Working with low-incidence children, who often have significant disabilities or sensory impairments, is a challenging yet immensely rewarding endeavor. By dedicating my efforts to educate and support these children, I believe that my work will have significant benefits for them both in the present and in their future lives.
In the immediate present, my work in educating low-incidence children provides them with opportunities for growth, development, and inclusion. These children often face unique challenges that require specialized support and interventions. By employing evidence-based strategies and individualized approaches, I can create a learning environment that caters to their specific needs and abilities.
First and foremost, my work focuses on providing these children with access to education. Many low-incidence children may struggle to access mainstream educational settings due to their disabilities. By working in specialized programs or schools, I can ensure that these children receive an education that is tailored to their individual requirements. This includes designing and implementing personalized learning plans, incorporating assistive technology, and utilizing alternative communication methods such as sign language or augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices.
Furthermore, my role as an educator goes beyond academic instruction. I aim to foster the overall development of low-incidence children, including their social, emotional, and life skills. I provide a nurturing and inclusive environment where they can interact with their peers, develop friendships, and build self-confidence. Through collaborative activities and social skills training, I support their ability to engage with others and establish meaningful connections. These skills are vital for their immediate well-being and future social integration.
Moreover, by promoting independence and self-advocacy, I empower low-incidence children to become active participants in their own lives. I work closely with them to set realistic goals, develop self-care routines, and acquire daily living skills. By nurturing their independence, I enable them to gain a sense of autonomy and self-worth, which are essential foundations for their future success and overall quality of life.
Looking ahead, my work with low-incidence children has long-term benefits that extend into their future. By providing them with a solid educational foundation, I equip them with the skills and knowledge necessary to pursue further education, vocational training, or employment opportunities. I strive to instill a love for learning and a growth mindset, empowering them to overcome challenges and embrace continuous personal and academic development.
Additionally, by fostering inclusive practices and raising awareness about the capabilities and contributions of low-incidence individuals, I contribute to a more inclusive society. As these children grow into adulthood, they will encounter environments that may not be fully prepared to accommodate their unique needs. However, by advocating for inclusive policies and promoting awareness of disability rights, I strive to create a more accepting and accessible society. This will pave the way for increased opportunities and reduced barriers for low-incidence individuals as they transition into adulthood.
In conclusion, my work in educating low-incidence children benefits them both in the present and in their future lives. By providing specialized education, promoting social and emotional development, fostering independence and self-advocacy, and advocating for inclusive practices, I aim to empower these children to reach their full potential. Through these efforts, I believe that I can make a lasting and positive impact on the lives of low-incidence children, helping them to thrive now and in the years to come.
I have been highly passionate about working with low-incidence children since I was very young. My younger sister has a rare and severe disability that qualifies her as low-incidence. I have always been highly involved in her life, and having her as my sister has helped me to realize my passion for working with individuals who have low-incidence disabilities.
Outside of my sister, I have been working as a caregiver for a young girl who also has a low-incidence disability for the past seven years. When the coronavirus pandemic began, I moved in with this girl's family to provide full-time care. As schools shut down, I began to provide education for this young girl in her home. She is non-verbal, visually impaired (legally blind), has significant developmental delays, and a severe intellectual impairment. According to adaptive functioning testing, she cognitively functions around the age of a 12-18 month old at the age of 13. However, I recognize and value that this does not mean she is incapable! She is just as capable of learning and showing her strengths as everyone else; however, due to her disabilities she needs some additional support to be able to learn and show her knowledge. In our time working during the coronavirus pandemic, I taught her to answer "yes / no" questions using her hand. She now can accurately and consistently answer "yes / no" questions by shaking her hand in a thumbs up position or putting her arms in an "x" shape. Prior to working with her on these skills, she was unable to communicate in any reliable way. In addition, I worked consistently with my client on being able to identify the letters of the alphabet using a speech generating device called a NovaChat. She is able to identify all 26 letters of the alphabet when asked reliably now! I also worked on teaching her to use the NovaChat to spell her first name. While this skill has taken a considerable amount of time to master, she has almost fully mastered being able to perform this skill independently! Through working with my client, as well as my experiences with my sister, I become more and more passionate in my belief that every child is capable and worthy of an education despite the severity of their disability. While it might take a different teaching method, extra time and consistency, countless adaptations and modifications, and providing the assistive technology to help these students be successful, it is all worth it! As a future educator, I hope to one day have my own classroom serving students with low-incidence disabilities. This is my greatest passion, and I am so excited to empower my students and teach them in the ways that help them learn to show their capabilities and all of the knowledge that they already possess! Presuming competence is key, individuals with disabilities are so much more than what initially meets the eye, which is also why I am a firm believer and advocate for the disability community!
Education is an artform that I was drawn to through theatre. My senior year of high school, I had the opportunity to teach at my theatre and dance studio, where I fell in love with working with students. Working with ages 3-14 made me realize that the passion that these students had for creative expression and performance was the same passion I shared for teaching. I began attending Mercer University with a Holistic Child (Elementary/Special Education dual degree), where I have been placed in two classrooms for my major. Initially I was hesitant about special education because I was uncertain of what it could entail. But in my fieldwork, I have seen that special education should not be scary for the students or the teachers. It is a conversation where the student expresses their needs, and the teacher meets them. It can be silly, such as a game to learn times tables or doing a wiggle dance to settle before a test. It can be sad, like when a student who has been trying so hard to improve fails another test. It can be frustrating, such as when three students need assistance at the same time and there are not enough assistants to help them all equally. But most of all it is rewarding. When the student goes from a D to a C because I differentiated their homework and helped them carefully while their classmates understood instantly. When the student who barely speaks laughs and continues your joke because I showed them it is ok to have fun. These moments make it worth the tears and frustration because you have helped a student in a new way that they can carry with them for life.
This past spring, I worked in a third-grade math class, where I worked with a variety of special education students who were placed in a general education classroom. I have helped students with a speech impediment gain confidence in answering questions aloud, a student with an undisclosed emotional-behavior disorder make a friend, and differentiate the whole class in a way that they could learn and collaborate. Beyond general education, I returned to my theatre to teach last summer. I was a camp counsellor who worked directly with the special needs students. D was a 12-year-old boy with an emotional behavior disorder and a reading/speech delay. At first, he hardly said a word and had loud meltdowns in classes. I was able to work with him and simplify scripts for him to say one line at a time and take breaks from his peers. Two weeks later, he read a Shakespearean sonnet to the class, but better yet he had made four friends. K was an 8-year-old girl with severe ADHD who frequently got overstimulated in class. As someone who also had ADHD, I was able to help her regulate her emotions and play games to calm down until she could rejoin her class and resume normal lessons. Lastly there was T, a 14-year-old genderfluid student who with autism that prevented her from participating in her favorite class due to anxiety and overstimulation. I helped her ease into lessons and stayed beside her, often playing silly games to show her mistakes are ok. She led an improv scene onstage and tightly hugged me with tears afterwards, because I was the first to tell her it was possible. I remember all my students and their accomplishments, but these are the ones to stick out in my mind. Education is more than memorizing facts and numbers, it is the feeling of pride from watching the students succeed.