WESTON, Conn. A non-verbal 8-year-old student went to Rachel Scandura knowing only three signs and left using more than 100.
"I taught her a lot of signs," Scandura said. "She was able to spontaneously use them, instead of just copying others."
Scandura interned at Weston Middle School in 2010 before being hired full time as a speech pathologist at Weston Intermediate School and Weston High School this year. Scandura received her bachelor's degree in Spanish from the University of Connecticut and her graduate degree from Southern Connecticut State University. She had planned to be a Spanish teacher but decided working one-on-one with students was a better fit.
"I get to help them with their language. There's so much to it, like abstract problem-solving and higher-order thinking skills," said Scandura, who also worked at Cooperative Education Services for a year.
Some of the students she works with have language impairments, while some need help with study strategies and organizational skills.
While studying at UConn, Scandura worked for five years with a woman who has Down syndrome. She helped the woman, who lived independently, with her daily tasks.
Scandura said, "As much I can teach [the students] things, they teach me a lot. They challenge the way you think about things. You think about your own thinking and how to modify it so they can understand."
While in graduate school, she taught one man to use Velcro pictures of food to make a grocery list instead of writing it out. "The pictures allowed him to make the list himself, without an adult prompting him."
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