Scooters, a bean bag toss and a ball for students to sit on and hop around a room are probably not most people’s idea of important classroom tools, but to teachers of children on the autism spectrum, items such as those are critical to the learning process.
Participating in sensory activities allows students on the autism spectrum to better focus in a classroom setting. The grant Collinsville Middle School autism teacher Lorraine Linder was presented Tuesday by the Illinois Retired Teachers Association will help her students reach their potential.
“There are no limits on my students,” Linder said.
Equipment purchased with the $524.09 grant will be used in the CMS sensory room, which is used by other teachers also. Linder spoke excitedly about the 24 inch balls that one student, who does not get much exercise, will be able to use. As students hop around the room on the balls, fellow students will cheer them on, also developing social skills, Linder said.
Charlie Chrisman, on hand from the IRTA to present the grant, pointed toward Linder as she spoke.
“That is why the IRTA does this,” Chrisman said. “Listen to her enthusiasm.”
Each year, the Illinois Retired Teachers Association Foundation awards grants for a total of $15,000. Chrisman said the primary qualification for the grants, which range from $225-750, is that the request is for something lasting.
“A field trip may be a great educational opportunity, but it’s not lasting,” Chrisman said.
Linder did not want the wait for the new equipment to be lasting. Within minutes of being formally awarded the grant from IRTA board member Ed Gray, a 1962 Collinsville High School graduate, Linder was getting her principal’s signature so the equipment could be bought as soon as possible.
The IRTA is a lobbying group for retired educators. The 36,000 plus member organization also provides financial assistance to retired educators in financial need. The organization’s only source of funding is donations.