Hi! My name is Bodil Empting and this is my third year at Lester Prairie Schools. I am from Denmark, but have lived in Minnesota for more than 20 years. My husband and I live in Watertown with our three children. I have a teaching degree from Denmark with emphasis on biology and woodworking. I have a BA in elementary education from Hjoerring Seminarium, Denmark and University of Minnesota. In addition, I obtained a Master's Degree from Bethel University in special education licensed in Emotional/Behavioral Disorders (EBD), Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD) and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
I mainly teach students with ASD. The classroom is “home away from home” for students and teachers, so it is important to make it comfortable, functional, safe and secure. As a special education teacher at Lester Prairie Schools I have the opportunity to do so.
There are mostly small group spaces in my classroom where the students are learning and working with the most dedicated and caring staff. Often there are different learning tasks taking place at the same time, but they are always working together to maintain a comfortable environment.
In order to make it more accommodating for students with ASD –and other disabilities I chose to bring in items that can help the students focus on their learning and progress on their goals. For example light panels can defuse florescent light glare and create a calm and soothing environment. It can improve the level of concentration and reduce tension and anxiety. Balance ball chairs can help to reduce stress in the students and figits like squeezing balls, also reduce stress and anxiety. The students often use these items when they need to calm themselves down.
The students are taught strategies to cope with the challenges of their disability. Often the students have difficulties understanding body language, gestures and facial expressions, and have poor eye contact. They might have trouble understanding other people’s feelings, reactions, and non-verbal cues. In addition, they might have resistance to being touched and difficulties to make friends, have trouble starting a conversation, and taking every thing said literally. When teaching students with ASD you need to take that into consideration. You have to be very specific and keep tasks in sequential order. It’s important to keep the language simple and concrete, and avoid sarcasm and idioms. Teaching specific social skills and rules such as turn taking, social distance and social cues are important for them to better understand others reactions and actions. The most important area for the students is a daily routine they can follow with very little variation and overstimulation. Following this make the students’ day in school less stressful and free of meltdowns