Students from Susan Terrone’s Speech Therapy class waited at the doors of Sayville Elementary School holding a sign that said “Welcome BLC!” The Sayville students had been corresponding with students from Brookhaven Learning Center through mail for about a month, and were excited to meet their new friends. Sayville Elementary School (SES) and Brookhaven Learning Center (BLC) are both Eastern Suffolk BOCES schools that provide services and support to students with special needs. SES supports students with Autism and related developmental disabilities from kindergarten through fifth grade. BLC is a middle school that provides support to students with special needs in grades six through eight.
The students wrote letters to each other through the use of a worksheet that asked them questions about themselves, and cut out images that conveyed a response. For example, in one field of the worksheet students were asked about their favorite food. To answer, they cut out a picture of cookies or chicken fingers, and pasted it into place. In another field, the students described their family by using pictures of people of different gender and age.
When the pen pals met, they shared a meal together and participated in a holiday-themed activity.
“Using the worksheet as a letter-writing tool allows these students to express themselves without relying on language,” said Susan Terrone, teacher of Speech and Language at SES. “This exercise allows these students to be reflective and share information about themselves. It also broadens their awareness, and prompts them to be curious about others.”