What do we know about Special Education? Well, in the School of Education we love learning from Dr. Clara Hauth and Dr. Nicci Dowd. Recently, both of them represented our school presenting “Enhancing Your Teacher Toolbox: Supporting Your Students with Autism and ADHD with Executive Functioning Skills in the Inclusive Classroom” for the faculty at Holy Spirit School in the diocese of Arlington.
Relying on their combined 60 years of experience on the topic, Dr. Hauth’s and Dr. Dowd’s presentation consisted of providing teachers, from kindergarten through 8th grade, strategies and interventions for classroom instruction to successfully teach and engage students with autism and ADHD. Their presentation included providing background information on the myths and then clarifying facts about autism—one fact being that autism is a disorder in which 1 in 54 students receive a diagnosis and the numbers are growing, said Dr. Dowd. When asked what she hopes to accomplish with the workshop, Dr. Dowd answered, “That teachers will walk away with the tools they need to implement the strategies presented.” When teaching students with special needs, Dr. Hauth and Dr. Dowd emphasized the importance of establishing a positive and active relationship with the students and their families, having high expectations of the students, embracing different ways to teach students with special needs, and giving students choices of activities.
“Empathy,” responded Dr. Dowd, to the question of what Catholic value is necessary to the objective of creating a more inclusive classroom, “being able to relate to the students; treating people the way you wanted to be treated.” She and her colleague expressed similar sentiments. Dr. Hauth, to the same question, chanted, “Everyone is welcome. Take people for who they are and embrace them.” They emphasized the significance of keeping Christ at the center of education because teachers are walking examples of Him and His mission. All students, which include students with autism and ADHD, need to be embraced and attended to with patience and encouragement.
Both special education experts expressed the sincere satisfaction that comes from teaching students with special needs. Sincere satisfaction springs from authentic passion. As if they share one mind, Drs. Hauth and Dowd stated that their experience supporting students with autism and ADHD have been enriching. “It has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life,” Dr. Hauth exclaimed, “being in classrooms with other teachers, learning from other teachers and students.” Education is reciprocal, Dr. Dowd said. “Students don’t just learn from teachers; teachers learn from their students.” Working with students with autism and ADHD have taught them the importance of being able to say what you mean and mean what you say, and that these wonderful students are concrete thinkers. However, everyone’s pedagogy can be enhanced to accommodate these exceptional students and Drs. Hauth and Dowd are the experts to consult.
Written by Pierre Thomas