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Blog Reflection #4: Observation Reflection

I did my observation at the Kennedy Krieger Institute’s Center for Autism. I sat in on their Early Achievements class. The class consists of four students, 2-3 years old, and three teachers. The head teacher is Cathy Walton, but a teacher named Liz was the lead teacher for the class I observed. All four students have confirmed Autism Spectrum Disorders and have been in this specific program since July. Their difficulties and abilities ranged and were relatively apparent. However, the three teachers were able to disperse themselves equally and very effectively. I was very impressed by the teachers and students, and feel it was a very rewarding experience. I can definitely say I learned a lot.

When I first arrived to the classroom, I noticed they had their general lesson plans posted outside the classroom to inform the parents of the new theme they’d be using and the different focuses. “Sleep” was the new theme and they had a few words, emotions, and abilities listed that the students would be practicing. I later found out, the theme changes every 2-4 weeks, 3 usually being the most optimal length of time. Once in the classroom, I immediately recognized it from videos we had been shown in class. The students’ cubbies, schedules, and different objects in the room were labeled with a name and picture. The class started with play time and I recognized the teachers practicing/encouraging joint attention and using a lot of sign language and repetition.

The class continued on, not staying on a specific activity for more than 20 minutes. They had “circle time” which I remember watching a video of during class. The structure was very similar, they were just using their theme of “Sleep” and used a book called “Time to Sleep”. They used songs, name calling, matching, recognition, joint attention, imitation, and repetition throughout this time. The rest of their schedule consisted of art/sensory time, play/DTT time, outside time, snack time, table time, and music/sensory time. Throughout all of these, I saw strategies we learned in class. The teachers had assessment sheets for each student. The tasks/functions on the assessments varied slightly for each child. They all had categories including Social Communication, Imitation, and Play; Expressive Language and Speech Production; Receptive Language; and Learning Readiness. Each child must complete a task 80% of the time for 3 days in a row to have mastered it. They used a scale of 1-5 for the assisting/prompting needed for each task. 1 meant they physically had to touch/move the child to perform the task. 5 meant they could do the task without any assisting by recognizing the prompt on their own.

I truly enjoyed spending two and a half hours with the students and teachers. I was somewhat skeptical going into this assignment because I have very little relative experience. This is my very first education class I’ve taken, I am not an education major and felt like I knew very little about it, and this project was my very first time being in an educational setting like that. After my experience, I feel more confident and comfortable. I only have positive things to say about it and am happy I got some real-life experience.   I do wish I could more hands-on time, not just observing, but for my first time it was probably best. Cathy, Liz, and Megan (I believe that was her name) were extremely helpful and welcoming. They answered any questions I had, were more than willing to share any knowledge and information, and they kept me in the loop with what was going on throughout class (especially when I wasn’t exactly sure what questions to ask). I had a bit of a fiasco with my original plans to do my observation with getting sick, schedule conflicts, and my school/work/ROTC obligations, but Cathy was very helpful with fitting me in.

This experience left me excited I decided to pick this path for my own education. I look forward to being able to use my technological skill set to help the students and teachers in the world of Special Education – A big thanks to the employees and patients of the Kennedy Krieger Institute!

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Reflection #3: Autism Spectrum Disorder – Parent Blogs

I chose Autism Daddy’s blog for this reflection. It is an anonymous blog written by a 43 year-old father of a 10 year-old boy. He refers to his son as “Kyle” in the blog. Kyle is on the severe end of ASD. Autism Daddy is married and has no other children.

The thing that makes Kyle different from most of the children written about in the other blogs is he is epileptic. He was diagnosed in May of last year. Autism Daddy now also calls himself Autism and Epilepsy Daddy. Kyle had surgery to implant a device that sends out electronic waves to his brain that are supposed to decrease frequency and severity of his seizures. According to his father, it has not done much yet but knows its in the early stages and hopes things will change. Kyle is also on medications for his seizures, one of which makes him drowsy so Autism Daddy and his wife have started weening him off of it.

This blog is mainly an outlet for Autism Daddy to vent and share stories, not provide resources. It talks mostly about the family’s every day lives and how Kyle is doing. The blogger uses many photos, some videos, occasional humor, and quotes from other blogs that he reads. What I liked most about this blog was a post titled, “Autism Parents, There are Other Parents Who Have it Worse Than Us Ya Know…”. It was about not using having a child with ASD as an excuse or pass for things, especially the doctors and hospitals, because other people could be in a worse situation. He was thankful that his son JUST had ASD and Epilepsy, where as in most of his posts, that is his complaint. What I liked least about this blog was Autism Daddy’s style of writing. It was written out in thoughts so it was sometimes hard to follow and it didn’t flow very well. However, knowing this is his outlet to vent and it is not meant to be professional, I definitely was able to look past that and enjoyed reading his stories.

One resource I would recommend for this family would be Autism Speaks research, information, advice, and additional resources just for individuals with Autism and Epilepsy. TACA (Talk About Curing Autism) also had many alternative non-drug treatments which I think the family would be interested in trying since they do not like the side effects of the medication Kyle is currently taking.

I would recommend this blog to other families with children with ASD. It has a bit of humor, realism, frustration, positivity, thankfulness, and honesty. I am sure other parents of children with ASD could appreciate and relate to a lot of Autism Daddy’s posts. It may not provide a lot of advice, but they may enjoy reading what he has to say. I know I did!

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Reflection #2: Communication Experience

For my “silent experience”, I was at my job. I work as a crew member on boats cruising out of Baltimore and Annapolis. My tasks during my silence included cleaning the boat and assisting the captain with necessary tasks, with help from another crew member. I was only able to be silent for the minimum of 2 hours due to my requirements at work. The other crew member and I had to communicate to delegate the different tasks. The captain and I also had to communicate to find out if there were any specific jobs/areas of the boat he wanted us to take care of. I used my cell phone to text when possible. I also used pen and paper to communicate back and forth with the captain and crew. I used my hands a lot to point, which helped with the communication process slightly. 

 

This assignment was a bit more challenging than I expected. My coworkers understood my assignment so they were helpful. However, I slipped up a lot and would forget I couldn’t verbally give answers, instructions, or ask questions. They cooperated with the rules very well and did not respond to anything I verbally communicated. I am not a huge fan of texting, especially when whatever is being said would be much easier to explain over the phone or face-to-face. The task of only texting or using pen and paper to communicate got frustrating not long into the 2 hours. It was difficult to fully explain what I wanted to say through that method.

 

My appreciation for the blessings I have, specifically the gift of speech, was greatly improved from this assignment. I found losing the ability to speak for just 2 hours was much more challenging than I was prepared for. I also realized how lucky we are to have different types of technology to assist with effective communication. I have a greater respect for all people that have any kind of disability or factor that doesn’t allow for them to communicate freely, effectively, or communicate at all. I like to talk a lot, so it was quite a challenge to lose that ability. It unfortunately caused me to not want to communicate as much because it was more difficult to do so. 

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Blog Reflection #1: Initial Thoughts on Inclusion

“In 1975, Congress passed the Education for All Handicapped Children Act guaranteeing for the first time that all students with disabilities would receive a public education,” (Villa, v). This law’s name was changed to Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1990. I believe this was the starting point for inclusion in education.

My definition of inclusion comes from the legal definition of least restrictive environment (LRE). Students with disabilities and/or are handicapped will be educated with children who are not, as long as it is appropriate, helpful, and it is the right choice. These students can use aids and services to assist in success in a regular classroom.

I believe inclusion is a great idea. Children with and without disabilities can benefit from it. Both will get to experience very useful and important things that can be applied in and outside the classroom. Patience, understanding, social skills, and cooperation are some that come to mind. These advantages apply to the general population.

I think more extreme disabilities would be more difficult to use inclusion with. A disadvantage that could come with using inclusion with children with more severe disabilities is that they could become overwhelmed or frustrated if they are over stimulated. Another disadvantage would be a lack of learning. If the children with disabilities are requiring more help, it can be distracting to those without. If the children without disabilities are moving too quickly, talking, playing, etc. it could be a distraction to those with disabilities and those who need to pay more attention.

Here is a link with some resources for teachers who use inclusive classrooms: http://education.wm.edu/centers/ttac/resources/articles/inclusion/effectiveteach/

 

Sources:

Villa, Richard A., and Jacqueline S. Thousand, eds. Creating and inclusive school. ASCD, 2005.