Anxious to get up and and move around while waiting for the other kids in his class to finish lunch, Andrew expresses his discomfort in having to remain seated. The “Wait” sign under his hand is a “picture communication symbol” designed to visually reinforce the idea that he must wait on the others.
Speech therapist Kristie Kemner, who works with the kids in the classroom 20 hours a week, uses bubbles to get a response from Cole, while teaching him to say the “B” sound. “Bubbles are a high reinforcer or motivator for him (Cole), because he likes bubbles,” Kemner says. Special education teacher Kelle Schlueter ties in the academic curriculum with the expertise of Kemner and sensory integration specialist Laura Smith to promote a holistic approach to better serve the special needs of the children enrolled in the communication disorder classroom. “Having our therapists working in the classroom is really a big deal, “ says Schlueter.
During a visit to the sensory room, students can choose from a variety of activities designed to give them a sensory experience, including a ride on a swing. Stevie is given a deep pressure squeeze. Each child has a “sensory diet,” which provides them with a calming effect and allows them to reorganize themselves so they can sit through academic activities, while being more focused. A ride on a rollercoaster may give most of us a sense of excitement, but many children with autism would find an experience like that calming.
Finishing up his work at the classroom art center, Andrew gives program aide Wanda Nutt a hug. Each child in the classroom gets one-on-one individualized attention from teachers, para educators and program aides to help the kids develop social and academic skills.