Sunday, July 09, 2006

Intervencion Temprana, Prescholar & Primaria

During my first week at Centro de Atencion Multiple I had the pleasure of getting to know the younger students and their teachers. A typical day for the students begins at 7:00 in the morning and ends mid-day at 11:00. The students have activities until mid way through the morning and then stop for a small mid morning breakfast followed by a few minutes of "recreo" or recreation. They then return to their classrooms for the remainder of the morning. The school is comprised of 3 long buildings (one classroom in width) made of concrete block. The classrooms have a ceiling fan but no airconditioning. The windows are along both the front & rear of the classroom and have louvered wooden shutters that open to allow for airflow. I was pleased to see that there is a bathroom in each of the classrooms of the younger children. Each classroom has modest furnishings of tables, chairs and desks depending on the size and needs of the children. Decorations are sparce, but reflect the creativity of each teacher.

Intervencion Temprana
I really enjoyed visiting with the Early Intervencion group. This group is comprised of young children anywhere from 18 months up to 6 years depending on the severity of the child´s disability. The students are accompanied by their mothers to class. This serves two purposes, first their is not staffing available to care for the needs of all of the children and secondly, the mother´s learn how to work with their child and support one another. The group focuses on physical therapy and stimulation activities. Weekly each child receives one hour of direct physical therapy with the therapist. The current teacher of the group has also instituted having daily therapy time within the classroom where the moms & children go through their therapy programs. Following physical therapy the group then does stimulation activities focusing on oral, visual, auditory and tactile stimulation. The mothers also receive weekly therapy sessions with the school psychologist to discuss their needs in regard to their child and their family. I was extremely impressed by the dedication of the mothers and their teacher.

The preschool group at CAM is full of energy! Wow! Alot different than working with highschool students! What cuties though! In order to continue into preschool a student must be ambulatory. This for me was very difficult to accept considering I work with children with more involved physical disabilities and I know the benefit they receive from attending school. A large percentage of the kids in the preschool group have Down Syndrome. Most appear to have mild to moderate intellectual disabilities. Most can follow directions well and only a few have disruptive behavior problems. This group really enjoyed having their pictures taken as they played outside. Their indoor activities focus on colors, shapes, puzzles, songs, picture books etc. This group due to size and age would really benefit from structured teaching stratagies in terms of classroom groupings, organization, centers etc. Some future goals!

Primaria (1st & 2nd grade)
The lowest level elementary group is 1st & 2nd grade. What must be understood is that children can be in this group up until 9 or 10 years old. The problem faced by the special education system is that as a whole they are still required to educate their students based on the curriculm taught in the regular education schools. Thus, a child does not pass up until the upper grades until they have either mastered enough of the skills taught or eventually when their need to be with an appropriate peer group. At CAM there are two classrooms of 1st and 2nd grade students. The students in this group begin to learn their letters, numbers, and concepts of numbers, space & location. Some students also begin learning to read and do math depending on their functioning level. The challenge that begins to develop at this level is the divide between the children with mild disabilities who can do academic work (that we would consider resource level students or students who can be integrated into the regular classroom) and those who truly need to do more functional type activities. This issue was raised by many teachers throughout the school and is beginning to be addressed on a state and national level as the practice of integrating students into the regular elementary schools has begun.

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