When I started my community rotation at Special Olympics Florida with Dr. Emile, I did not know what to expect. I had never had any extensive experience working with the IDD population and was worried I would come off as awkward. However, by the end of my first class, my worries were gone. My students were so enthusiastic and eager to learn that it made teaching that much more rewarding. I had never felt so welcome so fast in any previous classrooms.
Working with this population has taught me how to be a more flexible instructor because every class is different and there is a wide range in each student’s level of functioning. Therefore, tailoring the program to meet our students’ specific needs was instrumental in meeting our objectives for the day. Sometimes certain topics would be easy for the students to grasp while other topics required me to be more creative with my delivery. Nonetheless, I am very grateful because it has only made me a better educator.
I expected to learn a lot from this experience but what I did not expect was to become so attached to my students. They have so much joy and love to share, it’s contagious. I can honestly say that this population has stolen my heart and changed me as a person. My advice for anyone that serves this population is to be flexible and creative with your methods. As with any program, initiating change works best when tailored to its target population. It is also important to be age-appropriate because they are, after all, adults and should be treated as such. Finally, remember to be empathetic, not sympathetic. This population has so much to offer and I am so happy to have had the privilege of working with them. I expected to serve this population, little did I know that I would gain so much in return.
The FIU Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work:
Dietetics & Nutrition Department: