Students Benefit From Myers Autistic/Multi-Disabilities Room

Teacher Christina Zimmerman Loves the Challenge of Working With Students With Special Needs


Miss Zimmerman recently collaborated with second grade teacher Mrs. Naylor to decorate Easter eggs with her students.

Every teacher has a tough job, but it’s hard to think of someone whose job is more challenging than Christina Zimmerman.

Miss Zimmerman, a teacher at Myers Elementary, runs the school’s Autistic/Multi-disabilities Support Room.

“There are a lot of challenges we run into. It’s a lot of 1 on 1 with students and constant moving. It’s often hard to figure out what the students need,” she explained. “I have to figure out why my students are acting a certain way because they cannot necessarily tell me.”

Mrs. Harpster, the Myers Elementary Principal, believes that the program for autistic children is very important to the families and children. “Years ago, we did not have a program and had to send our students with autism to a neighboring school district. Parents wanted their children to remain in our school district and receive their education from the educators at Bellwood-Antis. Bellwood-Antis has a great reputation for high quality educational programs for students. However, we lacked the space for a program which was always disappointing to the parents.”

Miss Zimmerman says she is motivated by her students. She wants them to achieve their goals. She stays positive even on the worst days to keep her students going. “I love a challenge, which is why I chose this job, and interacting with kids with special needs is a big challenge,” said Miss. Zimmerman.

Miss Zimmerman said that her students get to request what they want to learn, while learning all the same subjects as everyone else. A lot of work goes into working with children with autism. They learn individually. It’s rare to plan one lesson that suits everyone. Altogether, there are nine staff members working in Miss Zimmerman’s room.

“Many of my students need to be taught how to vocalize their wants and needs and to request or ask for items that they want. The students need to learn how to make requests, socially interact, and even learn how to act in a classroom setting,” Miss Zimmerman explained.
She has to sign for some of her kids as well.

“Most of my students are non-verbal so we teach them American sign language to help them to communicate. We use the sign to aid with what they are vocalizing or so that they can communicate to us all together. Some students will develop vocal skills but others may never, so it is important for them to have a way to communicate,” say Miss. Zimmerman.

The daily schedule is very fast paced and changes every half hour with students transitioning to a different staff and activities. Within that half hour there may also be transitions to different activities every 10 to 15 minutes for some students, depending on needs.

Mrs. Harpster said that the program has had a major positive impact on the district.

“The students and families feel part of the Bellwood-Antis educational community. Students now interact daily with other students in our school, an important benefit since we all live in this community together. The entire school community, students and staff, have benefitted because we have all learned so much about students with autism. Each child is very unique, with particular strengths in the ways that they learn and interact with others.”