Broward Teacher Adjusts Lesson Plans to Help Students With Autism During Distance Learning

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No one ever said teaching from your patio instead of a classroom is the ideal way to reach children who have autism. 

It’s been a major adjustment for Stefania Giraldo, who teaches 4th and 5th graders at Park Springs Elementary School in Coral Springs. 

“It did take a lot of creativity in the sense that I had to change my mindset and change how I perceived schooling, because traditionally, it’s a lot of paper, just working one-on-one, a lot of communication face-to-face,” Giraldo said. “The whole special education model is to overcome challenges, so, you know, for us, going to an online platform is just another way of looking at it as, how can we overcome this challenge?”

These days Giraldo is using online resources to help teach academic lessons. She’s also determined to make everything familiar to her special needs students who rely on having set routines. So they have a morning meeting just like they did in school, except the class is on screen together instead of being in a room together. 

“Miss you guys dearly, I really wish I could go back to the classroom,” Giraldo said in a video greeting she sent to parents and students. 

When you’re dealing with children with autism, each child has different needs, so Giraldo had to create a specialized lesson plan for every one of her students.

“Once you kind of look at the child as an individual, and you figure out what their needs are, the rest of it just comes really easy,” Giraldo explained. “Some of our more complex learners have benefited more from the video chatting because we are able to kind of see each other and it has been beneficial to find time frames to meet with them one on one.”

She does meet one on one with her eight students, all of whom are children who have autism, on a regular basis. 

One of those students is Ricky, a 5th grader. His mother told us her son has been doing well academically, but distance learning can’t replicate the human touch teachers provide in person. 

“Yes he does miss that, he misses the connection with the teacher and his friends at school, you know, the whole routine of the day,” said Alma Buckeye, Ricky’s mother. 

Giraldo misses those connections, too, but like all teachers these days, she’s playing the cards she’s been dealt, and hoping her students are winning.

“Just because they’re children with autism doesn’t mean that they can’t also function in an online platform," Giraldo said. "That’s what we’re here for."

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