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Stephanie McGhee


"When working with students with multiple disabilities, my philosophy has always been to give them as many experiences as possible," explains Stephanie McGhee, who teaches multi-disabled, sensory impaired students at Helen Keller School of Alabama (a component of the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind) in Talladega, Alabama. "You never know when something meaningful will click for a child."

Years ago, a creative arts program was established at Helen Keller. The purpose of the program was to use art as a means of expanding the students' awareness and their ability to communicate. The creative arts curriculum is a thematic activity-based learning program with emphasis on sensory stimulation. Its themes include community helpers, transportation, and holidays. The celebration of St. Patrick's Day gave rise to a parade that included all the students in an activity that was relevant to the holiday.

Students prepare for their St. Patrick's Day parade.

"The students make costumes, banners, signs, bracelets, pins, shakers, and so on," McGhee told Education World. "They also decorate wagons and wheel toys for the younger students. Our wheelchair students participate in decorating their chairs."

Students at the Helen Keller School are multi-disabled and each has at least one sensory impairment. Some students are hearing impaired or deaf; others are visually impaired or blind. McGhee has students with cerebral palsy, spina bifida, mental retardation, and a host of syndromes. The parade was designed to promote language, both expressive and receptive, among these unique kids. The activities prior to the parade include lessons on color, shape, size, numbers, and spelling. The construction of the materials used in the parade promotes fine and gross motor skills, but the main objective is to encourage language and communication.

"Last year, after our parade, we all congregated on the playground for cookies and green punch," recalled McGhee. "I had shown a closed captioned video of Irish traditions such as dancing, foods, celebrations, and a parade. The students tried to duplicate the Irish dancing they had seen in the video. The video also reinforced the concept of what the parade is all about."

For better or worse, another concept McGhee's special students have grasped readily is pinching someone if he or she fails to wear green on St. Patrick's Day!

"They love marching to the campus next door and waving at the people who stand out in the hallways and on sidewalks as they pass by," McGhee reported. "It's a very social event as well as a great self-esteem builder."

Photo courtesy of Stephanie McGhee.

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If you're a teacher who has completed an interesting or unusual activity with your class -- or if you know of a teacher who has -- please let us know about it. E-mail a brief description of the activity, along with your contact information, to [email protected].

Article by Cara Bafile
Education World®
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