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Because April is Autism Awareness month, I would like to share a personal experience related to autism.
This school year, I have had the privilege of teaching a child with autism, and it has been a profound year of discovery and growth for both of us.
My student's mother encouraged me to share our story.
When I discovered that I would be teaching a child with autism, I began to do some research on the Internet to learn more about the autistic child and techniques for reaching and teaching these children.
Through collaboration with another teacher that had experience with autism, I tried to prepare myself for this challenge. As teachers, we have high expectations for our students, and I wanted to avoid letting my expectations lower simply because my student was labeled autistic.
As the year began, I struggled to figure out how to balance regular classroom instruction while meeting the needs of this child. Although this was a new experience for me, I never felt alone as I found support and resources in my school and the Dubois-Spencer-Perry Exceptional Children's Co-op.
At William Tell Elementary we are blessed with a tremendous amount of support. Our administration and teachers offer collaboration with one another. Program assistants receive training and guidance at our school, and they are amazing.
One can see by the way program assistants work with these children the deep care, concern, and gentleness they display with each one. It also takes parents working as partners to provide for and support their children's education.
In addition, the students at William Tell are kind, caring, helpful, and compassionate. They have encouraged this student to be a shining star, and he knows he is a great asset to our classroom community.
Over the course of the school year, my student and I have met and overcome many challenges. Today, he is reading and writing beyond expectations.
While at times, this experience has brought frustration and exhaustion, over and above that, my student has pushed me to a greater understanding and has inspired me professionally.
Teaching a child with these challenges brings rewards greater than I could have imagined, and I hope that our journey can provide hope to others in similar situations.
My student taught me higher levels of learning and an elevated awareness of the gifts he brings to my class each day. It is my greatest hope that this child continues to have expectations set high for him because given the opportunity, he will exceed those expectations.
There are many hidden gems inside each and every child, and it is our privilege as educators to help discover them. I sincerely thank this special child who reinforced my belief to always have faith in all children.
Strobel teaches at William Tell Elementary School.