Wordpower Lesson #3: Special-needs students are called “special” with good reason

Over the next several days, I’ll continue to share some lessons I learned from the Cenovus Wordpower 2016 tour. Today, it’s my pleasure to write about some experiences working among special-needs learners in the Bonnyville and Cold Lake areas.

When I worked full-time as an elementary and junior-high teacher, numerous special-needs learners were integrated into my grades four, seven and eight classrooms. These students always brightened my classrooms and during the Cenovus Wordpower tour, the special-needs students again brought a welcome light and energy with them.

My fellow Wordpower touring artists: Gail de Vos, Hazel Hutchins and Georgia Graham

My fellow Wordpower touring artists: Gail de Vos, Hazel Hutchins and Georgia Graham

Colin [student names changed], for example, is a junior-high student who thrives within the warm, caring environment of his classroom. Despite the challenges of autism, he is comfortable interacting with the other students and adults around him.

Because some of the autistic students who I’ve met in the past have had difficulty with new people and unfamiliar situations, I gave Colin some space to see if he wished to approach me, as opposed to the other way around.

I was delighted when this young man progressively worked his way nearer me while I was setting up my Powerpoint presentation. When Colin’s teacher introduced me, he even shook my hand.

One of Colin’s favourite activities is doing word scrambles with his classmates. His joy when he successfully solved the puzzles using the words ‘author’ and ‘Karen’ was rivalled only by mine. In fact, I felt like part of the grand prize. As though I’d been anointed “Queen For A Day.”

Inspiring student art in Cold Lake

Inspiring student art in Cold Lake

In the same classroom, I met another special-needs student who engaged me in the most charming conversation ever.

Kolton: Are you an author?

Me: Yes, I am.

Kolton: I know a good book. It’s called Romeo And Juliet. Did you write it?

Me: What a perfectly lovely question. Unfortunately, no, I didn’t write Romeo And Juliet but I wish with my whole heart that I had.

Kolton: *beams*

Me: *also beams*

I love how special-needs students have their own way of making others feel extra special–in their own time, and in their own beautiful way. Lucky, lucky me to have met these wonderful students.

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