By Joseph Sanchez
The most rewarding thing about working at Friendship School is seeing our students express joy. Each student expresses joy in their own unique way by using a variety of communication methods. The most challenging part also deals with communication. It can be difficult at times to figure out our students' needs and wants. Not only are they learning to become better communicators, we are constantly becoming better listeners and observers.
As a special education teacher, I lead lessons that not only focus on academic subjects but also incorporate functional and daily living skills. I collaborate with other Friendship School staff members to update student individualized education programs and then track their progress on their goals. I am also responsible for ensuring that the medical and personal needs of our students are being met. Medication, feeding, seizure monitoring, daily hygiene, and student repositioning are daily tasks.
It is amazing working with two of our students who are utilizing their eye gaze to communicate via their TOBII Dynavox AAC device. One student can communicate her need for care as well as share her favorite shows and movies. All of our students utilize a wheelchair for mobility, so it is great witnessing them standing upright, walking, or moving around the school or through hallways in specialized equipment such as gait trainers and adaptive tricycles.
I really enjoy the family atmosphere of our staff members and there is a great amount of support that comes from all of them. We all had our own path when deciding to enter this line of work, but we share a care and love for our students. It takes a special type of person to work with our students, and you can see those special characteristics in every single staff member.
There is a misperception that we are simply a daycare/medical facility. It can be difficult for someone from the outside to see the progress our students make. Progress may be slow and small, but all progress is celebrated. Academic, social/emotional, and daily living skills are constantly being worked on using unique modifications.
Each event is special at Friendship School. We have a great dance party for our prom and amazing door decorations for Read Across America Day. The Wheel-a-Thon is my favorite. This event relies on volunteers from our community, and it is an amazing sight to see when each student has someone walking with them around the school. There is plenty of friendly competition, but I love seeing some of the biggest smiles on our students' faces during this event.
The public can tour Friendship School and meet the students and staff members at its annual open house from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Oct. 10 at the school, which is in Imperial Beach.