Sunday, April 27, 2008

C'ville District Chair Featured on NBC29 News

Poetry Gives AHS Class Freedom of Expression
Reported by Claire O'Brien on April 23, 2008 04:56 PM

When you're mad, you yell. When you're happy, you laugh. But what if a disability got in the way of expressing how you feel? One program is opening up a world of expression for some very special students.

The words are flowing from the Albemarle High School students we visited, but they weren't in your everyday English class. These students had something standing in the way of expressing how they feel: they all have autism.

"For a teenager to have a significant disability is huge, especially if it impacts their social skills, their communication, their sense of self," said special education teacher Leah Fechtmann.

Through poems, the students are able to express feelings that they may not be able to verbalize. They get extra help from Rose Williams, Miss Wheelchair Virginia. The students choose words that describe their inner feelings, then they put those feelings into poetry.

According to Williams, "It builds self-esteem. It builds their self-esteem and self-worth."

When they're better able to express what they can do, they don't focus so much on what they can't. "We were seeing their struggles. When they finally verbalized their struggles they went on to their feelings of being valued and appreciated, which were much, much larger," shared Fechtman.

Williams said, "They're so proud of their accomplishment, by doing that." Link: