#7: “I’m Seeking Not Just Answers, But Also Opportunities” – Preparing Your Pitch

Note: The exact terms that I should be using are unclear to me, so if anyone has any suggestions, I would greatly appreciate it.

 

Look at the people around the room. Everyone here is different, everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, everyone has something to offer and everyone deserves an education to help them reach their full potential. How can school systems with limited funding serve all learners with so many diverse needs?

I feel like I’ve had success in school because it’s set up for learners like me. I think my strengths as a learner tend to be most valued in our school system. But I’ve often wondered how education might be for others, specifically for a student on the autism spectrum. It must be so frustrating when your strengths and interests don’t align with what your school, and even society, values.

 

Now, more and more teachers are trying to find pathways of education for all learners. Instead of just sitting in a classroom all day, listening and taking notes, some teachers are taking students outside to learn first-hand. Even with these advances in education, students with autism can struggle learning in this type of environment.

So the question is, is it “better” for students on the autism spectrum to go to a public school, or a school specifically designed for their needs? I know the answer is, “it depends”. There are so many factors, including the student, the public school, the options for “special needs” schools, and the student’s peers. Maybe a student has such a high level of individual needs that they cannot function in a typical classroom. However, if this is not the case, and the public school has educators that can help these students, then maybe the community that is their peers can actually help prepare a student on the spectrum for life after high school. It seems to me that there is also great value in the social interactions between students on the spectrum and typical learners for typical learners because they can learn to understand and accept differences.

At the risk of repeating myself, the stakes are extremely high. Education is sometimes underappreciated and undervalued by a lot students because they don’t understand the consequences of not having a quality education. The United States has one of the best educational systems in the world, so students don’t always understand how lucky they are until they see someone who isn’t as lucky. Despite the fact that, legally, every child must get an education, not everyone is able to reach their full potential because of their learning styles.

 

I’m not dead-set on my specific topic. I’m open to any suggestions. But if I do continue with this topic, I have a lot of questions, and from those questions, I’m seeking not just answers, but also opportunities. There are 20 “special needs” schools in Vermont. What makes them “special”? What can we learn from them? Can certain characteristics of these schools be applied to public schools? All these questions are currently unknown, and I hope that if I continue with my topic I will not only answer these questions, but help those on the autism spectrum with something as important and vital as their education.

 

Here is a link to my presentation.

Emily Pecsok

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