Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Our Unsung Heroes

SEA's in our district is the term for Special Education Assistant. They work with the most vulnerable students on a small group or 1 to 1 basis. They work with students with autism, students with global deficits, and students with physical impairments. They make less money than a teacher, perhaps because there is less formal education required to qualify for this position, and they officially work fewer hours. Yet in practice they have very demanding jobs requiring a vast set of skills to meet the needs of each kid.

Sometimes their students lash out at them, spit at them or cause them harm accidentally or on purpose. They wear brave smiles, laugh, and continue to do their duty with little or no complaint that I have heard.

I don't propose paying SEA's more, but I would like to see these SEA's get more professional development time. The relatively small cost of training SEA's to work with computers and new technology, perhaps some adaptive technology (speech recognition software for instance) if schools have the budget, would pay high dividends.

This would mean that even if a teacher was not aware of some of the technology options available to help a student with special needs - using speech recognition software, recording a student's voice using a computer and microphone, using interactive websites to teach math concepts - the SEA would know of a variety of technology strategies to help their students.

I think its time we gave these "unsung heroes of the school" tools that may save them time and effort. Everyone wins in the end when all members of the team have good technology skill sets.

1 comment:

amaliacarmel said...

As a mother with two children with special needs (cerebral palsy and Asperger's), I agree completely. We have had a variety of experiences with the special ed teachers in our district. Some have been very helpful in finding adaptive devices and in using technology to enable our sons to do and learn more. Others have been stuck in the dark ages with excuses about funding and lack of time. If teachers in the same fairly well-funded district can have such different approaches, there is something more than just money missing. Self-initiated training is fantastic, and I applaud all teachers who dive into the digital world to learn how it can help their students. But district-sponsored training is a must, and if it doesn't include adaptive technologies from THIS century, then what are we paying for? Beyond that, though, I encourage all teachers to let go of the reigns when working with their students with special needs. When children take over their own learning, it is knowledge that is transferrable and USED! The tools available today allow that, but it requires teachers who have the courage to make mistakes and learn along with their students how to use them.