A Final or a Fun Day?
A final like no other! As part of her May Term course on autism, Professor Shamby Polychronis organizes an annual Family Fun Day, an event that provides an opportunity for students in the course to practice what they have learned in a real-life situation. The students’ final project is to design fun activity booths for the whole family, taking information gleaned throughout the course, including possible dietary, language, and sensory considerations for children with autism. Face painting, tie-dying, Lego building, and ice cream making are just a few of the stations created by Westminster students that provide an opportunity to interact with, and learn from, children with autism and their families.
The annual event gives Westminster students a unique opportunity to learn outside the convention of classroom walls. It serves children with autism and their families and brings positive press to Westminster College, the School of Education, and the Special Education program. One news article in the Deseret News included a compilation of interviews with students taking the course. Here are a few excerpts from the article:
Brooks Donaldson took the class because he himself has Asperger's syndrome. "(Asperger's) makes me a little socially
awkward," Donaldson said. "People single me out because I'm a little different. (The class) can help me learn more
about myself. It could give me a chance to share my perspective."
At Malouf Hall on Saturday were booths and rooms created by students to meet the needs of children in the autism spectrum.
One group project was a sensory room. For children walking into the room, it was like stepping into the ocean.
A kiddie pool filled with sand sat in front of a screen with projected ocean creatures. A bubble lamp sat
in the corner, and the sound of ocean waves filled the room. Against the wall was a table with bowls of
sand, stones. and salt. "They can get a sense of what it feels like. They can feel it for the texture,"
freshman Brookes Donaldson explained.
Another booth had scented and edible play dough. One child had sculpted an orange allosaurus,
which sat next to a child-made peanut butter cookie with real chocolate chips—which actually
tasted really good. "We figured it would be good for the kids because it's very tactile," junior Will Charles said.
Deena Lee, who has had a traumatic brain injury herself and volunteers with Utah Parent Center,
was at a booth doing face-painting. "It's so fun—these kids just love it, don't they?" she said
as she turned to her friend. "They love the face paint."
"It's really cool to study about something and then actually get to have hands-on experience," junior Bonnie Boyle said.
To read more about this story, you can access the full article at http://http://desne.ws/lX9ORF