Monday, February 10, 2014

Students with Autism Create Inspiring Portraits of Celebrities

From Autism Speaks News

Chris Hall is a teacher trying to make a difference in the lives of his students with autism. At Joseph Lee School in Boston, Massachusetts, Chris teaches a class called Sensory Arts, a program comprised of 153 students with autism from the ages of 3-14 years old. The program has received acclaim for the students work creating mosaic’s of famous celebrities. We sat down with Chris to discuss his program in more detail.

Thanks for taking some time out to talk with us Chris. First off, can you tell us how Sensory Arts was founded?
Sensory Arts began three years ago as un-named class for the expanding autism program at the Joseph Lee School in Boston. Our principal, Kimberly Curtis-Crowley searched for a teacher to create a class that would incorporate gross motor skills, fine motor skills, and include art somewhere in the mix. My love of art, as well as my passion for working with students with autism, made me the perfect fit for this position. I named the class Sensory Arts, and it is a mix of art, music, dance, and performing arts.

How did you get your start with teaching? Did you always know you wanted to teach individuals with autism?

I began my educational journey at Massachusetts College of Art and earned a bachelor of fine arts with a concentration in photography. For the next nine years, I worked as a home delivery driver for an online grocer while earning my masters in elementary education. My first teaching job was a long- term substitute position as a sixth grade general education English Language Arts teacher. I was eventually laid-off when the teacher returned, so I ended up taking another long-term substitution position as a one to one paraprofessional with a student with autism in a substantially separate classroom, and it changed my life.

I quickly discovered that my creativity allowed me to find adaptations and modifications to help my student overcome his obstacles, providing me with a huge sense of accomplishment every single day. This was when I realized that I was destined to teach students with autism, and I was going to do whatever it took to realize my goal. Soon I was enrolled in another masters program, but this time, it was for teaching students with severe disabilities.

Read more HERE.
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