Our featured blog writer Gabe Ryan was invited to speak about his experiences throughout his educational and professional career. Gabe has used a wheelchair since he was three years old and is an experienced user of assistive technology tools. Some of these tools have been life-changing for him and he looks forward to sharing his experiences and perspectives with our blog readers.
I was recently invited to speak as the Keynote for the Sacramento County Office of Education’s Infant Development Program. This is the ‘early start’ program for our area. Because I was a graduate of this program, the staff was particularly interested in how my life had been and what I had been doing since I transitioned out of their care as a little guy.
As a person who has moved through general education receiving support and services from educational programs, it is exciting to me that the professionals in this field were interested in hearing my perspective. I shared my experience from preschool to high school, my employment, and my activities outside of education. I reflected on different milestones and what I thought were points of interest to those working with our youngest children and their families.
A few months after this presentation another exciting opportunity was offered to me, this time at a state level! I was asked to present to the California Department of Education’s Advisory Commission on Special Education (ACSE) as the student voice of the month. The commission was interested in hearing a student’s perspective on their experience.
Being asked to share at these two events was encouraging. I appreciated the opportunity to share my knowledge, and being a part of their professional development was meaningful to me.
In my presentations I used an analogy that went something like this: each person, be they teacher, parent, service provider, or student is like a cog in a giant machine. I feel this is an important key point to continue to share. Some have small parts, some have larger and more complex parts. Some people only know their piece of work, while others know everything about the giant machine. But regardless of their position everybody involved is crucial to the outcome.
Service providers may not always see an outcome immediately or directly. But their work in combination with other providers, systems, and parents can be a huge part of advancing to a positive outcome for a student. These outcomes could be months or years down the road, sometimes figuring things out or reaching goals takes time.
I am fortunate to have continued opportunities to share my perspective and ideas. I challenge you to reach out to those you serve and ask how your services have impacted their outcomes, ask for ideas and input on the services you provide. You may find a wealth of resources and knowledge right at your fingertips.
No matter what agency you are from you make a difference and impact those you serve. Working together we create a system that is supportive and encourages learning, independence, and a better quality of life.