Four years ago a special partnership was formed with the then newly created Cubs Corner Class at Veterans Park School and the LPVEC Autism Middle School Program located at Ludlow High School. Ms. Amy Harris, Veterans Park Adjustment Counselor and Cubs Corner Teacher, explained that the idea for this partnership originated with the then, LPS Special Education Supervisor, Mrs. Nikki Reed, as a way to make the goals of teaching empathy, kindness, cooperation and acceptance more relevant.
Reed, currently the principal at Chapin Street School, is pleased that the program is continuing. “The Cubs Corner students are learning, and more importantly, emulating the importance of being kind, helpful, patient and accepting. They are true role models for their peers, teachers, families and community.”
Over the years the partnership has evolved and grown into a meaningful relationship for all involved. “My class counts down the days until they can go to the Cubs Corner Class at Veterans Park School,” shared Kimberly Markham, LPVEC Teacher. “They are so excited to see the students each time. Over the last few years, we have made meaningful relationships with the program and students. I feel so fortunate that we have had this program for the last 4 years.”
The class meets for one period, every eight days. On this day, students were learning about assistive technology; specifically how to communicate using a device and not your voice. Harris explained that to achieve a better understanding of what it is like to not have the ability to speak, students worked with partners to ask and answer questions using an iPad with a special voice output program called Sonoflex.
Many of the Veterans Park students found this task to be more difficult than they had anticipated. 5th grade student Lucas Alvan, shared, “I liked using the iPads to communicate because it helped me learn to ask questions without talking. It was tough finding the icons or words, and was frustrating, at times. By the end of the class, though, I felt like I was able to type my questions faster.”
At the end of the class students had gained a better understanding of what it is like for a person who depends on a device for communication, to be heard. In the words of 5th grade student Ricky Williams, “I was able to put myself in other students shoes and understand not everyone can use their voice, but they still can share their thoughts.”
"The collaboration between Cubs Corner and LPVEC has been amazing,” shared Harris. “The friendships formed have created strong bonds and connections. The excitement increases with each class and experience."
Mrs. Melissa Knowles, Veterans Park Principal, is grateful for this partnership, “When I observe our students interact during the Cubs Corner classes I see students who are caring, compassionate, and genuine. These are all qualities we strive to instill in all of our students at Vets Park.”
Photo Credits: Mrs. Melissa Knowles