WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO WORK WITH CHILDREN WITH AUTISM
After teaching regular education for a few years and realizing that I needed a change, I found Eden II. I started in 2005 as a teacher, which turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made. It’s amazing to know that I play a vital role in someone’s life every day. I get such a sense of accomplishment when working with our participants. I am lucky enough to say that I love my job. It is an honor to work with our students every day.
WHAT IS ONE MOMENT THAT HAS STUCK OUT TO YOU WHILE WORKING AT EDEN II?
One of my favorite moments happened soon after I created a new group instruction schedule for our teenage participants. The concept was to break down the students into different groups and allow different teachers to teach these groups; to help achieve independence. I instantly knew we were on the right track when the mom of a student who typically engaged in echolalia, or very short responses, called me. She said that every day when she got home and asked her daughter how her day was, her usual, memorized response was “Good”. This one time, she actually told her mom how her day was, where she went that day, what job site she went to, and who she went with. The mom could not believe her ears. She called me the next day in tears and said, “I have never received a response like this from her, and I don’t know how to thank you. At 19 years old, my daughter finally conversed with me.” It was at that moment I realized we don’t just work with the students, but we also work with the entire family. It was a great moment for me.
WHAT IS THE MOST REWARDING THING ABOUT WORKING WITH OUR PARTICIPANTS?
One of the main advantages of working in an agency that serves individuals throughout their lifespan is having the ability to see our participants grow and change over the years. Seeing a student you worked with 10 years ago, now as an adult, and seeing how well they are doing is one of the best feelings. We don’t just work closely with the participants, but we embrace the family as a whole. We see them through some of their toughest struggles, and it’s great to know that we touch so many lives on a daily basis.
WHERE DO YOU SEE AUTISM AND EDEN II IN 10 YEARS?
With autism on the rise, I hope to see Eden II serving more people. I hope we can expand all of our programs to serve more of the families that need us most. I would like to see more people with autism in the everyday workforce showcasing their amazing abilities. Most of all, I would love to see increased public education and awareness on autism.
IN YOUR OPINION, WHAT IS THE KEY TO BEING A GREAT SPECIAL EDUCATION TEACHER?
The key to being a great special education teacher is realizing that not every child is the same. Not everyone learns the same way, and it is important to treat each child as an individual to make sure we reach them as a person and to make them the best that they can be. Educators should not force their students to fit into a model that is unrealistic for them.
CAN YOU OFFER ANY ADVICE TO SOMEONE INTERESTED IN WORKING WITH INDIVIDUALS WITH AUTISM?
Do it. It was the best thing I have ever done. It makes you look at people for who they really are, and you learn to appreciate the things that you would typically never even think about.