Cindy B. Sanders

As Interviewed by Karel T., March 19, 2014

Cindy B. Sanders: In Her Own Words

My name is Cindy Sanders and when I taught special ed, I was in charge of an early childhood special education classroom. I had 3, 4, and 5 year olds in the class. Some were non-ambulatory, some were non-verbal, some just had speech impediments, varying degrees [of disabilities].

The first inkling of bullying was on the playground. On the playground, we were trying to get our children into swings, and we would have to cradle them because they did not have the muscle tone to hold themselves up. [We wanted] to give them the sensation of what a swing felt like. We would have other teachers come up and say that we needed to get out of the swings so their kids could use it. There were other situations where we would go to assemblies in the cafeteria, and we were told that we had to sit in the back. There was not much interaction during things like that. It was very upsetting. It makes me want to cry just thinking about their heartbreak. They couldn’t understand why they could not go to things, and they couldn’t understand why people were treating them that way. They were 3, 4, and 5 year olds, and they knew that something was not right.

When we were able to mainstream our children into general ed classrooms, we could see that the children’s self-esteem greatly improved because they were with children their own age. They were making friends. They were interacting on a social level.

As the year would go by, the progress in each child was at their own level. I never did push the children. Each child reached their potential at their rate. You can encourage them in different ways, but they would each make big gains in socialization and the concepts that we were teaching in the classroom. Some of the kids had very poor fine motor [skills] and could not hold pencils or crayons. When they were able to complete that task by the end of the year, they felt so good to be able to write their name. Some of the kids that could not communicate, I taught them how to use a communication board, which they called augmentative communication. Once the children used their communication board to communicate their wants and needs, they felt like a whole door had opened to them. They could be part of the whole group.

Rusty was a cerebral palsy child. He was non-ambulatory, confined in a wheelchair. He could not verbalize. I taught him how to communicate using a light on his helmet. He could communicate through the light on a board with pictures on it. [Once he could] communicate what his needs and wants were, he would just beam.

Being with the children and making the adaptations that they needed, modifications for the classroom for each child, was not really any kind of hard task. The major hard task was doing the administrative paperwork. All the ARD [Admission, Review and Dismissal] paperwork we had to do, especially when I was fighting trying to get my kids out of the kindergarten mode into a regular ed classroom. It was my duty to make sure the kids got the least restrictive environment, even if a ramp had to be made. If a ramp had to be made, it needed to be made to help that child.

Overall the City of Austin needs be more cognitive of people with disabilities. People are interacting better with disabled people and showing more respect. Education is out there for the common person about people with disabilities. Sometimes people overlook it until something in their life makes them stop and think about it.