Only a Chosen Few…

Only a chosen few have the opportunity to experience the interworkings of a school for autistic children.  Only a chosen few are dedicated and understanding of the students that have been placed under this large complicated umbrella.  Only a chosen few are given the opportunity to see technology at its best; helping students with autism communicate with others and adapt to our so-called “normal” way of life.  
I have recently had the opportunity to experience all of this (and more) in my new position at a Learning Center for students with autism.  I will admit whole-heartedly, I was scared to death!  I have no special education background, other than one course; and although I have just walked across the stage after preparing for two years for my M.Ed., nothing I have done, no books I have read, no papers I have written, prepared me for this experience.  Having limited interaction and knowledge about autism, I had no idea how large the spectrum was; I thought I did, but I truly didn’t.  From needing “squeezes” to random meltdowns, from physical assault to nonverbal communication, and everything else in between, I have truly seen more than I ever imagined.  As crazy as it may sound, I am actually excited to go to work every day.  No two days are ever the same; one thing is however, the use of technology.  
As I sit in the classroom, I am in awe of how technology has impacted and developed the lives of these students.  The utilization of Promethean boards, YouTube, and computer programs for special education has opened up a whole new learning opportunity for these students.  The most impressive  piece of technology that I have encountered thus far, is the use of AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) devices.  I am fortunate to work in a class of students who are primarily non-verbal and have the benefit of using this technology.  “Talkers” such as these,   http://www.prentrom.com/, help students communicate with the world around them.  Some students use them sparingly, while others are dependent on them as they are the only “voice” they have.  How often have you been in a store or a restaurant and saw “that child” with “those parents” who couldn’t keep their child from making loud, unintelliable sounds and ruining your dinner?  What I have come to realize, is many of “those children” are screaming because that is all they can do, that is all they can say; they do not have the means to express themselves.  Technology such as “talkers,” iPads, texting, etc. has provided a gateway for students and adults alike, to express their needs, wants, and feelings.  Advancement opportunities for this technology is endless and for that, I am grateful; as a mother and as a teacher.  
I hope if you take anything away from this entry, I hope the next time you see one of “those kids” with “those parents,” I hope you remember how they are no different from us and how all they may really want is just to be heard.
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