Educational Consultant Dr. Paula Kluth Gives Advice To Parents And Teachers
Posted on 08/23/18 in School by Milestones
Ron Sandison interviews Dr. Paula Kluth, consultant, author, advocate and independent consultant
What inspired you to study special education in college?
My high school started welcoming students with more complex needs when I was a senior. I approached the teacher to volunteer and work in her classroom and I made my first friends with disabilities. These friends and that teacher really encouraged me to pursue teaching as a profession.
How did you begin working with students who have autism and other disabilities?
Well, my degree was in special education in significant disabilities, but I started working in an inclusive school right away so I taught students with and without disabilities from my first days as a teacher. The child who really taught me the most that year was a little six-year-old named Jay. He had very few reliable ways to communicate, but he was very smart, energetic, and curious. He really got me “hooked” on learning more about autism (which I knew very little about at the time).
What life lessons have students with autism taught you?
I have learned so many lessons from my students and my colleagues on the spectrum. Mostly, I have learned that the “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” In other words, so many kids I supported did not have adequate supports to communicate or express what they know. Because of this, these students were often seen as incapable or disinterested because of their behaviors and inability to express themselves. I have learned how dangerous these types of assumptions can be.
In my work with folks on the spectrum (or anyone with communication needs), I always assume the person I’m interacting with is competent, capable, and interested in connecting with others even when he or she is not able to show what he or she knows. This is one of the things I focused on as a college professor