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Field Observation 1

Field Observation EDU 203

Amanda M. Burnside
Field Observation 2


The purpose of this paper is to compare and contrast the observations I made during my field

experience and the material that I have learned in this special education course. I will discuss

what I saw in the intermediate autism class and relate it to my studies. Most of what I had

observed is similar to what I have learned, but my assumptions about what a class like this would

be like were incorrect. I will go into detail about what I observed and why I am considering

pursuing special education further.

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Field Observation EDU 203

I decided later in my life and after having children of my own that I was interested in

pursuing a career in education. When I first made this decision, I was positive the general

education was the way I wanted to go. I observed in a second-grade general education class last

semester and thought that solidified my decision even more. That all changed with this special

education course. With every chapter I read I became more and more interested in the world of

special education. I was also able to relate on a very personal level to the material I was learning.

My oldest son attends Pre-K on an IEP, and I have been very involved in the process. It has been

nice to learn more in depth about IEP’s in this course. This course has given me the opportunity

to understand and relate what I have learned to the education of my own child. It has changed the

view I had about children in a special education classroom and the best way to educate a variety

of students with disabilities. I was very fortunate to be place in an intermediate autism class for

my observations. I was expecting to be placed in an inclusion classroom with only some students

who were attending on an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). From what I had learned in this

special education class before my observation began, I understood incorrectly I now know, that

students were most often place in inclusion classrooms. From my observations I now see that

least restrictive environment does not necessarily mean an inclusion class. I was able to relate

many of the things that I have learned in my EDU 203 class to my observation and absolutely

fell in love with the environment of this classroom.

Before beginning my observation, I had learned about individuals with Autism Spectrum

disorders. I was familiar with ASD before my reading because I have friends with children on the

spectrum. I myself have previously thought that my older son shared some of the quality's
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children with ASD have. None of what I had read or previously had observed prepared me for

what I would experience during my first classroom visit. This is not to say the text was incorrect

in any way, I just had a different idea of what a special education classroom would be like having

never been in one before. I do not feel that I completely understood ASD until I began my

observations. The text defines and describes Autism Spectrum Disorder, but it does not prepare

you for the experience of teaching them. I observed in a self-contained classroom, which I

believe now is truly the least restrictive environment for these students. It is a small classroom of

only eight students. There are seven boys and one girl. This speaks to what the text had

mentioned about the risk of ASD being five times more likely in males than in females. I asked

the cooperating teacher why she thought that was and if most of her classes have been this way,

with a much larger number of boys. She told me that she wasn’t sure, but it could possibly be

because it is not as easily diagnosed in girls because they do not show as many symptoms.

Besides the teacher and students there was also an aide in the classroom. As we learned

during this course an aide is sometimes used to help with instruction of students and keeping

things in order. The responsibility of the aide in this classroom was helping with instruction,

taking three of the students to a fourth-grade classroom for an hour and a half for inclusion,

observing during lunch time and recess, and going to any specials the students went to. The

students in this class are learning and communicating at all different levels of disability. There

was an enjoyable mix of personalities and a variety of instruction for each student that I got to

observe. I was able to see firsthand why an Individualized Education plan is such an important

part of special education. The teacher showed me a binder that she had created with individually

laminated pages for each student in the classroom. Each page included a photo of the student,
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their name, any of their strengths and weaknesses, and what their goal for the school year is. I

really found this to be a good idea, because it would be very beneficial if there was ever to be a

substitute teacher. They would be able to look at this binder and get a basic understanding of the

students in the classroom.

There was one student in the classroom who was non-verbal. He could hear and

understood everything that was being told to him or asked of him, but he did not speak. He used

something that we had learned about in our reading about students with speech and language

impairments to communicate. A speech-generating device (SGD) is how he asked for the snack

he wanted or for help with something that he needed. I also was in the classroom observing when

the occupational therapist came in for her time with this student. She worked with him

individually on his writing skills. She mentioned to the teacher that having him trace his words

was not going to be as helpful to him as writing them on his own. She was using a paper that had

boxes on it which she highlighted them higher or lower and wrote the word next to it for his

reference. He then copied the word in the highlighted boxes much neater than she said he would

have if he was tracing. This was not an example of assistive technology that I remembered

reading about in the text. The teacher, occupational therapist, and the aide all seemed to agree

that it was much more successful in helping him to write.

I did witness what was called theory of mind in our text book. Theory of mind is a

hypothesis that tries to explain why individuals with autism spectrum disorder are unable to

understand that others have their own points of view about the world. I could tell that the

students in this class during my observation struggled with understanding the thoughts and

feelings of the other students or the teacher. There was one student who just seemed to say
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whatever came to his mind. When he was asked how he would deal with someone who was

being too loud his response was to “tell them to shut up”. He did not seem to be able to

understand why that was not an appropriate response or how it would make the other person feel.

Some of the students in the class did not interact with each other very much at all. The teacher

and the aide worked with all of the children by having them say the name of the person they

were speaking too and having a short exchange. A few of the students did interact with others,

mostly these were the students who were working on the same level of work together or were

playing a game. I could tell that the teacher was working very hard on their social interactions

and she had told me that they had all come a very long way. She mentioned to me that at the

beginning of the school year some of the students would not speak let alone carry on a

conversation with someone. This is something we had learned about in our text. Children with

autism spectrum disorder have deficits in social interaction. Only a few of the students even

acknowledged me being in the room. The teacher did tell me that one of the students would come

in to class asking about me on days that I was not there. Most made little to no eye contact with

me and only two of the students spoke to me.

Most of the students in the class displayed repetitive behavior. I observed arm flapping,

one student who could cover his ears with his hands often, and loud outbursts. One student

would build a tower for a marble to roll down. When he dropped the marble, he would start a

timer on an I-Pad. He would do this repeatedly before he would move on to another activity. This

same student was always pacing around the room and drawing on a little board that he carried

everywhere with him. During my observations two of the students collided with each other very

hard. Neither of the students seemed to have any reaction to it, they did not seem to experience
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any pain. The little boy who would cover his ears during the day did it mostly after another

student would have a loud outburst. During one of my observation days towards the end of the

day the teacher noticed that he was just sitting quietly at his desk with his hands over his ears. At

first, she did not understand why he was covering his ears, then she realized that it was around

the time when she had been doing practice fire drills with the students. She realized that he was

covering his ears in anticipation of what was to come. She was practicing fire drills with them

because a week prior they had a surprise one that the students did not react well to.

In our book they talk about the “myth” that inside each child with ASD there is a genius.

While I am not sure that inside every one of these students is a genius, I do believe they are

extremely intelligent and just not fully understood. I was told that one of the students in the class

spoke several languages. He was also a very talented artist. During my observation of him inside

a general education fourth grade classroom where he was supposed to be writing a paragraph, he

was instead focused on his very detailed and amazing drawings. There are several students in this

class who displayed outstanding abilities in certain activities. One student was able to do a math

worksheet in half the time of the others, while another spent a lot of his free time writing stories.

I noticed that many of these students were left handed and some had very odd pencil grips. The

teacher an aide always let the students write with what they felt most comfortable with (marker,

pen, a certain pencil, etc..). The way the teacher ran this classroom always focused on the

strengths of each individual student.

Overall my observation experience was so much more than I expected. I was able to

relate the entire chapter on autism spectrum disorder to my experience in this classroom. I am

very grateful that I was placed in a self-contained classroom like this because it showed me that
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just because it is defined as the most restrictive environment that is not what it is for these

students. This experience changed my perspective on special education. I feel as though teaching

in a classroom like this is much more personal. You must be able to give yourself to the students

and communicate with their parents. The teachers had had some of the students for years, even

one student who had followed her when she switched schools. I loved the passion I saw from the

teacher and the aide in this classroom. They were both so excited when a student would show

progress in something they had previously struggled with. Even the smallest victories were

celebrated, and I can only imagine how that made the student feel. I am thankful for this

experience as I now know the direction, I would like to take my education. Special education is a

field that requires passion and patience. I want to be that teacher that creates a lasting impression

for these amazing students.