Sunday, April 20, 2008

Memorable Moment #3

My pre-k class and I are very fortunate to be included within our school community. Sometimes pre-k classes are physically located within a school, but function as an independent unit (not wholly integrated into school activities).

At the pre-k level, one of our most important areas of skill development occurs within the social/emotional domain. Positive experiences within the social/emotional domain prepare children to be more successful in learning activities in later years.

One afternoon in January, we went to the cafeteria to participate in the Jog-a-Thon Kick-Off Assembly. One of my students who has autism (Andy), was completely overwhelmed with all of the sensory input, and we needed to leave the assembly. This really bothered me because I thought about how much of his elementary school experience he would miss if he couldn’t enjoy an assembly, school play, guest speaker, performance or concert.

What could I do, as his teacher, to help him organize an overwhelming amount of sensory input?

Throughout the next year, each time there was a class assembly or a grade level assembly, Andy and I would go to the cafeteria early (we were the first to arrive) and wave to our friends as they entered the cafeteria. I would point out people we knew and say "Hi, book buddies. Look, Andy, there's Mrs. Smith. Hi, Mrs. Smith. " We went to everything! We would also sit near the side of the cafeteria, close to a door (just in case we had to make a quick exit.) The idea was to try to point out the things and people that were familiar to him before it was a huge crush. I was hoping that once he realized that in that mess of kids and noise, there were students he knew, teachers he knew, cheers he knew, songs he knew and that he was safe.

As the noise level started to increase, he would sit with me with headphones on and watch the performance. We gradually started to attend bigger and louder assemblies and tried small moments of time without the headphones.

The following year, we had a test. It was time for the school's Winter Concert. Andy and his parents came really early so they would be the first to arrive in the cafeteria. I asked his mom to point out all the people she and Andy knew. Andy stood on the stage with his class, in front of a packed cafeteria and sang Jingle Bells! Smiling and shaking the jingle bells the whole time!

Andy is now in kindergarten and participates in school-wide assemblies without support. We recently had our noisy, stimulating jog-a-thon assembly and Andy sat in the middle of his class participating, smiling and cheering throughout the assembly

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