Ashlee Yokom is a passionate educator with a trying, difficult, and incredibly rewarding career choice. She was kind enough to share her personal emotions, feeling, and insights into her successes and stresses in her job as a special education teacher for the April issue of Poppycock Magazine in conjunction with Autism Awareness Month.
I teach in a self-contained classroom which primarily serves children impacted by ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). ASD is characterized by social skills deficits, communication deficits, stereotypic and repetitive behaviors, and unusual responses to sensory stimuli. My students fight each and every day to overcome greater struggles than you and I will never know. Because of these differences, the students in my classroom receive instruction in all areas, not just academics. They need guidance in social, behavioral, life, communication and even fine and gross motor skills. So on any given day, I teach about how to interpret a graph, how to blend phonemes, how to appropriately hold a pencil, how to share, how to zip a coat, how it is or is not appropriate to behave in a bathroom, how to protest using language, and countless other skills, depending on what “my” kids need.
Autism is still so much of mystery, but helping people impacted by Autism–that is my passion. I have spent the majority of my life working with people that are impacted by this disorder, which has led me to insatiably consume materials on the subject–on research, on anecdotes, on strategies and pedagogies. Over the years I have been part of teams that help children talk for the first time, use the toilet independently for the first time, read for the first time, make their first friend. This is the stuff that each day bolsters me to continue on in a very tough career.
For the full story you can find Ashlee Yokom’s piece in Poppycock Magazine, Portland’s new ad-free bi-monthly magazine available in print and digitally.