Students in this school have formed a social club to integrate students with disabilities with students without disabilities in an effort to develop the social skills that are crucial to surviving in the adult world. (San Jose Mercurcy News, January 28, 2014)
Every Tuesday on the Oceana High School campus in Pacifica, the Social Club meets, has lunch together and plays games. With 30 kids in the club, it is one of the largest clubs on campus. While the club’s activities sound typical, groundbreaking is the better word, for the Social Club integrates the school’s special education students — higher functioning teens with autism as well as teens with intellectual developmental disabilities — with mainstream students. It is a dream come true for Lisa Sanchez, the school’s speech and language pathologist. Though the dream is bigger yet.
“My dream is to have an integrated campus,” Sanchez said, “where special ed kids are in classes with the general ed students. This is one step closer.”
This is Sanchez’s first year working at the high school. She arrives with 14 years of experience as a speech pathologist. Immediately prior to Oceana, Sanchez worked in Santa Clara County, providing speech therapy to infants through young adults (age 22).
The kids in the Social Club play “team building” games like Pictionary and Charades.
“Some of the games are ice breakers,” Sanchez said. “To get to know each other better, there are games where students ask interview questions. Many of these special education kids have disabilities that impair them from having appropriate peer relationships. That is part of their disability. My purpose is to gear these special education kids for real life, to help them have appropriate relationships out in the real world. I am also hoping to provide these kids with a social high school experience, a normal high school experience.”
….”My sister [born with spina bifida] is dependent on my mom,” Sanchez said. “And she, like most of the kids in our program, will be dependent on family members for the rest of her life. I don’t think people are aware that many of these children will not be able to live independently. I made a promise to myself early on to help integrate people with disabilities, into the world of people with abilities.”