Field trip brings classroom to life

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 14, 2005

SOUTH POINT - As the preschool students filed off the bus and into Petland Wednesday, their eyes were wide with excitement.

They walked to the back of the store, took their seats and then the real fun began.

The students were from the Lawrence County Board of Mental Retardation/Developmental Disabilities preschool program at the Early Childhood Center. The sensory integration field trip was a way to allow the students to interact with the animals, as well as to feel the various textures and work on social skills that include waiting their turn.

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&#8221It takes what we learn in the classroom and brings it to life,“ preschool instructor Jodi Wright said. &#8221It brings pictures into reality.“

This is the first field trip to Petland for this class and many appeared to have enjoyed the animals. As the various animals were passed around many of the students would pet, observe and experience interaction with the pets. Students had the opportunity to experience a wide array of textures as they saw rabbits, turtles, lizards, guinea pigs, birds, snakes and puppies.

They saw the pets hands on, Wright said. The students have had a pet week where Wright said they have studied various pets and pet care. For some of the students, today held another &#8221first“ as well, their first ride on a school bus.

&#8221Anytime the kids get to experience anything the community has to offer, it's a benefit,“ she said.

Close to 3 percent of the individuals the MRDD serves has an autistic diagnosis. Autism Spectrum Disorder covers a wide range of behaviors and abilities - no two people have the same symptoms.

People with ASDs might not interact with others as most people do, or may not be interested in people at all. About 40 percent of children with ASDs do not talk at all. Some may repeat actions over and over again, or have a routine so they know what to expect.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, Autism is now the 6th most commonly classified disability in the United States - it was added as special education exception in 1991. Between 1 in 500 and 1 in 66 children have an autism spectrum disorder.

Jared Barker, operations manager of Petland, said the interaction with the pets is important for the students as it is a learning experience and it teaches them to deal with other things besides just human to human interaction. Pets such as fish are relaxing and puppies help one on one skills with the child.

&#8221Pets have a lot to do with keeping them calm,“ he said. &#8221It really helps when there is a human-animal bond. That helps them relax more.“

Barker's brother has autism and resides at the Ninth Avenue House in Huntington. He received services through the autism center in Huntington, W.Va. Barker said one of his brother's field trips is going to the pet store to interact with the animals.

After Barker and his associates finished helping the students interact with the animals they were free to walk about the store and check out the animals.

Some walked by the fish tanks, some checked out the birds while others looked at the huge turtles. Some looked and pointed their eyes wide with wonder - then it was time to board the bus and on to the next adventure - a trip to McDonald's for lunch.