Stellar Student Spotted @ Reid

Imagine. Imagine you are trapped inside your body. You can’t talk. You can’t tell anyone that you are hungry, or that your tummy hurts, or that you are sad. So you scream. A lot. You cry and throw yourself on the ground because no one understands you. You hit yourself hoping that it will grab someone’s attention and they’ll figure out what you are trying to tell them. You can see, but you don’t understand what you are seeing. You are frightened by people, animals, things that move. People in public stare at you because you are loud. Very loud. You are labeled distracting, disobedient, defiant, strong-willed, and a nuisance. But it’s not really their fault. They have never felt what it’s like to be trapped.

This was how Tyler Rancatore lived the first five years of his life. Then he entered Reid Elementary School.

Tyler is a kindergartner in the Autism Support classroom. He entered school downright terrified. He communicated his fears by screaming, crying and throwing tantrums. He couldn’t sit in a chair; he couldn’t speak any words; he couldn’t grasp or hold anything in his hands; he didn’t know how to play with toys. He wanted nothing to do with physical touch or interaction with any other person, big or little, even though he was surrounded by loving teachers and caring, understanding classmates.

Tyler’s teachers were determined to release him from his captivity and help him safely explore and experience the wonderful world in which he lives. They didn’t settle for the school of thought that “this is just the way he is” or “he can’t learn.” They endured the tantrums in hopes of releasing a sweet little boy who was existing somewhere inside. Tyler’s Instructional Aide, (and best buddy) Heather Seibert, said the Autism Team uses a program which is model-based. Teachers consistently provide the sign for the word or command that they are saying to the child and ask the student to imitate them. This way the student doesn’t get frustrated when they can’t recall the sign on their own. Over time, the imitation sticks and students are able to recall the sign without needing the adult to provide it. This modeling method has unlocked Tyler’s world. In just six months, he has learned to verbally speak a few words such as “ball,” “squish,” “tickle,” and “see ya!” His biggest method of communicating is through signing. He can sign cracker, fish, water, jump, chase, ball, cookie, paint, soda, push, outside, squish, tickle, mom, grandma, iguana, dog, help, and even iPad! Tyler can now respond to his name, follow simple instructions, copy the actions of his teachers, hold a paintbrush, and sit in a chair. Autism Support Teacher, Jamie Popp, says Tyler has made remarkable progress which she credits to the Autism curriculum. Even Tyler’s countenance has changed and he doesn’t look like the same child who entered school in August.

One of the most dramatic changes for Tyler has been his social interactions with others. Tyler now loves to give hugs. He adores his friends Logan and Gabby and enjoys playing with them at school. He loves to play chase, swing, slide and eat french fries. In public, he is comfortable interacting with others and can even walk independently from classroom to classroom at Reid. At swimming class he used to cling to his teacher but now he beelines it for the pool. He LOVES Hershey’s Chocolate World, horseback riding and parks. And instead of screaming and crying at school, Tyler now laughs, giggles, hums and sings, which are all outward expressions of the new found joy he is experiencing deep down inside.

Thanks to the dedication of the Autism Support Team at Reid, a sweet, fun-loving, kind-hearted, affectionate little boy has been set free.

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