New Braunfels ISD teachers Stacey Roff, Angie Hoenes and Lanette Nash aren’t charged with teaching their first and second graders how to read and write. “In our classroom, we strive to teach that you don’t need to hit, kick, scream or cry to express what you need or want,” Roff says. “We teach that sitting at a table is much more comfortable than being under the table, that eating a cookie is tastier than eating Play-Doh, and most importantly, that giving eye contact or a touch is not a scary or traumatic thing. We teach what many take for granted.”
The students are enrolled in a program called Life Skills, where they learn functional communication skills as well as functional academic skills like counting, adding, language structure, word identification, reading, and sharing space with others. “Our student’s needs are widely varied; therefore, our educational focus is always changing per student,” says Nash. “The one consistent skill we always focus on is communication, as all of our students are in need.”
In the classroom, Roff, Nash, and Hoenes routinely use the Applied Behavior Analysis process, a research-based practice that applies interventions by teaching play, communication, self-help and academic skills to children with an Autism spectrum disorder. Through ABA-style teaching, the Life Skills students use play to open lines of communication between peers and teachers. The teachers are also able to assess a student’s academic learning by examining the generalization of skills and Individualized Education Programs when independent and with peers. By focusing on their students’ interests to target needs, the students have blossomed.
Although the students are thriving, Hoenes says it’s the teachers who have learned more from their students: “When you stop focusing on one’s disability, and foster their ability, amazing things are bound to happen. Now that’s a lesson we can all learn from.” #IAmTXEd New Braunfels ISD