SOESD / Learning Matters / Newsletter Archive / June 2008 / Senior Project Helps Students with Disabilities Choose Classes
Senior Project Helps Students with Disabilities Choose Classes
By Janell Walton, School Psychologist,
Along with preparing for early graduation and planning her future, Ashland High School Senior Eliah Prichard has something else on her mind: giving back to her school community by helping 8th grade students with educational disabilities better plan for their own futures…
Eliah knows that the transition from middle to high school can be overwhelming. There are a lot of choices to be made, including selection of elective classes. Fiber Arts, Theatre, Stage Management, Photography…and the list goes on. The options are exciting, but for students with unique learning needs, sensory sensitivities, or behavioral challenges, finding just the right class is especially important.
In order to help students match their choice of electives with their own individual profile of strengths and needs, Eliah set out to create a visual reference to augment the standard print version of the Ashland High School course guide. With guidance from SOESD School Psychologist, Janell Walton, Eliah created an ‘at a glance’ Checklist and photo collage for each elective class. The ‘at-a glance’ Checklist was designed to efficiently provide information on a range of variables important to student with educational disabilities. Teachers rated their course according to the following:
- Noise Level (quiet, talking/discussion, loud/instruments/machines);
- Activity Level (sitting in desk, standing or working on projects, physically active);
- Social Interactions (independent, work with partner, group work);
- Routine (consistent, flexible, frequent changes);
- Location (classroom, campus, field trips/community).
- Reading Skills (n/a, functional K-6, basic 7-9, advanced 9-12);
- Writing Skills (n/a, functional K-6, basic 7-9, advanced 9-12);
- Math Skills (n/a, functional K-6, basic 7-9, advanced 9-12);
- Computer Skills (not critical, critical),
- Homework (in class, weekly-at home, daily-at home);
- Work Pace (individualized, steady, fast);
- Organizational skills (independent, teacher-supported).
- Oral (lecture, talking/discussion);
- Visual (videos, graphics, visual aids);
- Hands-On (hands-on activity as a primary aspect of the class).
If applicable, safety considerations were also listed (such as use of power tools, work without direct supervision, etc.).
Following the checklist, Eliah created a photo collage for each elective class providing a visual representation of the classroom environment. For example, for Foods & Nutrition the collage shows groups of kids laughing and working together in a busy kitchen; for Fiber Arts we see examples of graphed patterns and a student working alone at a sewing machine; for Library Aide, photos convey the sense of an orderly, quiet, well-lit environment; and for Theatre Arts the excitement and drama almost jump off the page. Through these photos, Eliah was able to convey the social and sensory atmosphere of the class.
The visual reference was made available to special education teachers at both the 8th grade and high school level for use as a resource to help students prepare for upcoming course selections. Eliah was granted an independent study credit toward graduation, but more importantly, because of her initiative and personal commitment, Ashland High School now has a tangible product which will benefit the next generation of students.