Sarah (Wilson) (07) Reed, who earned her bachelor’s in liberal studies and master’s in education from PLNU, teaches 11 students from Kindergarten to third grade in her moderate/severe special education class. Four of those students have diagnosed autism. For those four students, finding balance is key.
“Most of my students with autism have sensory integration disorder… their bodies need help achieving balance. Without balance, it’s difficult for them to focus,” said Reed.
Reed will help these students receive the sensory input they need by squeezing their arms, legs, or fingers so they can concentrate. She uses a special brush to achieve the same integration. Other students need more sensory input, so they will push on a wall or carry heavy objects. One of her students wears headphones throughout the day to help minimize anxiety and sensory overload. Reed also uses the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS).
“Students use icons to describe what they want, which will eventually and hopefully lead to speaking,” she explained.
Even with recent budget cuts and the dissolving of the autism team at her school, Reed says her students continue to get a “fabulous education in a positive environment.”
“My students have access to a myriad of resources onsite, including occupational therapists, physical therapists, psychologists, and speech therapists who are on call if I ever need help,” said Reed.
Reed has a heart for her work, passion that is key to the success of her students.
“The greatest joy [of teaching] is finding out what my students enjoy… Seeing a child with autism when they know we ‘get’ even a piece of them makes all the schedules, tantrums, and diapers worthwhile.”