Progress, Presentations and Personal Growth

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What a terrific night for Mike! I have been writing recently about Mike’s exploits in his computer workshop class given at Adelphi University by the Nassau County P.A.L. Special Needs Unit.  He learned how to send an email, participated in Google chat, learned how to create a PowerPoint presentation, and learned how to use Twitter and Pinterest, among other things.  At the end of the course each member of the class had to create a PowerPoint presentation on any subject they chose and present it to the class and their invited guests.  He had been really looking forward to giving his presentation.

Of the many things things that stood out about this class, two things that happened last night really made an impression on me.  The first is that Mike calmly volunteered to go first.  Listening to the class, many if not half the class wanted to go last.  One classmate volunteered another to go first; at least to go before she did.  Understandably, some displayed anxiety about getting in front of the group; voicing concern about being made fun of, which would never happen, but the social anxiety exists all the same.  Normally Mike would fall into this group, but not last night; Mike was really proud of his work and wanted to be the first to show it off.

Mike presented not one, but two PowerPoint presentations: “Michael’s Wild and Cool Animal Presentation” (his favorite wild animals) and the second on “Me and My Dad’s Favorite Desserts”.  Needless to say, I was floored; each slide had plenty of pictures and text, and his use of the ‘Vanna White hands’ to show off his slides was priceless.  The dessert presentation had its intended effect: I did indeed come away hungry.

The second thing that stood out was Mike fitting into a crowd.  While this was a Special Needs group, which by my estimation included teens with Autism Spectrum Disorders, ADHD, Down Syndrome, and Mental Retardation among others, and with the overwhelming majority of these kids were familiar with each other, Mike really fit in.  Mike functioned and interacted at comparable levels with his peers.  His verbal skills were probably in the mid- to high-range as compared to his classmates, and he followed appropriate social cues on par with them as well.  This was capped off at the end of the night when, unprompted and unsolicited, he extended his hand to shake hands with a classmate and said “Nice job”.

As we were walking to the car to head home, Mike asked me if I was proud of him.  Of course, I said, and I added that I was especially proud of how he volunteered to go first, and how he shook his classmates hand.

Nice job indeed.

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