Teachers We Love!

Deborah Moeller, A Dream Come True
By Patricia Obenour

Do you have a grade school child with Asperger’s Syndrome? Perhaps you can identify with my son’s early school experience: a different school every year from preschool through first grade; some very nice school experiences along with some midyear withdrawals from schools that weren’t meeting his needs; recesses and lunch periods spent walking around alone talking to himself; ostracism and teasing from fellow students; a decline in self-confidence. If this sounds even vaguely familiar, you can imagine the relief and cautious optimism I felt when I first visited a special day class designed to handle kids with a variety of skills and needs, including children on the autism spectrum. Let me introduce Mrs. Moeller, the teacher of this wonderful class.

When you first walk into Mrs. Moeller’s classroom, you know something is different. You see a detailed schedule for the day on the blackboard. You notice a slanted board for writing, a copy of Handwriting Without Tears, and a keyboard program. You see that each child has a notebook binder containing directions to the bathroom, a homework log, a weekly social skills project, and loose-leaf sheets of paper for parent-teacher communication.

You turn your attention to the students and observe nine children facing the front of the room and participating in a social skills lesson. You look to the front of the room to see how the teacher is managing to hold the attention of this group of children. You observe Mrs. Moeller in action as she works the room – calling a child’s name here, touching a shoulder there, gently lifting a chin, doing whatever is needed to get every child involved.

Later in the day, you observe a supervised recess period. Today the kids are playing board games together or working on an Oregon Trail trek cooperatively. Mrs. Moeller and her aide, Mrs. Chang, monitor the play period, stepping in when necessary and letting the children work out their differences by themselves when possible. If you had visited on another day, you might have seen the kids participating in a game of kickball supervised by Mrs. Moeller.

Not only does Mrs. Moeller spend each recess with her kids, she eats her lunch with them as well. With no teacher breaks at lunch or recess, you ask her how she gets through what looks like a very demanding day. She says that, even though she does get tired, she chooses to spend her entire day with her kids because her number one priority is keeping them safe. If your child has ever been persistently teased or bullied, you know that this is music to a parent’s ears.

To the parent of a child with Asperger’s Syndrome, this teacher and this class are a dream come true. With a high degree of structure, continual coaching in social skills, accommodations for those with handwriting difficulties, and constant, firm and loving guidance, this class is tailor made for kids

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