The Things We Do for Love

June 4, 2012
Chelsea Budde

I think it's safe to say that teachers love kids. Why else would you spend six hours a day, five days a week, in a room with 25 students? Now I love my kids, but I can guarantee you that if I spent every waking moment with them for the summer, I would go bonkers. In fact, the final weeks of the school year are always a scramble to be sure we have the right mix of down time and scheduled, supported activities to keep everyone happy and healthy (and lovely).

I also love my job, part of which is to go in to schools to teach students about autism. And I often say I can do it for an hour, but it might be a different story if it were 8 to 3.

photo by Curtis Compton, Atlanta Journal-Constitution (2010)

Yet there are these educators who not only punch in and punch out, but think critically about how to make learning more fun and functional for their students.  And not only between those hours of 8 to 3, but specifically before- and after-hours; because often while the students are there at school, they're commanding full attention.

Recently, my 13-year-old son was struggling with team activities in Physical Education (Gym).  His Specially-Designed Phy Ed teacher contacted me, starting off the phone call with, "I've been thinking all night about how we can design a program for him that will be meaningful."  It's the stuff of dreams, really -- both the inspired ideas and the collaborative effort that combine for the magic of effective inclusive instruction.

During an Autism Spectrum Disorder/Developmental Disability Community of Practice meeting last month, one of the round table sessions was on "Hot Topics" for the population in discussion.  It was moderated by a staff member for the statewide Autism Society chapter and a speech therapist for an area school district.  One of the parent-initiated discussions was regarding socialization and meaningful inclusion in elementary school.  

The speech therapist was eager to share her idea of a "Birthday Manager".  This job was created for students with special education needs who benefit from positive social interaction, practice in decision making, and fine and gross motor skill development.  The Birthday Manager has a list of the week's student birthdays.  He or she selects a pre-made card, chooses a piece of clip art to add, and addresses and delivers the card.  The birthday student is happy, the Birthday Manager is proud, and everyone sees how valuable an exchange the exercise is.  Brilliant!  The speech therapist shared a number of ways such an activity fits into existing IEP goals.

Ah, the things we do for love -- for love of students, for love of education, for love of success.  Thank you, educators and therapists, for the love you've shown this past school year.  We look forward to your renewed energy and ideas again in August/September!

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