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#NeighborhoodHeroes: Teacher finding creative ways to teach students with autism online

Students have continued their education online with schools closed. One teacher has been working tirelessly from home to keep her students with autism engaged in learning. Pamela Wheeler teaches a class of ten students with Autism at Valle Del Sol Elementary school in Coachella. She is also the school's special education department chair. She said she would do anything for her students.

Wheeler said that people with autism like having a predictable environment. She said they like, "Knowing what’s going to happen. My students accepted learning and the amount we would spend on each subject because we did it every day." Now that the learning environment is online, there have been some changes. She said, "We spend less time than we can in the classroom because that’s all we can expect of them."

She is still focusing on teaching language arts, math, social skills, and physical education through other platforms. She mentioned, "At least the exercise part is very familiar. We did those in the classroom, so I know their favorite. So those are assigned and they have the links to those every day."

She is pre-recording videos, utilizing many online resources, and working closely with the parents. Compared to being in the classroom, she said the teams surrounding the students have changed. She said, "The team was always all of us. The parents, the teacher, the students, the paraeducators, everyone that’s involved, the service providers. But right now, it’s a very tight-knit team of the teacher, the parent, and the student."

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Differentiating student's needs is one of the hardest parts. Doing that in the classroom is easy, online is harder. She said she has 10 kids with 5 different differentiated groups. She said, "Specific things are assigned to specific students based on their specific needs, depending on where they are at. Especially in language arts and math." She said anyway she can help to keep them learning is what she is going to do, but she is ready to be back in the classroom with her kids. Wheeler said, "I just miss them. That’s about as much as I can add. It’s emotional even thinking about it."

News Channel 3's Taban Sharifi will have a full story talking with Mrs. Wheeler and the different challenges of teaching online.

Celebrating #NeighborhoodHeroes

While the coronavirus crisis is keeping us apart, we know the Coachella Valley community is still coming together to help each other. We are looking for those who are lending a hand during this uncertain time. Do you know of any everyday people who are going out of their way to help others? Have you seen someone find creative solutions to the new challenges we all face?

News Channel 3 wants to celebrate these neighborhood heroes. Tell us about them here. Enter HERE or email SHARE@kesq.com. If you see good happening on social media, share it with us, and tag it #neighborhoodheroes for us to see.

We are all in this together. Help us showcase the good that's happening right here in the Coachella Valley.

Kaiser recommends that those in the Coachella Valley who are elderly and have underlying health conditions, including individuals who are HIV positive, limit non-essential travel and avoid large public gatherings.

Health officials said anyone who thinks they might be experiencing symptoms of the virus and want to be seen at Eisenhower Health should call the hospital hotline first at 760-837-8988. Avoid the spread of this illness.
Residents with further questions can call 2-1-1 and 800–CDC –INFO (800 – 232 – 4636) with any questions.

Public health recommendations for all Riverside County residents during community spread:

Practice social distancing, which is remaining out of places where people meet or gather and avoid using public transportation, if possible.
Do not attend work, school or events when sick. Stay home.
Cough into your elbow or tissue.
Wash hands frequently and use hand sanitizer often.
Stay away from anyone who is sick.

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Taban Sharifi

Taban Sharifi is a Meteorologist and Reporter with KESQ News Channel 3, The Desert’s News & Weather Leader. Learn more about Taban here.

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