Last Thursday our entire group from Buffalo State College observed at a public school named Colegia Diferencial Amapolas. This school specifically helps children with physical disabilities and the majority of the student population uses wheelchairs and walkers throughout the day.
There were many systems in place that were used at the school to help the children communicate and function throughout the school day. One of those systems included a color system that marked the wheelchairs of the students with red, green, or white. These colors would tell the teacher or adult how independent the student was when moving their wheelchair. The goal of this system is to instill independence in the children who are able to control their wheelchairs. This system also helps the students take initiative and ask for help or communicate their needs and wants to others verbally if they need help moving their wheelchair. Another system that was put in place by the school was a set of movements to help students communicate if they are not able to speak verbally. Some of these movements included the students turning their head to the left if they are trying to say “yes” or turning their head to the right if they are trying to say “no”. Having such systems in place continue to prepare students to function and communicate in society.
The classroom I observed had a group of 6 students and all of them were in wheelchairs. The severity of the disabilities of these children also effected their muscle use to communicate verbally. Even through the noises and excited movements the children exhibited, I was able to understand the joy these students felt being at school and working with a guest in their classroom.
The teachers of the classroom I was in created a sensory rich environment with different sounds, music, lights, and physical objects for the students to touch. This created a very stimulating environment for the students and helped keep the students engaged in the content being taught. A student with out a disability would typically not be able to handle such a large amount of stimulation, but the students in the class I observed were very mature in the way they handled the amount of stimulation present.
While we were there, the three teachers in the room put on a performance of a children’s story. They acted out the story and used props and sounds to help convey the message of the story for the students. The teachers dressed up, used the lights in the class, used music and sounds, and had props for the students to touch while they were telling the story. The best part about this amazing lesson was that the teachers were not aware they were going to have visitors to watch their lesson. Whether they were being observed or not, the teachers created a lesson that could be used as a model for any teacher working with students with disabilities.
I have never experienced a school, in Chile or in Estados Unidos, that has been so accommodating for the individual needs of each student. The most surprising part of this school to me was their ability to accommodate the majority of the students’ needs as a public school, with minimal funding.
The first thing I said to my professor after visiting the school was “I would love to work in a place just like that”. One week later, I am collaborating with my professors and the professors of Universidad Mayor to come back and do research or complete my Master’s degree in a school just like the one I described or that exact school. The details are far from being discussed and it may not actually happen, but it is amazing how quickly relationships and professional connections can form, no matter where you go.
It has always been a dream of mine to travel around the world and I began fulfilling that dream by coming to Chile. Another dream of mine is to teach internationally in another country. Now, I am one step closer to achieving that dream of mine right here in Chile.
I am currently a student at Buffalo State College working towards achieving my undergraduate’s degree in Exceptional Education with a concentration in English. I am extremely passionate about working with children and I believe it is my God given talent to teach. I grew up in the Buffalo Public School system and I dream about teaching in inner city schools with 1st graders. I am currently a teacher's aid at Edukid's Child Care Center in Buffalo and I am very grateful for the experience I am getting working with the children there. In my free time I enjoy playing my clarinet in the Buffalo Niagara Concert Band and dancing, specifically ballet.