SPRINGFIELD, Mo – Springfield Public Schools offers communications and social skills classrooms for students with autism.
Truman Elementary has three of these classrooms. Jean Lawson teaches students in one of those classrooms.
“So there’s a team that comes together, and we look at all of the existing data that we have on a student, and that includes everything from health, to gross motor skills, fine motor skills or academics, what their cognitive abilities are, they’re adaptive behavior. We pull all of that together, and we look at the plan and say what does this child most need next to work on as a foundational skill to help them to be more successful in school,” says Mrs. Lawson.
Mrs. Lawson has been working at Truman for 13 years now. Because of her work over the years, she won the 2018-2019 Teacher of the Year Award.
The room Mrs. Lawson teaches in has a lot of unique features as you walk in. The first thing you notice is that the room is blue. Blue sheets cover every ceiling light; this makes one feel calm as they enter the room. You also see a couch, a mini supermarket, a rolling food cart, and a lot of other unique things she uses to teach students with autism.
Tim Rosnebury, Springfield Public Schools School Board President, says well-designed rooms like this make a difference.
“I know that people are affected by their environments. They’re affected positively, and they’re affected negatively, and the difference is design. It’s that thoughtful approach to ‘what should our surroundings be,'” he says.
When students come into Mrs. Lawson’s room, a group goes with one of her assistant teachers, and they learn the necessary skills. Mrs. Lawson brings one student to her desk, and they go over one-on-one lessons based on their individual treatment plans.
“We may just have a few IEP goals that we work on, but we are working on all kinds of skills all through the day in every area,” she says.
She talks about how students in her CSS class are not able to participate all day in regular classrooms, so they teach as much of the primary curriculum that they can.
With the many lessons Mrs. Lawson teaches, she thinks about what she is doing and if a student could do the same thing. Her main goal is to teach lifelong skills and even skills to take to the workforce.
For more on what SPS has to offer for students with autism, click here.