Auburn University Department of Special Education partnered with schools in the area to provide a summer program for students with disabilities.
According to Margaret Flores, assistant professor in Auburn University department of special education rehabilitation, approximately 50 children from Auburn, Opelika, Lee County, Russell County and Phenix City attended the program.
The program has been held every June for more than 30 years and will be held again next June.
"It is a highly structured, highly engaging, positive learning environment," said Doris Hill, coordinator of educational and community support for Auburn University's center for disability research and service.
The children, ranging from age three to 12, who attend the program have developmental disabilities affecting their social interaction and communication skills.
Undergraduate and graduate students in the department of special education rehabilitation and counseling, receive class credit for working with the program and have been trained in the correct way to educate children with disabilities.
The students have been trained to use creative and personalized methods of instruction to help the children learn new skills.
The children learn skills in counting, using words, identifying different shapes and correct behavior in social settings.
"These services help students to maintain valuable skills they might otherwise lose over the summer months," Hill said. "Extended school-year services are required by law when written into a student's Individualized Education Plan as a service to be provided by the school district, were extending the goals that are written into the student's school plan."
The program also allows an individualized education plan for the currently employed and future educators.
During the program, University students use practices outlined by the National Autism Center to create the best environment for growth.
The University students gather and analyze data related to children's progress.
University students also learn how to collect and apply data related to the children's progress and use tools like the Apple iPad 2 for communication and literacy-based learning.
The iPad research is an extension of the 2010 study conducted by Flores and other researchers in the center for disability research and service, which began to find new ways to use technology as a means of helping children with autism advance in communication skills and recognize appropriate social behavior.
Hill and Flores try to teach other lessons to their students as well. According to Flores they want the University students to learn to create positive, encouraging atmospheres.
They desire for potential teachers to become passionate advocates for students with disabilities.
Through the program, the students are able to be educated at approximately half the cost of what it would be in other communities.
"For the cost of one teacher's salary, 17 students can receive instruction," Flores said.
Auburn University's pre-service teachers develop goals for each child based on an individualized education plan.
Each plan helps increase the students social, mathematics and language-arts skills.
"Our ration is one teacher to two students and includes a lot of personalized attention," Hill said.
According to Meg Mitchell, senior in early childhood education, the children are all on different levels and all have different needs.
The instructors would have one on one interaction with each child everyday.
According to Mitchell, this is the best hands on experience with children with special needs that she has ever had. She said working with the children has made her excited for what she will do in her future as a teacher.
"It is more effective to work with one kid at a time to address their specific needs and goals," Mitchell said.
Flores said the summer program is superb not only because the children learn, but also University students learn, apply practices and receive hands-on experience.
"It was the best experience of teaching children with disabilities that I have ever had," Mitchell said. "I had my own classroom. I was teaching, setting goals, interacting with children, tracking data and much more. It was incredibly challenging, but in such a good way. It made me want to be better and learn more, and they were just so darn cute."