The names in these stories have been changed.
Jan was a student with a severe physical disability due to Cerebral Palsy. She wanted to learn to read. She loved to listen to books on tape and wanted to be able to read books without recordings. When I began working with Jan, she had difficulty recognizing most words and could spell only a few words. After a year of working on basic reading skills she demonstrated remarkable progress. Computer assisted instruction was her favorite. She could repeat a lesson as many times as she wanted. A statement Jan made to me made an impact on my thinking. She said, “I love coming to school here because you EXPECT me to be able to learn!” Due to her extreme spasticity, Jan could not keep her eyes focused on a line of print long enough to read a whole book. However, she made enough progress in her time in the program to be able to write notes and read things that allowed her to be more independent.
Michael was a student with a spinal cord injury. His goal was to prepare for and pass the GED Test. The part of the GED test that Michael dreaded was the essay. He indicated that he had always hated writing. He was quiet and didn’t enjoy talking with others about his opinions. Oh yes, he had his own opinions, but he kept them to himself. Perhaps that’s the reason it was so difficult to put his thoughts on paper. One day, he was going to write a sample essay. He sat quietly, but nothing was put on paper. I began to ask him questions about his thoughts. What he said was exactly what needed to be put on paper. After the conversation, I asked him to write down what he had told me. He wrote a beautiful, organized essay. From then on, he thought about how he would tell someone his thoughts and then wrote them down. He successfully passed all of the GED tests.
Current Events Group
I decided to form a current events group. All of the students in the group had severe physical disabilities. Many used communication systems to speak. When I first began the group, the students became impatient waiting for the others to talk, interrupted and showed their displeasure. Most of the students had not spent much time listening to the news or even caring much about what happened in the world beyond their space. As their group skills developed, they began to listen to one another. One student began coming to the class well prepared. He had listened to the news on TV and radio and read as much as he could from newspapers and news magazines. The rest of the students did not want to be shown up by Rich so they began to come to class prepared for the discussion. Soon, as the teacher, I found myself challenged to keep up with my students. The skills they learned by participating in the group, such as listening, patience and interpersonal skills transferred to their place of work and I was told they had become better employees.