Final Thoughts

December 15, 2009

The last day of working at Riverside was an emotional and reflective day for all of the volunteers. It is sad and strange to have formed such close ties to the students and teachers with a small chance of retaining contact with them. It is difficult to choose where to begin in this final blog, but I would mainly like to discuss my changing perception of disability after this semester.…

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Christmas Play

December 09, 2009

Guest blog by Tracy Lyons, Junior (Math major with ESS and Theology minors) at Notre Dame

When I walked into the classroom today, one of the first things I noticed was that Emilie was using her walker. She usually uses her walker outside during recess, but is always in her wheelchair in the classroom, so I was shocked. One of the teachers told me that she had been using her walker most of the day, and had used it to walk around the entire school that morning. “She’s so determined,” the teacher then said. Emilie then stepped away from her walker so she was standing on her own. She took a few steps and then began to fall, but every time the teacher put her walker back in reach, Emilie moved away from it. It was amazing to watch this little girl walk. If you had asked me at the beginning of the semester, I would have said Emilie would be in her wheelchair forever, but now I see that does not necessarily have to be the case and I think she is just going to become more and more mobile.…

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Nick's Blog

December 07, 2009

Guest Blog from Nick Holzemer, a Junior Biology and History Major at Notre Dame

It hit me partway through the day that it was our penultimate week at Riverside and I began realizing how much I would miss it. I feel like I am just starting to make significant progress in getting to know the kids. When they remember your name or ask you to help them with something, no matter how simple it may be, it really feels like my time has been worthwhile.…

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Music Therapy

November 30, 2009

During the Riverside lecture today, we discussed the technique of Music therapy, an interactive, primarily non-verbal intervention. I enjoyed the lecture because I was very unfamiliar with the theory behind this method. 

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Rain Man

November 23, 2009

Today was a very productive day in regards to understanding developmental disabilities. On Thursdays during the morning before I go to Riverside, I have a Social and Cognitive Development lecture. Today we discussed challenges in social and cognitive development – specially, autism and savants. This is review of a previous post, but our professor summarized the triad of impairments (according to the DSM…

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Three Stories

November 16, 2009

On October 15, I wrote on the interesting perspective of Anne Ruggles Gere, who writes on the visibility of disability in her own daughter, Cindy. During the lecture this week, we had the privilege of hearing three parents’ perspectives on their children’s disabilities. This lecture was certainly the most poignant of the semester. Listening to their experiences and witnessing their courage and good humor was incredibly powerful; I will summarize each of their stories to the best of my ability.…

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Intensive Interaction

November 10, 2009

This week’s lecture helped to resolve several questions I’ve had in the past few entries, notably the issues I raised on October 8th in regards to imitation. My conclusion that mimicry is used informally in the classroom as a means of normal social interaction was only partially true – equality is the greater issue.…

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“Don’t blame me, it’s my Autism.”

November 02, 2009

I apologize for the delay in my posts. As it was fall break for the main ND campus, the London branch also enjoyed a week off; there was no Riverside trip on either the 22nd or the 29th of October, which was Riverside’s half-term break. This blog will address the session on October 15.

To supplement my observations, I have been reviewing articles I read in my sophomore year as part of Essaka Joshua’s Disability Studies College Seminar. Recently, I re-read Anne Ruggles Gere’s article “Seeing is/not Believing: Visibility, Invisibility, and Disability Studies in Education.” In this work, Gere addresses the issues as pertaining to her own adopted daughter, Cindy, who has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS…

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Citizen Archie

October 12, 2009

Today we did further work on citizenship. Harry and Adam were assigned to bringing me around the school and introducing me to five or six administrative figures, then they were told to show me their three favorite places in the school. Even after four weeks, the school is a maze to me and I was impressed by how well they navigated the place they clearly see not just as school, but as a second home. I was also impressed with how many people they were familiar with as we walked the halls. Virtually every adult greeted Harry and Adam by name and many students exchanged hellos as well. The exercise was aimed at working on the boys’ communication methods as members of their community.…

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An Episode

October 05, 2009

Unlike last week, it was a very hectic day in David’s classroom. One male student had an episode brought on by nothing apparent to the rest of us. In short, we were seated in a semi-circle as David lectured on the importance of understanding citizenship and being an engaged and responsible part of the community as the boy simply stood up, started yelling, and knocked over everything in his vicinity, including a table, chairs, and nearly toppling the fridge. Mark and David tried to restrain him but the two grown men could neither calm him nor stop him. Their approach led to greater protest. They tried to drag him outside, but by grabbing their feet and forcing his body weight to the ground, the boy effectively made the trio immobile. After letting him briefly rest on the ground, two female TA’s approached him gently and took him to the nurse. He was much more complacent with the women; imitation is often a pattern in autism, and I wondered if, even in his heightened emotional state, imitation led the boy to calm.…

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A Quiet Day

September 28, 2009

It was a quiet day at Riverside today. Some students in the class went sailing in the morning and, due to a long traffic delay, did not return until late in the afternoon. Therefore, no formal activities were scheduled and I was given the chance to simply socialize with the students present and observe communication among the students in a natural and unstructured environment.…

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“Shut up!” “No!” and “I’m not happy with you”

September 17, 2009

We worked on photo booklets documenting a recent field trip the class took together. During crafts, I had to be separated from Mo, who touches strangers too often. He would sit a little too closely and repeat phrases, unthreateningly, but close to my face. I must say that I felt relieved to be away from him so I could interact with other pupils, but I never felt to be in any true danger. I wonder if his is another situation in which home life deeply affects his classroom demeanour. He repeats “Shut up!” “No!” and “I’m not happy with you” as soon as anyone opens their mouths to speak. Is he venting what he hears most often himself?…

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My First Day in the Classroom

September 10, 2009

Today was my first day in the classroom at Riverside. I chose to work with older students because I have had some experience with teenagers from volunteering at The Logan Center in South Bend. I was placed in a classroom with sixteen-year-olds and am happy with my decision, though I am slightly out of my comfort zone; working with this age group in any type of school presents extra challenges unique to the age. I feel that this will afford me greater opportunities in making stronger personal relationships than I perhaps could in a classroom with younger students.…

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Learning from Others: My Work Abroad with Disabled Adolescents

September 03, 2009

My name is Mary McKeever and I am writing this blog as a way to reflect on my experiences and share my insights at the Riverside School for disabled adolescents. I am a junior studying English and Psychology on Notre Dame’s London campus this semester and this opportunity is unique to the London Program. As a psychology major, I am interested in understanding disability in a practical, day-to-day basis; as an English major, I am interested in the depiction of mental illness and physical disability in literature and its reception in society.

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