By Zuvanny Macias
Alexandra Renteria, a child development major, has been deeply affected by people with disabilities throughout her life.
Since her childhood, Renteria has been around people who have various disabilities. This has impacted her greatly and influenced her decision to become a special needs teacher. When Renteria was young, she met a girl with severe autism who couldn’t talk or function on her own. Not only has Renteria had a friend with a disability, but she also has family members who have disabilities as well. Her grandfather was blind and her aunt has cerebral palsy. Having been intrigued by the prospect of helping people with disabilities, Renteria took a child development class.
While taking Child Development 44, Renteria had an opportunity to interact with children with various disabilities. From that moment, she fell in love with the idea of actually teaching children with disabilities.
She has also largely been motivated by her observations of a little boy named Michael. Michael was born deaf, mute, and developmentally delayed and is usually very reserved and shy. Renteria said “he touched my heart and helped me realize the joy it brings me working close to them ( children with disabilities).”
As Renteria began her observation of Michael she had been forewarned not to take it personally if he didn’t interact with her since she was new and he wasn’t used to her. In the two days that followed Renteria spent time observing the young boy. Micheal would look at her and smile. Renteria had Micheal do activities and when he was done he would look at her for approval. Renteria would praise Michael for the things he did and ask him questions to which he would respond by smiling or nodding.
Michael is entirely deaf in one ear. In the other, he’s partially deaf but can still hear a bit with the help of a hearing aid. When Renteria would speak to him she’d do it with a loud voice so that Micheal could catch some of it. Renteria had to make sure that Michael was looking at her so he could read her lips for the words he didn’t catch. In addition to this approach they would also use hand gestures or make sounds to help them communicate more.
According to Renteria, the fact that Michael is the only child she’s closely observed is one of the reasons he has affected her so deeply. “After reading about his complications and his obstacles, he’s beat them. He’s reached the goals they set for him. He’s such a smart and sweet little boy and he taught me lessons that no one else could teach me.”, said Renteria.
Renteria is passionate about her work in child development and plans to transfer to USC in the near future so she can get her bachelors degree in child development. Renteria will either focus on music therapy for children with special needs or on becoming a teacher for children with special needs.