Life Lessons for Teachers and Their Students

By Nicole Terzakis, Director of Social Services at The Arc of Atlantic County

For the past three years, Dr. Shelly Meyers has been teaching a Stockton College Graduate level Special Education class at The Arc for teachers in school for their Masters in Special Education. She lectures for the first half, and in the second half the student teachers work with Arc clients on academic and functional life skills that are important to the individual.  This program is so valuable for the students and for the people we support because they’re getting 1:1 and sometimes 2:1 assistance with learning how to cook, build social skills and develop math, reading and writing skills using iPads.

The Spring 2012 semester’s class was called “Survey of Moderate to Severe Developmental Disabilities”. The student teachers didn’t really know what to expect when they walked in the door. Only a few of them had worked with Arc clients before. For the others, their only experience with someone with a disability was the children with learning disabilities in their regular education classes. At the end of the semester, students shared their comments with The Arc about how meaningful this experience was for them.  Here are some of their comments:

Frank learns to cook with help from a student teacher.

“I think The Arc lessons are extremely important in understanding moderate disabilities and need to be a part of the course. I can’t imagine learning about this kind of experience I am having through a textbook or lecture. I think the best way to facilitate our class and future classes is to keep The Arc part of the course.”

“The past few weeks have not only been very emotional and entertaining, but also educational. The first thing that I have learned is raising a child with a disability is very demanding and stressful. Parents of children with disabilities are in need of support for their wellness; however, services are often unavailable due to lack of funding or if parents don’t know their own rights. This is where teachers need to step up to the plate to be the parent’s best advocate.”

“Estelle had an amazing time using the iPad. She was laughing and smiling so much that

Estelle helps prepare a meal. Thanks to this course, she has built confidence in the kitchen and shares her new skills and meals with her housemates.

I couldn’t help laughing with her at her loving nature and excitement for something so many of us take for granted; the simple skills of spelling a word, doing a puzzle or simple motor skills to use the iPad.”

These are just a few. The clients look forward to coming each week. We are done for the summer and they are bummed about that. But starting again in the fall, the students will be back on Monday nights. This class is open to anyone who receives services from The Arc – adults or children. Individuals must find their own transportation to The Arc office and everyone eats a healthy dinner that they have prepared while there.  For more details, please contact Nicole Terzakis at 609-485-0800 x 201 or nterzakis@arcatlantic.org.

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