Posted by: janellehilmes | December 10, 2010

Project Update #9

Book: A Smile as Big as the Moon Pages: 117 – 274 For Friday: December 10th

This week I read all about the kids preparation for space camp, their anticipation, and the actual trip. It was amazing to read about the transformation of not only these kids minds, but their attitudes, self-confidence, and ultimately their lifestyle. The experience of space camp also greatly impacted the community and the other kids at school. I liked this book a lot and it was an inspirational story about how one person can touch so many lives. I am really glad I started reading this book because it helped me narrow down my project to focusing on unified sports.

Posted by: janellehilmes | December 2, 2010

Project Update #8

Book: A Smile as Big as the Moon Pages: 48 – 116 For Friday: December 3rd

Reading this book this week got me thinking about how much people can accomplish if they are working toward a common goal. I was reading about how excited these kids are at just the thought of going to space camp, and how much it has changed their lives. The kids are working hard, looking out for each other, and becoming a family. It is an absolute transformation from before they had space camp to look forward to. They are keeping each other in line and watching out for each other.

So I was thinking about how amazing this is, and I started thinking about how team sports do the same thing, uniting people for a common goal. No matter what your background is or what happens off the court or field, once you are playing, you are a team. You have a shared purpose and you become family. When I interviewed Ms. Drake, she talked about unified sports, and how she said this is a give and take situation where both the disabled kids and the peer helpers benefit, and I realized that unified sports are like space camp, they benefit kids in a way nothing else can, by giving them a purpose in life. I have narrowed my project down to getting the word out about unified sports to people in the community. My sister was severely disabled, and yet my mom and dad had never even heard of unified sports. So I have made it my mission to get the word out. I looked into getting an op-ed or editorial type article in the Denver Post or the Castle Rock Newspaper, and I think that I can do it. So if it’s okay with you Mr. Adams, then I am going to make this my final project.

Posted by: janellehilmes | November 24, 2010

Project Update #7 – Starting A Smile as Big as the Moon

Book: A Smile as Big as the Moon Pages: 1 – 48 For Friday: November 26th

This week I started reading a new book. It is about a special education teacher and football coach who is determined to get his special ed students into a prestigious space camp for gifted and talented kids. I read the first 5 chapters which introduced the book and started telling the beginning of the story, where it seemed like everyone was against the author’s idea. Many people were telling him that it would never happen, but he was determined to do this for his kids, so he looked for support in different people. Eventually, after many phone calls, he got the approval and funding to fly to the space camp and make a proposal to the hesitant camp director.

Posted by: janellehilmes | November 22, 2010

Job Shadow

For my job shadow, I spent advisement one day in the special education room. I interviewed Ms. Drake and observed some of the things going on. Here are a few questions and answers from my interview:

What is the student to teacher ratio in your classroom?

  • It depends on the needs of the specific child, varying from 1-1 to 1-5 or more.

Are any kids restricted from attending CV because they have a certain disability?

  • No, the No Child Left Behind Act assures kids a free and appropriate education no matter what.

Do you feel SpEd is understaffed?

  • Yes, definitely.

How did district budget cuts affect SpEd?

  • It didn’t because SpEd is federally funded.

Do you feel that there are kids with learning disabilities at CV who should be in SpEd, but are not?

  • Yes.

Overall, how do you think that the kids you work with are treated at CV by other students?

  • I think they are treated really well and their peers accept them and treat them right.

What comes after high school?

  • It’s called a bridge program, from ages 18-23. This gives a better transition into real life and job placement.

How do Unified Sports help these kids?

  • It gives them more social peace. However this program does not only benefit the disabled kids, it also benefits the peer helpers. It is a give and take situation. Every school has Unified Sports.

How can other CV students help with SpEd programs?

  • They can get involved with Unified Sports or take the peer assistant class where they mentor someone who needs a little extra help.

Do you have any specific ideas for my project?

  • Autism is increasing in numbers, so you could research that more in-depth. You could also do a project about unified sports and how that impacts people’s lives. Or you could look into disabled kids in the community, because a lot have jobs around town at local businesses.
Posted by: janellehilmes | November 18, 2010

Project Update #6 – The End

Book: From Stumbling Blocks to Stepping Stones Pages: 195 – 289 For: Friday, November 19th.

This week I finished the book I have been reading. These chapters reflected on Shari’s struggles in her last years of high school, her incredibly difficult time in college, and told what her life looks like now. Shari even went on to get a master’s degree and started a school program called Special Delivery. She is married with four children, a successful career, and an inspirational story. This book is proof that you can do anything if you are determined and persistent. The final chapter of this book is directed toward parents and educators, and gives suggestions on how to teach and help learning disabled and special needs children. Overall, reading this book helped me better appreciate my life, and it gave me new perspective on what some of my classmates deal with. I’m glad that I chose to read this book.

Posted by: janellehilmes | November 11, 2010

Project Update #5 – Chapters 7 – 11

Book: From Stumbling Blocks to Stepping Stones Pages: 107 – 195 For: Friday, November 12th.

These chapters outlined Shari’s life from the 5th through 10th grade. She overcame a lot of obstacles during these years. Saying simply that her home life was unstable would be a big understatement. Shari’s mother remarried, her stepsister committed suicide, and shortly after her mother escaped this abusive marriage, she remarried yet again. Add all of that to several long-term illnesses, struggling with dyslexia and several other learning disorders, moving schools several times, and a severe lack of coordination and confidence and you would expect a disaster of a life. Yet she somehow managed to turn her life around and earn straight A’s, make the JV cheerleading team in 10th grade, and be socially accepted by her peers. Shari is truly an amazing person.

Posted by: janellehilmes | November 9, 2010

Web 2.0 Tutorial

Here’s a link to a presentation I created using It is a web 2.0 tutorial about how to use Prezi as a web 2.0 tool.

Posted by: janellehilmes | November 3, 2010

Project Update #4 – Chapters 5 and 6

Book: From Stumbling Blocks to Stepping Stones Pages: 61 – 107  For: Friday, November 5th.

This week I read Shari’s account of the 3rd and 4th grades. She struggled through elementary school, but with a couple of good teachers and a lot of luck, Shari unexpectedly managed to pass each grade. Shari finally managed to read simple words and learned her times tables, but she still struggled with writing. I learned about how much a regular schedule helps a learning disabled child and how much change hurts them. I feel lucky to have the brain I have, and I am realizing how much I take for granted how easily I understand schoolwork. This book is making me appreciate being able to read, write, and know my times tables. For some who aren’t as lucky, seemingly simple things like these can be a real struggle.

Posted by: janellehilmes | October 28, 2010

Project Update #3 – Chapters 2, 3, and 4

Book: From Stumbling Blocks to Stepping Stones Pages: 22 – 61 For: Friday, October 29th.

The chapters I read this week were mostly about the author Shari’s early childhood. First, her mother had to learn to deal with Shari at home. She started to encourage Shari to do simple and repetitive tasks such as making the bed or washing the dishes to get rid of energy and help with her focus problems. This worked well until Shari entered public school, where she struggled to get through each day. Then, her 2nd grade teacher Miss Derek came along, and changed her life. She kept Shari in public school when the other teachers wanted her institutionalized. In 2nd grade, Shari did not learn to read, however she learned simple, behavioral skills and learned to like school. It’s exciting to think that one person like Miss Derek, can drastically turn someone’s life around. Every child should be welcomed at school, and it should be an environment that kids look forward to going to every day.

Furnstahl, Shari Rusch. “Introduction / Ch.1 And Then There Was Me.” From Stumbling Blocks to Stepping Stones: Help and Hope for Special Needs Kids. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2007. 1-22. Print.

The pages I read this week gave insight of why the author wrote the book, what the book is about, and who the author really is. Shari Furnstahl discovered early on that she was not “normal”. She struggled with learning disorders, severe vision problems, ADHD, and other handicaps. Yet she never gave up, and to this day she has accomplished so much. This chapter was an introduction to her childhood, her life, and the book From Stumbling Blocks to Stepping Stones.

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