THERAPEUTIC
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Individualized Education Helps Green Chimneys Student Grow

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April 1, 2015

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"Are you having a wonderful day?” one student asks in a soft song-like tone amid the excited lunchtime buzz in the dining hall.

The question may seem as typical as the “how are you” pleasantries that, as adults, we ask each other in passing countless times throughout any given day. For Green Chimneys students however, many of whom struggle with communication and sensory overload, the question is not only unexpected, its sweet mix of innocence and intent is often met with great glee.

One of Tommy’s test subjects is gardening teacher Michelle Marquez. When Tommy began at Green Chimneys in the spring of 2013, his initial participation in garden class was challenging. The quarter acre of open space in the school garden signaled a shift in Tommy’s body language; he would become overwhelmed, agitated and fidgety. “Reaching him seemed an impossibility, as the distance he put — voluntarily or involuntarily — between himself and his world grew,” noted Mrs. Marquez.

Wanting to build on this budding conversationalist’s skills, Mrs. Marquez set out to make an “experience book” where Tommy is the main character and together they develop a story. Mrs. Marquez discovered through research that creating this book would highlight communication between the two of them, and would be an ancillary vehicle to aid in development of Tommy’s listening, speech, language and literacy skills.

NEWS_Opening-Students-World_SCHOOL_April3.jpgTo Mr. Graham, a special education teacher with over 10 years of experience, helping students with special needs develop conversation skills, as well as prepare them for adapting to changing environments is as important as teaching reading and math. “For Tommy, learning how to make small talk is a life-changing skill, it’s key to unlocking his world,” explains Mr. Graham. “The skills that most of us take for granted, require perseverance from Tommy and he has been very brave to reach out to people and past his comfort zone.” Slowly becoming successful in social situations, Tommy’s confidence is growing with practice.

And that’s not the only area where Tommy receives individualized coaching and support. For most Green Chimneys children, preparing for success in school comes with a host of support services to help each child as a whole. From animal-assisted activities and experiential learning to specific therapies (occupational, speech and clinical), individualized education plans are carefully constructed. As Tommy’s social worker Beth Camann explains, “We’ve adapted to Tommy.” After all, children don’t come to Green Chimneys because we know how to teach them. They come to us because we have the resources and aptitude for learning how to teach them.

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