2012. ) Based on the individual students needs there is a nurse, social worker, behavior specialist, psychologist, speech and occupational therapists on hand as well as all staff having the correct training in non violent crisis intervention. All students attending Burger are exposed to a general education curriculum where they are expected to meet state standards and benchmarks. Communication
Before and during volunteering at Burger School for Students with Autism I set goals to learn more about the differences students with Autism and Emotionally Impaired students have in communication. I hoped to learn the structure of the classroom, the forms of communication used, and the type of curriculum they were exposed to. I found that most students with Autism have more difficulty following directions and expressing their wants and needs due to their communication deficits than most Emotionally Impaired students.
For example, during the time spent working with a student named Rachel with severe Autism I never once heard her speak a word. My first impression of Rachel was that she seemed to be stuck in her own body unable to communicate but definitely was aware of what was going on around her. Emotionally Impaired students had a more general form of communication in the classroom and were able to communicate most if not all of their needs throughout the time I was there.
Although Emotionally Impaired students were better able to communicate, when they became upset or things did not go their way, all forms of communication could be thrown out the window. A perfect example of this behavior was by a student named Michael who lost the privilege of being able to use headphones during class time to listen to music. He continued to kick the leg of the table, bite his own hand, hit himself on the head, and yell throughout the rest of period as well as refusing to use any general forms of communication to try to get the privilege of using the headphones back.
Gross/Fine Motor Skills While working with students during my volunteer hours, I also noticed differences in the fine motor skills of those with Autism and Emotionally Impaired students. In general students with Autism have struggles with fine motor skills compared to students with Emotional Impairments. Each student was given a strip of paper cut from a colorful fish cartoon to blend into his or her own fish drawn on white paper. Students with Autism were given oil pastels; which are easier to use in blending the correct colors of their fish project.
Also, the students with weak fine motor skills were able to hold the oil pastels more comfortably while having better control of the technique of blending. Emotionally Impaired students were given acrylic paint while blending the colorful strip of paper into their own fish. They were able to use a paintbrush while still controlling the color they were using and where it should go. Emotionally Impaired students seemed to better understand which colors to use in order to create new ones and were much more concerned about how well the colors lining up with the strip matched.
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed my fifteen hours spent volunteering at Burger School for Students with Autism. I have a completely better understanding and appreciation for those with disabilities and the staff that works with students with disabilities. I have even considered applying for a position working at Burger School for Students with Autism as a substitute teacher’s assistant and have begun to look into minoring in Special Education in order to assist those with disabilities in my future career.