For my community connections project in EEX 3241, I completed two service learning opportunities. I spent four hours helping at a local dance for adolescents and adults with special needs, and I spent 16 total hours caring for a family with two sons with special needs.
When going into this project, I was completely comfortable and didn’t have any doubts. Completing the majority of the project was easy, but I found that working with adolescents and adults with special needs was very different than working with children, and I had to adapt my style to fit their age.
I first became interested in special education when I started babysitting for a few families with children with special needs when I was 13 years old. Since then, I found that I really enjoyed helping children with special needs and I would love to make it a profession. I have gained experience through babysitting, working at the Conductive Education Center of Orlando, taking classes at UCF, and working in ASD and exceptional education classrooms at Carillon Elementary School.
Every month, the Oviedo Recreation and Parks department holds a special populations dance at Riverside Park. This dance is geared towards any adolescents and adults with special needs and attracts about 200 participants each time. The dances include music, food, prizes, and competitions. I helped out at one of the dances by aiding in set up and break down of equipment, putting out food, organizing medical papers, and dancing with the participants.
Although the Special Populations Dance is hosted by the city of Oviedo, it is sponsored and carried out mostly with the help of the Oviedo Optimist Club. To view the Oviedo Optimist Club’s website, or to see other ways to get involved with them, click on the logo in the middle of the page.
Picture from: http://oviedooptimist.com/
As my second service learning opportunity for my community connections project, I spent 16 hours with the sons of Dr. and Mrs. Lach; family friends with two sons with special needs. On various occasions, I spent time at the Lachs’ house after school: tutoring the boys, helping with homework, playing games, helping with therapy, and caring for the boys while their parents were out.
The oldest Lach son is Grant, a 10 year old who is in fourth grade at St. Luke’s Lutheran school. Grant has a mild form of autism and was diagnosed at a very young age. Along with taking a medicine called Topamax, Grant also deals with his autism by receiving help from a specialized assistant in school and using special work tactics when finishing homework independently.
When working with and caring for Grant, I am responsible for giving him his medicine, helping him with homework or studying, and monitoring his behavior. In our free time, I found that playing Monopoly with Grant helps him with his math and counting skills, as long as I can keep him interested that long!
Bryce Lach is the younger Lach son. Bryce was diagnosed with spina bifida in utero. Bryce has undergone some really cutting-edge surgery to try to help his spina bifida, including a stem cell surgery in India.
Spina Bifida occurs when the spine of a baby does not fully connect during pregnancy, leaving a hole in the spinal cord which effects movement and brain function. Some mothers abort their fetus after finding out he or she has spina bifida, and many children with severe brain damage from spina bifida don’t live very long. Bryce’s spina bifida affects him in the lower region, including leg and foot movement and bladder control.
Bryce is a wonderful 8 year old boy who is trying hard to live his life normally with his disability. He works with a physical therapist frequently, and has taken great strides. Bryce is able to walk with special leg braces called AFO’s.
Because Bryce has a physical therapist with him almost all of the time helping him at school, he has become very dependent on other people. When working with Bryce, I find that our biggest struggle was trying to get him to work independently – both on school work and life skills.
When working with Bryce, I was responsible for helping out with his physical therapy, homework, exercising, and helping him with personal hygiene.
I really enjoyed completing my community connections service learning project this semester. Working the Special Populations Dance really took me out of my comfort zone and made me realize that working with adolescents and adults with mental and physical disabilities was very different than working with the children I am usually exposed to. Working with the Lach family was also very interesting because I had exposure to different kinds of disabilities which required different handling techniques at one time – much like my future special education classroom. I believe it is safe to say I learned a lot during my service learning and I plan to take this gained knowledge with me through my profession.
My Service Learning Experiences:
› Oviedo Recreation and Parks Special
› One-on-one nanny & tutor for family with
two sons with special needs